Q&A: Graham Nash Captures an Historical Moment With ‘CSNY 1974’
By Brian Ives
Graham Nash is patient man. Not only has he acted as a mediator between his bandmates in Crosby Stills Nash (and sometimes) Young for four-and-a-half decades, he also spends an insane amount of the time in the studio, curating their collective and individual legacies.
Over the past couple of years, he’s produced box sets covering the individual careers of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and himself, and he’s put a lot of time in the studio listening to tape after tape from the band’s epic 1974 tour for their recently released live box set, CSNY 1974.
He spoke to us about the collective’s sometime’s tenacious relationship, what Neil Young brings to the mix, the continued relevance of his songs from the era (including tunes written about immigration, war and marijuana reform) and the elusive upcoming CSN album. And how he’s trying to help the military change their image.
Radio.com:Obviously you have lots of CSN and CSNY recordings to choose from. Why choose the 1974 tour for a box set?
Graham Nash: I wanted people to know that CSNY is a good rock ‘n’ roll band. And the bootleg of our show at Wembley Stadium didn’t show that. I want everybody to know that regardless of that particular show… I mean, that’s who we were that night. We did thirty other shows [on that tour] but I knew that that’s not what CSNY were. So I wanted people to know that we are a very decent rock ‘n’ roll band, from one acoustic guitar to the mayhem of all of us playing electric. There was such an incredible amount going on in society at the time: Vietnam coming to an end, Watergate with Richard Nixon getting found out. It was a tough time and I think the band, as human beings, were responding to what was going on it our world.
How much work was it for you to go through all the tapes and put the box set together?
It was a lot of work. I’m still touring with David and Stephen and I have a family, and painting shows, and photo shows, and book signings and stuff. It took me about four years [to do the box set], but I wanted to make sure it was right. I want people to know in a hundred years time, if they want to know at all, if they’re at all curious about who CSNY were, this box set really represents what we were. We wanted the best performance of every single song, that’s one of the reasons “Carry On” is not on the box set. It was one of our great songs from Stephen, one of our most popular songs, but I didn’t find a performance that affected me like the thirty-nine other tracks did, and I didn’t want to put it on and have it be not as good as the other stuff. I worked on four different versions of “Carry On” to try and put together the best half of this song and blah blah blah blah, and I couldn’t find it. And I told Stephen, “I can’t find it.” But he trusts me completely. He said, “If it’s not there, it’s not there.” And that was a great relief to me, that he was such a man about it.
You’ve produced solo box sets covering the careers of Crosby and Stills, as well as your own; what makes you such a good archivist?
I love what we do. You have to have a certain amount of patience. you have to have a certain view of history, and I’m the guy that does that. I’m busier than all of them put together, but I still have time to present CSN and CSNY. I care about what we do, I really love what we do and I want to keep pushing it forward.
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