Just when I think things are winding down with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup, something comes along to delight and surprise. In Rolling Stone(where I work, as a senior writer), my colleague Rob Sheffield interviewed Harry Styles, who admits that “Helplessly Hoping” is an all-time fave: “Those harmonies, man. ‘Helplessly Hoping’ is the song I would play if I had three minutes to live. It’s one of my ‘one more time before I go’–type songs.” Apparently he’s also in possession of a copy of my book. Amazing. The book has also been covered in the last few weeks in Forbes(which called it “painstakingly detailed … truly absorbing”) and the Oakland Press, which called it one of the “hot music books” of the summer. Just in time for the 50thanniversary of Woodstock!
Speaking of Woodstock, my colleague Kory Grow and I spent four months chronicling the rise and fall of the planned Woodstock 50 concerts, and you can read that piece here: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/woodstock-50-disaster-872320/
And also speaking of books, another is on the way. For the last four years, I’ve been working with Mary Guibert, Jeff Buckley’s mother as well as the executor of his estate, on a collection of the writings, paperwork and personal effects he left behind, and the results of our labor will be published by Da Capo/Hachette on October 15. Jeff Buckley: His Own Voicefeatures reproductions from portions of Jeff’s journals and letters, rearranged in chronological order to tell the story of his life in his own words, along with amazing photographs of the guitars, instruments, books, records, recording schedules, and personal belongings he left behind. I’m very proud of it and hope it helps us all get a better understanding of Jeff’s mindset and decision-making process through the years. The different handwritten drafts of songs like “Dream Brother,” “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” and “I Know We Could Be So Happy Baby (If We Wanted to Be)” provide valuable insights into his creative process. It’s available for pre-order here:
It’s been a year – and now summer — of 50th anniversaries, and this month marks an important one in the saga of CSNY: the first time the quartet began rehearsing and recording after the addition of Neil Young. According to the earliest studio paperwork I tracked down, the quartet assembled at Wally Heider’s LA studio in the late afternoon of July 21, 1969, to record versions of “Helpless,” Terry Reid’s “Horses Through a Rainstorm” and a Crosby track called, in the log, “Boat Song” (most likely “The Lee Shore”). I can’t say for sure whether that session was their first as a foursome, but it’s surely one of the earliest. Their first-ever tour would start in August 1969, with Woodstock being, of course, their “second gig,” as Stills told the crowd. You can hear their complete, unedited Woodstock set when it’s released next month on a 38-disc Woodstock box. The version of “49 Bye-Byes,” which has rarely been bootlegged, is pretty remarkable.
As always, Rolling Stone, my home base, has been keeping me happily productive. Check out the “Journalism” tab to see my oral history of Santana and Rob Thomas’ “Smooth,” among other recent stories. And people are still writing about, and interviewing me about, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup. Thanks to No Depression for calling it “the most wide-ranging and in-depth treatment we have of CSNY” and for PBS’s Metro Focus for having me on (that link will be up as well).
On August 10, I’ll be hand for the wonderful Authors Night in East Hampton, New York. The annual event is a benefit for the East Hampton Library, and a slew of authors—including Robert Caro, Douglas Brinkley, Dave Cullen, Candace Bushnell, Vicky Ward, Dave Itzkoff, Rosanne Cash and, yes, me—will be on hand to sign books and say hi. I’ve participated several times already, and it’s always a blast to meet so many book lovers (and fellow authors). Come and say hi! Here’s the website for ticket info: https://authorsnight.org
The first six or so weeks of the launch of “Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup” have been wonderfully gratifying. This past weekend, May 26, the book was included in the New York Times’ annual “Summer Reading” issue, a roundup of what the paper calls “75 of the latest and greatest books to keep you company as temperatures climb and days grow long.” Umbrellas and fruity drinks sold separately: “This is one of the great rock ’n’ roll stories. It’s like a Greek myth. … Browne very good on the tribulations of David Crosby — his addiction, imprisonment, re-entry and subsequent elevation as a battered talisman of something-or-other.” That follows very nice write-ups in People (“riveting”), the Washington Post (“required reading for students of group dynamics”), the Houston Press (“A worthy, substantive, and comprehensive look”), Mojo (“exhaustive”), Kirkus (a starred review–“an excellent portrait of a troubled partnership … celebrates those fine moments when the band merged to make such epochal songs as ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ and ‘Ohio'”) and many others. I’m grateful for all of it. Watch for upcoming television appearances on PBS’ and WPIX News.
A reader in Croatia also sent this photo, perhaps my favorite bit of feedback:
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Crosby, Stills & Nash, the first of the configuration’s albums; I’ll be blogging more about that later in the week.
Here’s my own “summer tour” schedule:
June 8: Maplewood-South Orange Book Festival, Maplewood, New Jersey: I’ll be part of a panel on music book writing. For more info: http://www.mapsobookfest.org
June 19: I’ll be at Book Culture (450 Columbus Avenue, New York), with my Rolling Stone colleague Brian Hiatt, author of Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs. 7 p.m., free admission.
July 12: Shelter Island Public Library, 37 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island, 7 p.m.
This past Tuesday, April 2, was the big day: the official publication of my new book, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup. At times I feel like my entire life has been leading up to this day, from the time I borrowed my older sister Colette’s copies of Crosby, Stills & Nash and Déjà vu to the years in high school and college when I followed their saga in the pages of Rolling Stone and other rock mags. Well, now I work at Rolling Stone and have interviewed CSN for the magazine and my book Fire and Rain. And now, about three years after I began and after interviewing about 100 people for it, I’ve told their complete story in my book.
The festivities actually began on Sunday, March 31, with a launch party for the book at the Cutting Room here in New York. Many friends and colleagues were kind enough to stop by, and musicians Sean Richey and James Sheppard joined me for a words-and-music event. They played a handful of CSNY classics while I yapped in between about the song and group history. Sean and James were terrific, and their version of “Déjà vu,” not an easy song to learn, nailed it. That’s me at the podium; more pictures will follow.
Launch day began with an appearance on SiriusXM’s morning show, “Feedback,” on the Volume channel with co-hosts Lori Majewski and Nik Carter, both of whom offered up their usual energy and smart questions. Then came a few radio interviews, a talk with a writer for Closer magazine (to be published soon), and, then, that same night, a joint appearance at the legendary Strand Books in New York’s Greenwich Village. I was joined by my Rolling Stone colleague Brian Hiatt, author of the also just-published and must-read Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs. (That’s us with the crowd.) The room was full, the vibe was great, and we talked about our respective book subjects and signed a ton of books. Brian and I will also be taping an episode of Rolling Stone’s Music Now podcast—will fill you in later on when that airs. I’m exhausted—but in a good way.
As I repeatedly learned while researching my new book–Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup—the month of March is ripe with important anniversaries for this band. Let’s start with one day:
March 11. On that day in 1969, Stephen Stills shooed away David Crosby and Graham Nash so that he could figure out a new arrangement for Crosby’s song “Long Time Gone.” The trio were in the midst of cutting their first album as a trio, but that song was proving to be elusive. When Crosby and Nash returned to the studio many hours later, Stills, with the help of drummer Dallas Taylor, had finally figured it out, with a menacing throb of an arrangement on which his electric guitar sounded like a growling dog and his organ conjured an ambulance siren. And with that, Crosby, Stills & Nash was pretty much done and ready for its place in history. On that same day, but a year later, in 1970, CSNY’s landmark Déjà vu album was released.
On March 12, 1968, Joni Mitchell, at the dawn of her career, began a multi- night stand at Le Hibou, a folk club in Ottawa, Canada. Four nights later, on March 15, the British pop group the Hollies arrived in town, and after their show that night, Michell attended a party for them and met her future lover, Graham Nash. It would be many more months before the two coupled up, resulting in his songs like “Our House” and hers like “Willy,” but the seeds of that relationship arrived that March day, 1968.
On March 14, 1973, Stills was married for the first time, to French singer-songwriter-pianist Veronique Sanson.
On March 28, 1982, Crosby was on driving to a nuclear plant in San Onofre, California, where he was scheduled to join Stills and Nash at a protest concert. But en route, Crosby had a seizure, and his car veered from the right lane into concrete divider. He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol—the first of several arrests that would almost derail Crosby, Stills & Nash as well as Crosby’s own life.
An eventful month, for better or worse!