In “Wild Tales,” Graham Nash tells a few about the supergroup constantly at each other’s throats in drug-fueled rages while the world grooved to the harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young.
CS&N still tours, and Neil Young’s career as a living legend is thriving. The wonder is not that they are all still making music — it’s that they are all still alive. Of course, David Crosby had to be reconstituted with a new liver, but this band seemed destined for a drug fatality or two.
Nash is provocatively honest in this memoir, out Sept. 17, and the moments he recounts range from glory scenes in rock history to sordid flashes from the past.
Take the night in 1969 when the band’s eponymously named first album, “Crosby, Stills & Nash” (“Wooden Ships,” “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”) was still in the offing and they joined Joni Mitchell and Kris Kristofferson at Johnny Cash’s Nashville mansion for a party honoring Bob Dylan.
It was just another evening of gold cutlery and reigning music royalty until Cash stood and announced that the family tradition was “you have to sing for your supper.”
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were at the height of their powers and popularity in 1969.
Dylan, who hadn’t been heard from in a year after his motorcycle accident, rose up and crooned a new song, “Lay Lady Lay.” The table was in tears.
Contrast that with a moment of recall from the infamous 1974 CSN&Y tour when Crosby hit the road in the company of two warring women. One of them was a lady — Goldie Locks from Mill Valley — whose favors Nash had previously enjoyed.
“Often I would knock on his hotel door, which he kept propped open with a security jamb, and he’d be getting b—- by both of those girls, all while he was talking and doing business on the phone and rolling joints and smoking and having a drink. Crosby had incredible sexual energy.
“It got to be such a routine scene in his room, I’d stop by with someone and go, ‘Aw, f—, he’s getting b—- again. Oh, dear, let’s give him a minute.”
Nash was still contractually bound to his band, the Hollies, in the late ’60s when he met up with Stephen Stills and Crosby at Peter Tork’s house in the Hollywood Hills. The Monkee habitually threw parties that were “legendary, days-on-end affairs with . . . plenty of music, sex, dope.”
Nash had a date with backup singer Rita Coolidge, but Stills fancied her and canceled in Nash’s date , going out with her instead.
But before anything happened musically with the guys, Nash got with Joni Mitchell while playing Ottawa. Though Nash was married, they spent the first of many nights together. He had cheated before — “beautiful women are hard for me to resist,” he writes — but this was different.
“Meeting Joni did a number on my head that reverberated through my entire life.”
When he flew to Los Angeles to start the band, the plan was to stay with Crosby, where the “party was in full swing: Who knows, maybe it was an ongoing affair. Beautiful young women all over the place, some clothed, some not so clothed. Plenty of weed. It was hippie heaven.”
But Mitchell took him home to her cottage in Laurel Canyon.
David Warner Ellis/Redferns
Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Stephen Stills perform at Wembly Stadium.
Crosby himself had just recently ended things with Mitchell, but he was generous with his women, one night even asking his girlfriend, Christine Hinton, to head downstairs to share Nash’s bed.
Later, Stills’ “beast of a place” in the Hollywood Hills would provide another sprawling hippie haven. There was a “storehouse” of drugs on site and lots of “nubile young women.” Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton would routinely stop by. One night, the boys threw their rising-shark manager, David Geffen, in the pool.
Those were such innocent times, soon to be much less so.
It was in the making of that brilliant first album, holed up in a cabin in Sag Harbor, L.I., that the guys graduated to cocaine. “Stephen and David loved cocaine, and I wasted no time acquiring their appetites,” Nash writes.
The album hit big, a “game changer” — but to support it with a tour meant bringing in another musician. “Neil Young: It was like lobbing a live grenade into a vacuum,” Nash writes.
20th Century Fox/Getty Images
The documentary ‘Celebration at Big Sur’ showed (Front, L-R) Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian, Steve Stills and Joan Baez performing at the Big Sur Folk Festival, California, 1969.
Stills and Young had their own history — mostly bad — from their days in Buffalo Springfield. Graham writes that Young used bands as steppingstones and never fully committed to any. But the guys brought him in anyway.
Their second gig together was at Woodstock in 1969. The helicopter malfunctioned and brought them down on site with a hard landing that somewhat presaged their futures together. Over and over, they’d come together only to crash again.
Their prolonged descent began after Crosby’s girlfriend Hinton died in a car crash that September. They continued making the album, “Déjà Vu,” tormented “and coked out of our minds.”
The scene in the studio was always risible, the rages fueled by cocaine. Young distanced himself, sometimes showing up, sometimes recording from another location. At one point, Nash started weeping uncontrollably.
One of the classic album covers of the group.
“We’re f—— losing it,” he sobbed. “It’s over.”
Not by a long shot. The band played Altamont, but got away without incident before the notorious stabbing. Nash ended it with Mitchell, but not until he’d written the classic “Our House.” Needing a new ride, he and Crosby strolled into a showroom in San Francisco and bought two Mercedes-Benzes on the spot. The salesman, who didn’t want a pair of longhaired hippies near his gleaming cars, had to hand over the keys.
While everyone was off working their own projects, Crosby and Nash together, “Déjà Vu” exploded on the charts. Then came the shootings at Kent State University, and Young wrote the protest song, “Ohio,” in minutes. They cut it immediately and had it out in two weeks’ time.
But on tour in 1970, things erupted. Young was seriously “p——” about Stills’ cocaine use. High and ragged onstage, Stills would showboat, and that goaded everyone. Nash, Crosby and Young called off the tour in Chicago. They took the first flight out and didn’t tell Stills. He only found out when he came back for the show.
“What can you do with someone who’s blasted out of his skull?” writes Nash.
Michael Ochs Archives
Crosby Stills Nash & Young in 1970.
They lost the better part of the $ 7 million that was to be made from the tour.
When things had cooled, Stills made the mistake of inviting Nash to sing on his first solo album, the one that would produce “Love the One You’re With.” At the session, Nash made a date with backup singer Rita Coolidge. But Stills wanted her, and called and canceled in Nash’s name, taking her out instead.
Coolidge was with Stills for all of a couple of weeks before Nash maneuvered himself between them. When Nash broke the news that Coolidge was now with him, Stills spat in his face. Nash isn’t sure that Stills has forgiven him to this day.
Stills nursed his ego with two “insanely gorgeous sisters who . . . were always naked” and always at Stills’ Shady Oaks home.
The band often struggled to find harmony, even as they made music that became classic rock hits. Above Graham, David, Neil and Stephen. At left, two of their hit albums.
“Those girls were incredible playthings,” writes Nash. “They were available to whomever they fancied. They were with the house. It was a crazy time.”
Indeed it was. At Stills’ house in Surrey, England, Crosby and Nash summoned the doctor that brought Stills back from an overdose. At Nash’s San Francisco home, Crosby looked and saw someone messing with his Mercedes, reached into his bag, pulled out a handgun and fired at him through an open window.
But the drugs were really beginning to cost them. Crosby strong-armed Geffen into bringing some dope from L.A. to New York, telling him he wouldn’t go on at Carnegie Hall that night if he didn’t get it. Geffen was arrested at the airport, and even so, made bail and made it to New York.
All Crosby cared about was the dope. “I’m gonna f—— kill you!” he screamed at Geffen when he showed up sans drugs. The powerful Geffen soon dumped the band.
The last of the good times came with the 1974 tour. Young was up to his old isolationist tricks, and Stills had to be mothered onstage or he would lose it and rage. Everyone’s mood swings were extreme, so much so that Crosby named it the Doom Tour.
Crosby wasn’t yet deep in the throes of his drug addiction and brought two beautiful women with him. And when things weren’t totally out of control, it worked.
“It was a wild, profligate, orgiastic, self-indulgent couple of months, loaded with crazy scenes and often wonderful music,” Nash writes.
Still, after the tour raked in $ 12 million, the four musicians got only $ 300,000 each. The band had “picked up the tab for the decadence.
“We fell for the rock ’n’ roll b—s–t in a big way,” Nash concludes. “We f—– it up.”
In the end, Nash says, he knows the music they made together matters more “than what we do (to) each other.” He’s at peace with Crosby and Stills, though he intriguingly concludes, “The jury is out on my long, strange trip with Neil Young.”