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Graham Nash: Five Essential CSNY Songs

Graham Nash (photo by Amy Grantham, PR)

Graham Nash (photo by Amy Grantham, PR)

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Since his days in the Hollies and most significantly, with FUV Essentials artists Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Crosby, Stills and Nash, Graham Nash has never shied from seeing the political landscape as very personal to him. His committment to social activism has never waned. This October, Nash will embark on "The Lantern Tour" concerts for migrant and refugee families with his old friends Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Steve Earle, Mary Chapin Carpenter and others to benefit the Women's Refugee Commission. In addition, Nash will embark on a solo North American tour this autumn too.

That headlining tour will likely reflect on his latest release, Over the Years, a collection of demos that expand on Nash's songwriting process and prowess, from the bare bones of a nascent idea to the finished track. Some of the never-before-released demos include "Marrakesh Express," rejected by his bandmates (soon to be former bandmates) in the Hollies, but a hit song for Crosby, Stills and Nash, and tunes from Nash's solo debut, 1971's Songs for Beginners.

Back in June, "Sunday Supper" host John Platt sat down with Graham Nash to talk about Over the Years. While sifting through memories of his songs and those of his bandmates, Nash offered his own initmate perspective on "Five Essential CSNY Songs" for FUV Essentials. Read his choices below, and listen to John Platt's full "Sunday Supper" interview with Nash in our online Vault.

Graham Nash: Five Essential CSNY Songs:

“Carry On," Déjà Vu (1970, written by Stephen Stills)
Graham Nash: We were in the middle of doing Déjà Vu in San Francisco and I went to Stephen and I said, you know, we don’t have a "Suite Judy Blue Eyes." He went, "I know, we recorded it, remember?"  I said, yeah, I know, but we don’t have that kind of song where you’re not going to take the needle off the record after you’ve heard that opening song. He said, "Oh, I see what you mean." Two days later, Stephen comes back and he goes, "How about this?" And he played me “Carry On.”

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Neil Young's After the Gold Rush (1970, written by Young)
Nash: Neil called me one morning and he said, "I’ve written a song for you." And that was thrilling. I wondered what kind of song it was. And it was “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” Three, four voices. One acoustic guitar. Fantastic.

John Platt: That didn’t end up on a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young album. How come?

Nash: I don’t know! We had so many songs. Where can you put them all? People think that we knew what we were doing and we did, but we didn’t, you know? We broke all the rules. We didn’t have any musicians union in the studio, we kept everyone out. We’ll be fine. When we first signed with Atlantic Records, we signed for six albums and I don’t think it was until 1994 that we actually did the sixth album. But it was armour that kept the wolves off our backs. The lawyers were [saying], "Hey you owe us a record, you signed the contract." But Ahmet said, "Leave them alone. Let them do it at their own pace, I’m sure it will be fine when it comes out."

“Guinnevere," Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969, written by David Crosby)
Nash: It’s one of Crosby’s brilliant, brilliant songs. I loved this. We recorded it with drums and bass. When we were mixing the record, [I got] a call from Crosby, who was on his boat in Florida, saying, "You know, I don’t like the drums on 'Guinnevere,' can you take them out?" Well, anybody out there who makes records and works in studios knows that it’s very hard to take drums off of an acoustic track when they were played at the same time because there’s leakage into the guitar mikes, of course. But I managed to take all the drums off without anybody hearing anything.

“Through My Sails," Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Zuma (1975, written by Young, featuring Crosby and Nash on backing vocals)
Nash: Another thing that wasn’t on a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young record. It was on a Neil Young record. But once again, a beautiful, intimate, acoustic, four-minute moment of us playing it live and singing it live. It’s a beautiful piece of music.

Platt: Where did that end up?

Nash: How many albums has Neil made in the last week? He’s a slave to the muse of music, as most of us are.

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969, written by Stephen Stills)
How could you not put that record to close? I remember so deeply the moment that Stephen played that song for me. I wondered what planet he was from. I mean, I was a songwriter, but this was very different. First of all, it was seven-and-a-half minutes long. Secondly, it went through four distinct musical changes and by the time he got to the end of that, we said, “Wow, good lord, what a great song.” I think it was a perfect song for our voices. And it had to be the first thing that you heard because it was so exciting to us. We always felt that if you put a record on and you listen to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” I don’t think you’re going to get up and take the needle off the record.

Graham Nash
- June 2018

Catch up to all of FUV's Five Essential Albums and Songs.