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Graham Nash: My Life in 14 Videos, From Woodstock to Live Aid

With the release of his new career-spanning set ‘Over the Years …,’ the songwriter looks back at his five-decade career

Graham Nash

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“My songs are pretty simple,” says Graham Nash, who recently released Over the Years …, a new career-spanning archival collection. “I’m not a complicated songwriter. I don’t want to wait until the end of the second chorus before you know what I’m talking about. I want you to know immediately.” That’s been Nash’s philosophy for his entire career, going all the way back to the Sixties with “Marrakesh Express” and “Pre-Road Downs,” and up through his 2016 solo LP This Path Tonight.

And while he’s spent the past decade overseeing archival Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young releases like CSNY 1974, he decided it was time for a collection that focused exclusively on songs he composed himself. “So I found out from touring what my fans’ 15 favorite songs of mine are, and then I put a couple of mine in there,” he says. “Having gone through all the archives I found all my demos of older songs and I put 15 demos on there.” Most of the demos have never been heard before, including early versions of “Teach Your Children” and “Our House.”

“I know it’s silly,” he says. “But I think that people are kind of interested to see that initial spark, that strike of lightning when you put something down on tape at three in the morning and you’re a little drunk or something. To compare those to the records that were made from those songs is an interesting transition.”

When Nash came into Rolling Stone headquarters to chat about Over the Years …, he also looked at 14 YouTube videos spanning his entire career. Here are his memories of those moments.

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The Hollies – “Bus Stop” (‘Top of the Pops,’ 1966)

The Hollies were the first group to ever play on Top of the Pops, the wildly successful BBC show that introduced countless bands to a mass audience. “It’s so weird to see yourself growing up in videos,” says Nash. “This song was written by Graham Gouldman. He was this little 15-year-old Jewish kid. Our manager said to us, ‘I have this neighbor and she has a son that writes songs. Do me a favor, listen to him and pat him on the head so I can get her off my back.’ We went down and he gave us ‘Bus Stop’ and ‘Look Through Any Window.’ We did them both.”

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CSNY – “Marrakesh Express” (Woodstock, 1969)

Crosby, Stills and Nash recorded their 1969 debut LP as as trio, but when it came time to tour they brought Neil Young into the group to handle the extra guitar parts. Their second gig was Woodstock, though Neil Young refused to let the cameras film him and they were credited as CSN in the movie. “We weren’t bad at Woodstock,” says Nash. “Everybody knows it was only the second time we’d ever played in front of people, but I wasn’t nervous at all. You can tell from the performance. And listen, we didn’t tune those vocals. We didn’t find out until after the show that Neil wasn’t filmed.”

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CSNY – “Long Time Gone” (‘This Is Tom Jones,’ 1969)

Much to Neil Young’s annoyance, CSNY performed “Almost Cut My Hair” on Tom Jones’ show with the host himself handling lead vocals. “Crosby was also not too happy with this because it’s his song and he wanted to sing lead,” says Nash. “But Tom Jones is fantastic. He’s into the song, I must tell you. You see that black guitar I’m playing? I can’t find it. That’s the one I wrote ‘Teach Your Children’ and ‘Marrakesh Express’ on. I really hope to find it some day.”

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CSNY – “Long Time Gone” (Altamont, 1969)

“Altamont was a very strange day,” says Graham Nash. “We were happy to leave this as the Rolling Stones’ show. Not a lot of people know we were there, but we were. My memory is they were playing electronic music very loudly during the changeovers and the Hells Angels got out of control. Some kid knocked over their bikes and they all went down. They were pissed of about that. The stage was just three feet high. Anybody could have gotten to us. It was a very, very tense day. And the place was just so ugly. Right after this performance we went down to Los Angeles and we had a show that night.”

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CSNY – “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (Fillmore East, 1970)

Just weeks before the first of their many breakups, CSNY played a six-night stand at the Fillmore East in New York City. Professional cameras captured two of them. “This is the night Neil told me that he wrote ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ for me,” says Nash. “If there’s ever going to be another CSNY release from the archives, this would probably be the best way to start. The Fillmore East shows were pretty good. We were on the top of our game. Then, of course, we realized that Bill Graham had been recording every act and now they’re on Wolfgang’s Vault. They have no night to release them, but of course they still do.”

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CSNY – “Pre-Road Downs” (Wembley Stadium, 1974)

In the summer of 1974, CSNY put aside their differences for a massive stadium tour. More than a little cocaine was consumed along the way and the whole thing was such a miserable experience for Neil Young that he wouldn’t agree to another one for 26 years. It wrapped up with a show at Wembley Stadium that was captured by a pro camera crew. “We didn’t like the Wembley show,” says Nash. “We were too high. We played too fast. Someone showed me a bootleg of the Wembley show; I think it was filmed by the BBC, and we were not that band. I knew we played great somewhere on that tour. I knew there was a fine album to made. When we put the 1974 box set together I wanted to show that we were a really, really good rock & roll band. But we did too much cocaine on that tour.”

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CSN – “Just a Song Before I Go” (Houston, 1977)

In 1977, nearly a decade after they first sang together, Crosby, Stills and Nash finally toured as a trio. Many groups from their era were fighting to stay relevant in the aftermath of the punk revolution, but CSN scored an enormous hit with the Nash-penned “Just a Song Before I Go.” “This was our biggest hit single,” says Nash. “Like Joe Walsh said, if I knew it was going to be such a big hit I would have written a better song. At this time, the three of us still loved each other. It’s part of the sadness of us not talking to each other now.”

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CSN – “Wasted on the Way” (‘Daylight Again,’ 1982)

Against all odds, CSN released a smash album in 1982 powered by the hits “Southern Cross” and “Wasted on the Way.” It was originally a Stills/Nash album because Crosby’s severe drug addiction kept him out of the studio, but the label insisted he be included to help with sales. Nash filmed a concert on the tour for release on home video. “I have sad feelings about this one,” says Nash. “Crosby was so hung up on drugs at this point. We did two nights and everyone was told to wear the same clothes, but Crosby’s shirt was a foot shorter the second night. It keeps changing lengths when you watch it. It drove me insane when we were editing.”

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The Hollies – “Stop in the Name of Love” (German TV, 1983)

Nash reunited with the Hollies for a new album and brief tour in 1983. “This started with Top of the Pops asking us to come back for the 25th anniversary of their show since we were on the first one,” he says. “I was like, ‘Sure. it’s just a TV show.’ It was a little tense at first because of past history. I heard a rumor that Allan Clarke, who quit the Hollies because he couldn’t sing anymore, is back in the studio. I hope it’s true.”

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CSNY – “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (Live Aid, 1985)

CSNY were many of the many groups, including Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the Who, that reformed for Live Aid. “This was an incredible show,” says Nash. “It was very difficult to put together. You’ve got to give claps to Bob Geldof to be able to do that, doing two shows that are six hours apart. And no, this wasn’t a hard gig. Once you’ve sung ‘Guinevere’ with one acoustic guitar and two voices to half a million people, this is nothing. I think after this we flew somewhere else for a gig.”

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CSNY – “Let’s Impeach the President” (Atlanta, 2006)

CSNY reunited in 2000 for their first tour since the 1974 fiasco, and in 2006 they took Neil Young’s politically charged Living With War on the road. The album was a furious assault on the Bush administration, and when they took it down south they saw many fans boo or simply walk out. “I’ve never been on a tour where we had bomb-sniffing dogs,” says Nash. “About 10 percent of the audience walked out when we did ‘Let’s Impeach the President’ in Atlanta. You gotta understand, that song didn’t come until two and a half hours into the concert. If you buy a ticket for CSNY, what the fuck do you expect? Love songs? I’d like to talk to all the people that threatened us then and see what they think about George W. Bush now.”

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CSNY – “Teach Your Children” (Bridge School Benefit, 2013)

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young headlined the two-night Bridge School Benefit in 2013. They haven’t played together since. “This was strange because Neil was going through changes with Pegi at the time,” says Nash. “It takes a lot to put together a concert like this. Kudos to them for doing it for over 20 years.” Despite the group’s upcoming 50th anniversary, Nash thinks they’ll never play again. “A lot of people ask why we can’t go out and say something about the Trump administration,” says Nash. “But it’s not happening. We have to love each other before we can make great music. I’m sad because of the loss of the music but, truth is if we never sing another note or play another note together, we did pretty good in the last 50 years.”

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CSN – “Silent Night” (Washington, D.C.; 2014)

Crosby, Stills and Nash haven’t appeared together in public since the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in 2014. “This was very sad,” says Nash. “Stephen and David ended up fighting after it and I think even Obama had heard something was going on. Basically, it was a national park thing and David was supposed to talk about his favorite park and then I was going to talk about living in Hawaii and my favorite and so on. But David read everyone’s lines. Stephen then threw a pick at David. It was over from that moment. They started fighting backstage and we never spoke again after that. I talk to Stephen and I talk to Neil, but not David. It’s fitting we ended our career singing ‘Silent Night’ at the White House Christmas-tree party.”

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Graham Nash – “This Path Tonight” (‘Later … With Jools Holland,’ 2016)

With CSN no longer a functioning entity, Nash turned his attention to his solo career and in 2016 released This Path Tonight. “We had to drive three hours to the studio for this appearance,” says Nash. “But when we got there I got to hang out with Iggy Pop. Anyway, this whole album was my emotional response to everything happening in my personal life. I was separating from my wife and I was leaving my home in Hawaii where I’d lived for almost 40 years. It was a very emotional album to make.”

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