If I am being honest, I am just as guilty as anyone—maybe more so. I see “legacy” acts touring and think, “Why bother? They can’t be as good as in their prime.” Sometimes I’ve been proven right when a band that hasn’t spoken in 20 years gets together for a tour only to realize they stopped speaking for a reason and should leave us all out if it. But sometimes I am proven wrong; gloriously wrong.
Graham Nash has always been the secret ingredient. His harmonies are unmatched, and that’s evident in the work he’s done from The Hollies, to CSN(Y), and anything else he’s lent that magical voice to. It’s a high harmony, which is a big responsibility to hold in a singing group because those are the notes everyone really hears. Guys like David Crosby and Chris Hillman have a special gift for the harder to find middle parts, but they can also hide a little easier. With Nash, it’s right out there hovering over the entire song. That means his voice needs to be in top form, lest we all walk away just a little disappointed.
We were somewhere on Henry Ridge Mountainway when the car finally broke down. It wheezed to a stop right in the middle of an already narrow part of the road. Stuart slammed his fists on the steering wheel and screamed.
“Don’t hit the car,” Hal said. It was his car. He bought it sophomore year of high school with 1300 one dollar bills he’d saved up for months. To say it was his pride and joy would be a bit much since he barely knew how to check the oil, never mind change it. But it was his car and he didn’t like Stuart pounding on it.
“What?” Stuart finally asked after staring at Hal for a bit. “What did you just say?”
“Don’t hit the car. It’s not going to fix anything.”
“Shut up, Hal. You’re an idiot.”
That was how we generally talked to Hal back then and he generally took it. I doubt any of us are proud of that fact now but it’s what you do when you’re 20 years old and there’s someone who will take that kind of abuse. You abuse them.
Buddyhead/Icarus Line/Nine Inch Nails member Aaron North teaches the kids why they should know and love Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young: “The secret weapon of CSNY were the two dudes who weren’t cool enough or something to get their own letters in the band name, the rhythm section, Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves.”
The world described in 4 Way Street: The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Reader, edited by Dave Zimmer (Da Capo Press; $17.95), although of the last third of the 20th century, is seemingly as far removed from today as is the 19th century. Listen to David Crosby in 1970, talking with Ben Fong-Torres for a Rolling Stone interview, on the subject of ticket prices for CSNY: “the last time that I checked on it. . . our top scaling was $6.50. If it is $7.50, I’m sorry it is, ’cause I think it’s outrageous.” That’s like tales of cigarettes for 15 cents a pack and gas for 30 cents a gallon (although the comparative multiplier for concert tickets for an act that has the magnitude that CSNY did then is much greater today).