Graham Nash Tell-All Has Sex, Drugs, Rock...And No Ax To Grind

Meredith Ochs reviews a memoir from musician Graham Nash, one-fourth of the group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. She says the book gives context to the songs that came to define a generation.

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Graham Nash is a singer, songwriter, photographer, two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Over the last five decades, Nash has written dozens of chart-topping songs - first for The Hollies; then for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

From growing up poor near Manchester, England, to being appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire, his remarkable story is chronicled in a new memoir. It's called "Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life." Music critic Meredith Ochs has a review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK THROUGH ANY WINDOW")

THE HOLLIES: (Singing) Look through any window, yeah. What do you see...

MEREDITH OCHS: Graham Nash has long been known as the most normal member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. In 1968, when he quit The Hollies to form the new band, he was a stabilizing influence amidst the brilliant but hopelessly drug-addicted David Crosby, the musically gifted egoist Stephen Stills, and the dark, fiercely independent Neil Young. Yet Nash's memoir is everything you want in rock star tell-all, and more - sex, drugs, wild exploits, epic travels, bitter battles; all the salacious, personal goings-on behind classic songs that came to represent not only a generation, but our country at a profound cultural crossroads.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WOODSTOCK")

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG: (Singing) We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion-year-old carbon. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden...

OCHS: By the time Graham Nash moved from England to Southern California, he was already smitten with the United States. His descriptions of his new environment resonate with the excitement and novelty of the immigrant experience. California's sunshine, broad vistas and uninhibited women challenged him to open up.

Nash transports you with his prose the way he does with his music; to the artistically fertile, winding roads of Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills - a counterculture mecca, and home to numerous musicians - where he immediately settled in with his new girlfriend, Joni Mitchell. Though he reveals the highs and lows of their relationship in the book, it was the everyday details of their life together in Laurel Canyon that yielded one of his biggest hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUR HOUSE" )

CSNY: (Singing) Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard. Life used to be so hard, now everything is easy 'cause of you and our la, la, la...

OCHS: In his memoir, Graham Nash openly explores the exalted lifestyle he experienced with CSNY, including an endless supply of substances to be abused. As the band's success grew, so did the drug consumption as well as the acrimony. They did awful things to each other. Nash and Stills both dated - and battled over - singer Rita Coolidge. Stills destroyed a tape of new material that Nash had recorded. The stories belie the perfect harmony we've come to know so well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CARRY ON")

CSNY: (Singing) Carry on, love is coming. Love is coming to us all...

OCHS: Graham Nash's candor and recall are wildly entertaining, and his humility is refreshing. He seems to have no ax to grind. In fact, his memoir is ultimately the story of the brotherhood he shared with his fellow musicians. One of most amazing anecdotes details a seven-week, 4,000-mile boat trip that CSNY took, led by David Crosby. An expert sailor, Crosby guided them all through tumultuous seas, a great metaphor for their survival as a group.

Even now, after all these years, they're still playing music together. In his memoir, Graham Nash paints his life on a continuum of songs, and those songs are as relevant now as they were when he wrote them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEACH YOUR CHILDREN")

CSNY: (Singing) Teach your children well...

CORNISH: Meredith Ochs is a talk show host and DJ at Sirius XM Radio. She reviewed the new memoir by musician Graham Nash.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TEACH YOUR CHILDREN")

CSNY: (Singing) ...and feed them on your dreams. The one they picked, the one you'll know by...

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