In August of 1968, Graham Nash retired to his room at the Oulton Grove Motel in Leeds, England, after a Hollies gig, lit up some hash and began writing songs. The Hollies had just started work on an album of Bob Dylan covers, and he was desperate to prove to them they should ditch the idea in favor of original compositions. He’d also recently come across the 1962 Diane Arbus photograph Child With a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, which left him horrified. “[The kid in the photo] had a plastic hand grenade clenched in his fist,” Nash wrote in his 2013 book Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life, “but it seemed to me that if it were real the kid would have thrown it. The consequences of it startled me. I thought, ‘If we don’t start teaching kids a better way of dealing with each other, humanity will never succeed.'”
As he puffed on the hash, words to a tune he called “Teach Your Children” began pouring out of him. The following year, he recorded a demo of the song that has sat in the vault for the past five decades, but is finally coming out on June 29th on Over the Years …, Nash’s new career-spanning anthology. The two-disc set features many of his most enduring tunes (“Military Madness,” “Our House,” “Wasted on the Way”) along with a full disc of demos that have, with a couple of exceptions, never been released.
“It does my heart good to present my songs this way,” Nash said in a statement. “I hope that listeners will enjoy hearing the demos of my songs – how my demos of ‘Our House,’ ‘Teach Your Children,’ and others turned into the records that have endured ‘Over the Years,’ how I started writing them, and how they became the now familiar recordings when they were released.”
“Teach Your Children” would eventually be turned into an enormous hit by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1970, but when he presented it to the Hollies in 1968 they were unimpressed and decided to carry on with their Dylan album. It sealed Nash’s decision to leave the Hollies and begin a new career with his friends David Crosby and Stephen Stills. The partnership survived through many ups and downs until 2015 when they finally had enough of each other and went their separate ways, possibly forever.
Over the Years … is available for preorder now. Nash kicks off a European solo tour on June 30th and returns to America for a run of dates in mid-September. If he sticks to his set list from earlier this year, he’ll close out every night with “Teach Your Children.” Contrary to what the Hollies thought 50 years ago, it was a song worth recording.