Monday, October 20, 2014

Wild Times by Graham Nash


Graham Nash's Wild Tales is a biographical journey from his humble beginnings in Salford, England, to the heights of rock and roll. It is a tale only Graham Nash could tell and he does it with a staggering amount of detail about people, places and song.


Few bands exhibit the mastery of the craft of songwriting the way the Hollies or Crosby, Stills and Nash did. Nash's memories reveal the fascinating back stories from the vantage point of a member of that elite inner circle of talented artists and friends.  Each chapter reads like a who's who list of some of the greatest names in rock: Joni Mitchell, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Simon and Garfunkel, the Stones, and the Beatles, to name a few. It would be easier to say that anyone who made their mark on the music scene from the sixties to present day is likely part of one or more of Nash's anecdotes. With great attention to detail, he reveals the loves, losses, friends and foes, teetotalers and addicts. 

In the words of Bob Seeger, "rock and roll never forgets."

The stories behind many of the iconic songs of Crosby, Stills, Nash (and sometimes, Young) interested me most, though I confess I was disappointed to find out that "Just a Song Before I Go" did not involve a sad loss of love and a last goodbye in an airport. Anyone who loves the music would enjoy hearing the inside scoop (no spoiler here).

The book is very much a Graham-centric tale that does not gloss over drug use, bad behavior and bitterness, but it is always told by way of Nash's own moral code, sensibilities and political views. At times, it was a bit too much confidence bordering on self-righteousness. 

Looking at the present day Graham Nash revealed a dedicated family man enjoying the look back at his long, fruitful career. That's my favorite Graham of all.

[I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books.]


16 comments:

  1. It's been awhile since I've read a rock n roll biography or autobiography. This one looks like a great read. I'm familiar with his music.

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    1. I've always loved his work with Crosby, Stills & Nash - but he was a lot wilder than I ever thought. :-)

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  2. Good morning, dear Cherdo, and happy Monday to you! I knew you were planning to review this book and I am grateful to read your impression of it. Group harmony thrills me to the core and the Hollies, CSN and CSNY laid down glorious layers of harmony in their recordings. In the mid 60s the Hollies, the Beatles and many other bands and individual artists in the U.S. and the UK came to a crossroads. The commercial success of Bob Dylan ushered in the era of the singer - songwriter, message music for the thinking man. The Beatles evolved along with the Stones, the Beach Boys and others. Acts that failed to embrace the movement toward serious, introspective, political, socially conscious songs and complex arrangements, that held on to their clean-cut image and continued to perform traditional pop love songs were soon left behind, labeled old school, and their recordings moved to the oldies but goodies bin. A rift often developed within a band between members who wanted to cling to pop and those who sought a new direction with edgy material. Bands that came to an agreement on a musical direction often clashed with producers and record companies that didn't want to tinker with a successful hit making formula. From what I've read, Nash encountered problems like these as he attempted to introduce his intricate songs as Hollies recordings and lead them in a new direction. Nash found a new home with Crosby, Stills and Young and went on to greater worldwide success as a songwriter and performer. I admire Nash for his activism and for following his heart. He remained resourceful and used his network of friends and associates, searching until he found a new gig, a collaboration that became a 20th century super group and allowed his voice to be heard by millions more.

    Thank you very much for the book review, dear friend Cherdo, and have a great week!

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    1. CSN (and Y) never had a member that wanted to cling to pop, so they were spared that problem! The nonchalant drug references that were always present tagged me as "old". That stuff always bugs me. I'm sure it happened, but I didn't want to tarnish the image I always had of GN.

      A generalized assessment might be that there were so many big personalities in one room; agreements became legendary successful collaborations and disagreements/destructive actions were magnified ten-fold.

      I love their tight harmonies. I'm a sucker for layers of harmony.

      The week is off and running! Take care, Shady!

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    2. I love harmony, too. David Crosby really pushed for excellent harmony. I read his memoir quite a few years ago. Although some of it was interesting, it was one act of horrible behavior after another and so much angst. I got tired of it after a while. Same thing with John Phillips. I liked Joan Baez's book quite a bit. Joni Smith wrote a great book called Just Kids a few years ago (has nothing to do with musical harmony). She won The National Book Award. Much of it is about her close relationship with Robert Mapplethorp. I hope I spelled that correctly.

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    3. I hate to be a prima donna, but the horrible behavior wears me out.

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  3. I find it so amazing how these people who were at Woodstock and experienced free love and wild times are now grandpas and grandmas and have a sound family life. This is great especially that he lived through it and didn't end up like some others (Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix). Sounds like a very interesting book

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  4. Willy Dunne Wooters mentioned this book to me. He thought I would like it, and I'm sure I will. Great post, as always.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I'll mail it to you, if you want it. Email your address and its yours.

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  6. Someone posted a long article with facts about the most popular songs. I learned quite a few things--one of which was that the song "The Way" by Fastball was about an elderly couple who disappeared. I'd heard during its time on the radio that it was about suicide but I didn't know the real story until recently. I can't find the original article, but this one has some interesting facts about songs, too:

    http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_549_23-mind-blowing-true-stories-behind-famous-songs/

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    1. That is a great link, Stephanie. Don't you just love rock trivia?

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  7. There are so many great stories about the life of musicians and I haven't read on I didn't enjoy.

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    1. I have to confess that in sometimes, I'd rather keep the illusion of who I thought the person was - as opposed to finding out the real lowdown on their character. Entertainment is fantasy most of the time; that's not a bad thing.

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Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo