The Croz lifts the lid on the ups and downs of his life and career


The last time I met you, it was election season, and you were very bullish about John Kerry’s prospects. You were walking around with a T-shirt reading, “Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot”.
That’s a very fair assessment! That man was an imbecile! Posing in a flight-suit saying, “Mission accomplished”! He didn’t have a clue! He did us a lot of harm. If that sonofabitch Clinton had just been able to keep his flies closed… I liked Clinton a lot, he was a Rhodes Scholar, very bright…

…and he played an instrument, too.
Yes. Not well, but the feeling was there. And America was in the black. Since then, we’ve been borrowing from the Chinese – now there’s a really smart idea! Nice people to owe money to – not! You know what’s gonna happen? We’re gonna have an economic collapse, and default on China. And then the fur will fly. But they can’t nuke us, ’cos those subs are still down there, underneath the ice-caps, and if you nuke us, a week later they’ll surface, and turn your country to glass.

Are you still against gun control?
It all depends on where you come from, and how you got to guns. I was raised on a farm – we grew avocados and lemons and stuff – and in that milieu, when you got to be about 12, 13, you got a .22 rifle. And I got pretty good with it – I could take a lemon off a tree, y’know? I was taught how to shoot properly and safely, and it was all part of American life, a normal thing. Then guns became gang-bangers with 9mm with 50-shot clips and they’re spraying them around, braaaapp!, and guns got a bad rep. But all three of us [CSN] shoot, and we haven’t started a war all week!

Is the 1974 live album finally going to appear?
Oh yeah! It’s coming out, and I can tell you some good news: we have video! We have some amazing footage. And Neil finally approved it! We showed him two songs where he was so spectacularly good – “Pushed It Over The End” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” – he couldn’t deny it. We were, at that time, one of the best bands in the world.


The Byrds and The Beatles

Thanks to distinctive harmonies and hip characters, in the mid-’60s, The Byrds became known as the “American Beatles”, and as the most gregarious band member, Crosby quickly became close friends with his English counterparts.

“I watched them make Sgt Pepper,” he recalls. “I went to Abbey Road nearly every night. It was an astounding experience. I came in one night –blitzed, I admit – they were behaving very strangely, and they sat me down on a stool, in front of speakers the size of coffins in the middle of this huge room, then they go up to the control room and leave me all alone, and play ‘A Day In The Life’!

“They said I was the first person to hear it. It got to that piano chord at the end, and my brains ran out into a puddle on the floor, I just couldn’t believe it. Because you can’t do that, you can’t be in the middle of this beautiful song and then just stop and go, ‘Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head’ – McCartney, he’s so fucking good! I got to the end of that, and there was not much left of me!”


If I Could Only Remember My Name

Almost as soon as they had formed, the individual members of CSN were already busily beavering away on solo projects. This, Crosby confirms, was planned. Stills, possibly piqued to action by the prolific solo start made by his old Buffalo Springfield jousting partner Neil Young, was the first of the trio to release a solo album, in late 1970; but Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name followed just a few months later, a blissful, ethereal work featuring multi-layered vocal experiments. It remains a distinctive, sui generis album over four decades later, beloved in the most unexpected quarters – in 2010, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano pronounced it second (after Revolver) on a list of apparently papally approved favourites.

If I Could Only… was recorded at Wally Heider’s Studio in San Francisco, where Crosby had relocated to renew old friendships with such as Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner and Quicksilver’s David Freiberg. They both appeared on the album alongside Nash, Young, Mitchell and a Who’s Who of Bay Area musicians from the Airplane, the Dead and Santana. In particular, Crosby became fast friends with Jerry Garcia, the pair devising a casual performing band called either Jerry & The Jerks, or David & The Dorks, “depending on who got to the mic first”. Garcia proved a supportive figure to Crosby, when his girlfriend Christine Hinton was killed in a car crash. “A wonderful guy, one of the best,” says Croz. “When I was making my solo record, I was in terrible shape, because my girlfriend had just died. I didn’t know what to do, I had no way to deal with it, so I hid in the studio – it was the only place I felt comfortable. Jerry came by every night. Every night he’d show, and we’d tap away. I had a double handful of songs, and they were good. I was doing things nobody had heard before, like ‘Tamalpais High’ and ‘Song With No Words’, using your voice like a horn stack. They were loving that we’d do shit nobody else had done.

“God, I miss Jerry. I wrote a poem about him the other night. I always thought that if we had to have someone speak for musicians, I’d have had Jerry. ’Cos he’d have come at it differently.”


“Not a chance!” says Crosby…

With 2014 marking the 50th Anniversary of the formation of The Byrds, hopes are high among fans for another Byrds reunion. The first reunion of the original lineup occurred in 1973, producing the lacklustre Byrds, whose bland tone Roger McGuinn blamed partly on the strength of Crosby’s pot: “Half a joint, you couldn’t do anything,” he claimed. Subsequently, late-’80s shows as The Byrds by Gene Clark and Michael Clarke prompted a legal challenge from McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman, who responded with reunion concerts of their own. This time, though, there is unlikely to be any fresh alliance of the remaining members. “Not a chance,” says Crosby. “I’ve asked Roger over and over. I’ve told him, ‘Roger, you don’t have to like me, just let me fly wing-man – you lead, I’ll follow, I just wanna make that music.’ He called me and said, ‘I hear you’re still telling people I hate you.’ I said, ‘Well, not exactly, though I’m probably not your favourite person…’ He said, ‘That’s not it. I don’t dislike you at all; I just love what I’m doing. I’m a folkie, I’ve played folk more times than rock, and I don’t want to be in a rock’n’roll band, I’d sooner join the army’! “That one got me! It’s a shame, as Chris and I would love to do it. You can lead a horse to water…”

  1. 1. Introduction
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