Posts Tagged ‘1997’

Years long ago, on the early evening of Saturday Sept. 6, 1997, Diane and I saddled up our faithful Dodge Colt and traipsed the trails fantastic to the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa., to see Nanci Griffith at what must have been the apex of her touring career. And eight days later, we set out on a longer sojourn, this time to the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Del., to see her again. Supporting and joining her on both occasions: the Crickets (aka, Sonny Curtis, Jerry Allison and Joe Maudlin).

The Tower fits a little more than 3000; and the Opera House a bit more than 1200. I’m not sure, now, if one or both were sold out, but given her popularity at the time, I’d guess that, if they weren’t, they were close. She’d been on something of a commercial roll since her major-label debut in 1987, Lone Star State of Mind, with each new release expanding her audience while simultaneously expanding her sound. She didn’t approach her music as a lather-rinse-repeat exercise, in which every new release sounded like the old, but as a mode for artistic expression and exploration. Pop sensibilities surfaced on the classic Storms (1989) and less-classic Late Night Grand Hotel (1991), for example, but receded for her 1993 collection of folk covers, Other Voices, Other Rooms and what may well be her finest album ever, 1994’s Flyer, which were both folk- and folkabilly-minded affairs.

Blue Roses From the Moons, released in March 1997, was both solid and sad, however. Primarily recorded live in the studio with her longtime band, the Blue Moon Orchestra, and the Crickets, it veers from the sublime (“Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses”) to the ridiculous (a cover of Nick Lowe’s “I Live on a Battlefield”) and back again, and revisits old themes (“Saint Teresa of Avila”) and even old songs (“Gulf Coast Highway,” this time with Darius Rucker subbing for James Hooker). And, truthfully, her voice often sounds shot.

To the shows: The Crickets didn’t open. Instead, Nanci and the Blue Moon Orchestra came out first and played for 40 (give or take) minutes, with the Crickets joining Nanci for the Sonny Curtis-penned theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, “Love Is All Around.” With the baton thus handed off, the Crickets then played for about half an hour, with their set including – as one would expect – a few Buddy Holly chestnuts. Nanci and the Blue Moon Orchestra then closed out the night.

My memory of the Tower show is near non-existent despite the ticket showing us as having very good seats, while my recall of the Wilmington show is slightly better, though I don’t remember meeting members of the Crickets afterwards, which Diane says we did. That said, I do remember leaving both thinking that the concerts were solid, but not sublime, with my favorite moment of each being…the MTM theme, plus the older material, especially “Trouble in the Fields” and “The Wing & the Wheel.”

The Crickets were fun, and Nanci and the band were in good form – but placing ‘50s-styled rock ’n’ roll in the middle of Nanci’s country-folk stylings didn’t quite jell the way one might think it would or should.

That said, one of the encores, “Well, All Right” (from the Not Fade Away Buddy Holly tribute CD released in 1996) was a delight.

This was the set list from Denver a few months later: 

Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
Across the Great Divide
Two for the Road
These Days in an Open Book
Love at the Five and Dime
Ford Econoline
Gulf Coast Highway
Love is All Around
Do You Wanna Be Loved
I Fought the Law

Oh Boy
Lover You More than I Can Say
Maybe Baby
Everyday
Summertime Blues
I Gotta Pass
The Real Buddy Holly Story
True Love Ways
Peggy Sue
That’ll Be the Day
Rave On

Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses
The Flyer
Tecumseh Valley
She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
Boots of Spanish Leather
It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go
I’ll Still Be Someone
Walk Right Back
Not My Way Home
This Heart

Encore:

Well Alright
Trouble in the Fields
The Wing & the Wheel
Darcy Farrow

While digging through my digital archives, I came across this 1997 email interview I conducted, for my old website, with Canadian rock music historian John Einarson, author of such respected tomes as Neil Young: Don’t Be Denied, Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock, and Hot Burritos: The True Story of the Flying Burrito Brothers, about his then-current There’s Something Happening: The Story of the Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth.

It was, and remains, the best book on that influential band.

**********

To my way of thinking, despite recent acclaim and their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Buffalo Springfield remain one of the most overlooked and under appreciated bands that the 1960s produced. That’s an arguable fact, I’ll grant you. After all, “For What It’s Worth” is the song de rigueur used in movies to echo the mood of the ’60s … yet, blank stares still grace too many faces whenever the band is mentioned. “Buffalo who?”

Hell, the day of the Springfield’s entrance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I listened in horror as a disc jockey at a local, respected music station reported the news and then went on to describe the band’s lineup as including “Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, and David Crosby.” Excuse me? Crosby!? Yeah, he did hang out with Stephen Stills; he’s said to have come up the guitar lick Stills based “Rock & Roll Woman” on. He sat in with them at Monterey Pop, joined them at a couple other gigs. But a member of the band?

You’ve gotta be kidding me.

The David Crosby “saga,” such as it is, receives its rightful mention in John Einarson and Richie Furay’s book, There’s Something Happening: The Story of the Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth, with colorful quotes from Bruce Palmer (“Crosby stunk to high heaven”) and fill-in guitarist Doug Hastings. The same can be said for every other important event in the band’s lifespan and beyond, including an ill-fated “reunion” in 1988 that Neil Young skipped at the last minute. Einarson does a deft job of documenting these moments, interspersing a crisp narrative with first-hand observations from some, if not all, of the participants.

Aside from delving into the inner-group dynamics that drove (and ultimately broke up) the band, the book is thankfully respectful of private lives. This is no tell-all/groupie-laden chronicle, in other words, but a serious examination of the Springfield’s career. That’s not to say you don’t get clear pictures of the principles. Stills, for example, comes across confident and cocky, a young man sure of himself and his talents. He strove not only to write and sing the songs, but play lead guitar, too. In short, he saw the band as his. Neil Young, on the other hand, didn’t just doubt his role in the Springfield; he doubted the group itself. That he skipped out on the eve of their biggest break – an appearance on The Tonight Show – says it all. He possessed (still does) a distinct vision of what rock music should and shouldn’t be. And in the shadows of those two opposites stood the good-natured Richie Furay, not necessarily content with his role but accepting of it all the same.

OGC: What led you to write a book about the Buffalo Springfield?

John Einarson: The idea to do a Springfield book stemmed from several factors, really: the subject seemed logical given that I covered Neil’s career up to that point in a previous book [Neil Young: Don’t Be Denied]; I have always had a great appreciation and fascination with the Springfield’s music and troubled history; and because there is a strong Canadian connection and all my previous books tend to have that thread through them. But besides that, I’ve always been a Springfield fan. I’m probably dating myself here but I first got into the Buffalo Springfield in late 1966/early 1967 when I first heard their debut album on the radio here in Winnipeg. Neil was home for Christmas and he brought a copy with him and a local deejay played it (actually Neil only lived up the block and one street over from me). I was fascinated with the Springfield sound because I was into folk rock and I found their style unique from the Byrds and other folk-based groups at the time. “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” ranks as my personal all-time favorite song.

OGC: What role did Richie Furay play in the book’s creation?

Einarson: Richie was my main source on the group. I found him extremely open, receptive and eager to get the Springfield story documented accurately and completely. The group holds a very special place in his heart and he didn’t want a toss-off book. I spent four days with him in Boulder, Colorado in intense interviews, plus several lengthy follow-ups by phone. Throughout the entire research and writing process, Richie was directly involved and approved the final manuscript. Given his participation, the book becomes the authentic, authorized story of the Springfield. Richie and I first hooked up back in 1992 at Neil Young’s suggestion when I was researching Don’t Be Denied. When I decided to pursue a Springfield book, I first contacted him because I viewed his participation as pivotal to the book’s development. We renewed our friendship and took it from there. He is a man of integrity who had no particular agenda or axe to grind. He tells it like it was. And you couldn’t meet a nicer guy than Richie. He also provided me with contacts to interview other people associated with the group and loaned his scrapbooks and rare collection of photos which appear throughout the book.

OGC: While doing your research, did you discover anything that surprised you?

Einarson: TONS!! Where to begin? It’s all in the book I guess. When I undertake a project, whether an article or a book, I immerse myself in research in order to be well-prepared for interviews, Actually Richie was knocked out at my detailed knowledge and chronology. However, given that I had a more than casual knowledge of the group’s checkered history I was still overwhelmed with the volume of new information I discovered. For example, Neil’s epilepsy was a far greater issue than ever assumed and affected the band several times (even being the catalyst for “Mr. Soul”). I never envisioned the enormity of the Stills-Young rivalry. The attempt to oust Dewey for Skip Spence. The influence of two Moby Grape songs on “For What It’s Worth.” The whole Au Go Go Singers and Company story. The sheer volume of songs recorded yet left unreleased (and still languishing in vaults unheard). The problems putting Last Time Around together. That the group considered going on as a 4 piece on two occasions. Neil’s self-indulgence and lack of commitment. Bruce’s many drug busts. The fact that their bass position was far more in flux than I realized. The fact that the group had decided to break up long before their May, 1968 swansong. The ineptitude of their managers…. and on and on. It was quite a revelation, albeit pleasant.

OGC: Were you able to interview all of the principles? What were they like?

Einarson: I interviewed just about everyone in or associated with the group plus key contemporaries at that time. As well, I interviewed people associated with several members’ previous groups like the Au Go Go Singers, and Squires. I had interviewed Neil Young a few years back while researching Don’t Be Denied and we had talked about the Springfield so I had that already, a lot I hadn’t used in that book. Stephen Stills was a different story though. He refused to cooperate. Richie, who collaborated with me, was disappointed that Stephen refused all entreaties to cooperate even after he personally attempted to break through. It seems Stephen doesn’t share the same regard for the past as some others do and I was informed that he was planning his own book down the road sometime. But by collaborating with Richie, it gives the book a unique perspective because he was the man in the middle between these two creative yet often combative factions, Stephen and Neil. His insights into their personalities are quite revealing. I did manage to interview several dozen key people such as Dickie Davis, Dewey Martin, Doug Hastings, Bruce Palmer, Miles Thomas, Rusty Young, Chris Hillman and notorious manager Charlie Greene.

OGC: Don’t Be Denied covers Neil’s early years. For What It’s Worth picks up with the Springfield. Do you have plans to document the next “chapter(s)” in Neil’s career

Einarson: No, I’ll leave that to others more knowledgeable about his later period. My expertise is in the early years and every book written on Neil Young since Don’t Be Denied was published has borrowed from my research and acknowledged my work. That’s where my interest lies. I’m currently collaborating on a European CSNY book that will cover each of the four members from the earliest years up to today. Several writers are involved and I’m doing Young and Stills’ early period up to the end of the Springfield.

OGC: Are you a fan of Neil’s post-Springfield work? Stephen’s? Richie’s?

Einarson: I like some things from each of them. I liked Neil’s work through to the end of the 70s but sort of lost interest since 1990, the godfather of grunge period. I loved Richie with Poco and the Souther Hillman Furay Band. I still think he has one of the best country-rock voices around and hope he gets back to performing. I guess out of the three I followed Stephen’s solo career less, though I love Crosby, Stills & Nash, still do. That debut album was phenomenal.

OGC: The portion of For What It’s Worth that dealt with the possibility of David Crosby’s joining the band fascinated me. Do you really think he would have joined if Stills had asked? Or, as he claimed on a radio show a few months after Monterey Pop, was his sitting in with them just in keeping with the times?

Einarson: David denied it again when I posed the question to him while researching the book but I think that he might have jumped ship if the timing had been right. If Stephen had asked at the point when the Byrds kicked Crosby out, in the fall after Monterey, I think he might have accepted. But by then Neil and Bruce were back and it was full steam ahead. There’s no question that once the Springfield members had decided to call it a day, Stills phoned Crosby first. Chris Hillman still maintains that Crosby wanted to be a Buffalo more than a Byrd by 1967. Certainly the Springfield were more creative than the Byrds by then. Who knows. Interesting that for a brief time three Buffalos–Stills, Young, & Palmer–were together with Crosby and Nash in CSNY. But David didn’t like that very much.

OGC: Would you agree with the assessment that the Springfield was “Stephen’s band”?

Einarson: Yes. Now that’s not to negate the contributions of the others but from the outset Stephen Stills set the course, arranged the music, made most of the major decisions, conducted most of the interviews as spokesman, and wrote the most commercially successful songs. To the average person at that time, the Buffalo Springfield was the voice of Stephen Stills. And he hung on until the end still trying to make the group work. One can see how someone as singularly focused as Neil Young could have problems with that, especially after “For What It’s Worth” became a hit.

OGC: Overall, where would you rate the Springfield in the pantheon of rock ‘n’ roll?

Einarson: Right near the top. Their influence shaped the sound and style of so many other artists that followed them. The Springfield’s folk rock was quite different from the Byrds or anybody else at that time, drawing instead on an earlier folk tradition that incorporated acoustic and electric guitars together laying down intricate lines woven around each other. Theirs was a truly unique sound that later found success in groups like The Eagles. As well, their emphasis on developing individual singer/songwriting styles within one group, as evidenced by their Again album which is highly diverse, helped set that whole singer/songwriter trend of the early seventies and the whole California country rock/soft rock genre. Their induction into the Hall of Fame, a group who really only scored one Top Ten hit not even a Number 1 record in a brief two year lifespan, is testament to their importance to the development of rock music. Almost all their recorded work was never fully appreciated because it was ahead of its time. That masterpieces like “Bluebird,” “Expecting To Fly,” and “Rock And Roll Woman” could fail to crack the Top 40 remains bewildering. Unfortunately when people think of the Springfield, they tend to focus on who came out of it and the success achieved by the individual band members following the demise of the group.

OGC: What’s the next project on tap?

Einarson: That’s always a secret. I just might take on a project in a completely different direction. I currently have a couple of offers and some irons in the fire. Doing the Buffalo Springfield story was a personal dream of mine that I am very pleased to have fulfilled. I hope it brings many more people back to their music and maintains their legacy.

Here’s a classic from the vaults: my first interview of David Crosby, from August 18, 1997, for the original Old Grey Cat website on GeoCities. (To read the second, click here.) At the time, he was in the midst of recording the first of two studio albums with CPR, the group he’d formed with guitarist Jeff Pevar and son Jeff Raymond….

How did CPR come together?

I’ve been working for the last two or three years with a guitar player named Jeff Pevar, who is a complete stunner. He’s worked with Rickie Lee Jones, Ray Charles … I heard him playing with Marc Cohn. He’s my current thriller guitar player. We got along great. He started working with me when I did solo shows or shows with Graham Nash. Then, about two years ago when I was in the hospital – I don’t want to be dramatic, but I was dying. I knew for many years that I had a son out there somewhere. His mother had had him, and put him up for adoption. You can’t track an adoptive kid from the parent down, only from the kid up. So, when he got married, he wanted to know who his birth mother was. He went down and made the inquiry. I guess they just gave him the book; he’s looking at her page, and, on the other side, is me. When he saw that, he’d been a musician for 20 years.

That really says something about genetics.

Yeah. He started when he was a child playing the piano. The people who raised him, who are lovely people, had realized he had great talent. They encouraged it, gave him piano lessons, got him to study music. He was everything I wasn’t. He’s a schooled musician. He can write music, he can read it, and … he’s just an incredibly talented young guy. When we met, we hit it off extremely well. We found that our music was very, very similar. So we started playing and started writing. Then, when he and I and Jeff got together, there was an undeniable chemistry between me and Jeff and an undeniable chemistry between me and him. And there was chemistry between the three of us. So we decided Crosby, Pevar and Raymond should become CPR.

That’s a great story.

Well, it’s kind of a wild one. To find him at all is against the odds, and to have him be not just a musician, but a fantastic one?! There’s this incredible link. I sort of know what the next chord he’s going to play is and he sort of knows where I’m going. He’s said he’s never found anybody’s music that was easier for him to learn. There’s a real communication there. He’s also an incredibly nice young guy. So we said, well, the music’s too good to ignore. We’re going to go ahead and do it. We tried it out; we did about a dozen dates up the West Coast, San Diego to Seattle or something. It was some of the best fun I’ve ever had playing live. And we kept writing these songs, one after the other…

So the songs you’re recording now are all originals.

Yes. It’s stuff that I wrote, stuff that James wrote, stuff that James and I wrote, stuff that James, Jeff and I wrote, stuff that Jeff and I wrote. It’s just a very, very hot chemistry. We’ve written probably five of the best songs that I’ve written in the last ten years in the past two months.

Would one of the songs be “Morrison”?

“Morrison” was the very first one. It started out with an image about being lost. The metaphor was a gull that gets blown inland on a stormy day. I thought that was a great metaphor for being lost in life. So I started trying to write that. Somewhere in there, it wound up with these images of being lost in a Paris graveyard. It was Jim Morrison, obviously, who did a very good “lost” himself. That’s the way the song wrote itself out of me. I can’t predict how that stuff’s going to happen.

When you do sit down to write a song, does it just flow out of you? Do you have a melody or an idea?

It comes every which way, man. Very often it comes words first, sometimes it comes music first, sometimes both at the same time. I really can’t predict it. In this case, I had no idea I was going to write a song about Jim Morrison. I was writing a song about a gull blown inland on a stormy day. It just came out that way; I didn’t even like Jim Morrison. I knew him, but I never was friends with him. But, I understand him pretty well because I was lost in the very same place. And so he was a good metaphor.

What are some of the other songs you’re recording?

There’s a fantastic one that James had written called “One For Every Moment.” It’s an incredible love song that happens to have this very up, Latin flavor. There’s one called “That House” that I wrote the words for; Jeff, James and I wrote the music. It might be one of my best set of words ever. It might be one of my best vocals ever, too, I think.

There’s another one that I’ve been doing, that I even recorded once before live, “Rusty & Blue.” That came out fantastic! It’s a stunner. I’m as excited as I can be. I feel so good doing it. The level of communication is so high, and the music is coming out so well that I get to the studio an hour early just so I can hear it.

Do you have a title for the CD yet?

No. We’re looking for one.

Do you have a label?

No, we cut it ourselves. I took the money that I made this summer w/CSN and just plowed it right back into this.

Are you thinking of going the independent route?

I’ve talked to Ani DiFranco [who has her own independent record label]. There is a temptation to do that. We will play it for some of the more independent labels. The big guys just have too much super-structure on them.

Half the time they don’t seem to know how to market people correctly.

That was certainly the case with Atlantic and Crosby, Stills & Nash. They had no idea of how to market us, anymore. They didn’t know what demographic we were playing to.

I’ll tell you how it’ll work: If a record company listens to this band and really understands what it is, ’cause it’s sort of out on the edge where Steely Dan, Bruce Hornsby, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor are, people who make pretty sophisticated music – it’s out toward that direction. If we find somebody who hears it and digs it, and really wants it…and evidences a desire to work it, then maybe we’ll make a deal with them. But we wanted to go in and cut the record on our own money so there was nobody telling us what to do.

That’s good.

It’s good because you get to follow your heart. You get to say, “What I really feel is this.” I’m not trying to make a clone of the Spice Girls. This is the real thing that I’m trying to express. This is what I want to do—and we did exactly that. We didn’t do anything except exactly what we really felt.

You mentioned the Spice Girls. Do you stay in touch with the current music scene?

To a degree. Obviously, I’m happy as I can possibly be that Shawn Colvin somehow busted through and got a hit. She’s one of my favorite singer/songwriters. She opened for Crosby, Stills & Nash and we all fell in love with her. Nash and I have gone and sung with her, I’ve sung on her records. She’s a close friend.

She has a mesmerizing voice.

We were just so happy to see a real singer-songwriter break through. That’s exactly what should happen and almost never does. Usually, the radio formats just exclude that kind of stuff.

That’s what frustrates me and I’m sure you. As a fan who likes more than the 20-year-ago hits – for example, on Live It Up, your song “Yours & Mine” is as wonderful a song as any you’ve recorded. Yet, when they play you on the radio, it’s always something 20- or 30-years old.

Yeah, that drives us nuts, too. The classic radio stations love Crosby, Stills & Nash but won’t play anything after Deja Vu or, maybe, the CSN album, the one with the boat on the cover. It makes us nuts. CSN is going to go in, in January and February, and make another album. It’s going to be one of the best albums we’ve ever made – and I know it because I know the songs.

That’s another thing. We left Atlantic. CSN is going to find a new deal with somebody who actually gives a damn about us.

I understand you’re working on a book.

Yeah, I got a book that my friend David Bender and I are writing called Stand & Be Counted. It’s about activism …. musicians and activism. We’re going to start with Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and work our way up through the Civil Rights movement and into the Vietnam War era and into Live Aid, Farm Aid, the Amnesty Tour, on up to now, and try to show how this phenomenon grew up out of the cracks and just manifested itself out of people feeling they had to take a stand on things, that they found they could use music to gather people together for a cause. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s a place where human beings can put somebody else’s good ahead of their own. It gets very shining when they do that, man. It’s a very good thing. And there’s nothing about it. We looked, we researched; there isn’t anything about it anywhere. So, we thought, we should write a book celebrating it and chronicling it, and hopefully try to help perpetuate it.

Will you be interviewing other musicians?

That’s exactly what I’m doing. We have all the best musicians … all the obvious ones, like Bonnie, Jackson, Nash, and Elton, Phil Collins, and Paul McCartney. We have a ton of people. Joni’s going to do it. Shawn said she’ll do it. I’ve already done Neil, Don Henley, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Jewel, Hootie & the Blowfish, Carly Simon, Pete Seeger. I did Pete… that guy is a national treasure. He’s a wonderful guy, wonderful dedication to life, wonderful set of values.

Did you find it odd to be on the other side of an interview, to be the one asking the questions?

At first. But, actually, it came very easily because I have an advantage. I’m not some talking head asking, “Well, how did you boys meet?” I’m usually talking to somebody who I’m at least acquainted with, if not am friends with. And I’m talking to them usually, or very often, about concerts we did together. I try not to get in the way very much. I just try to elicit the response from them and try to get them to really talk about why they do it, what makes them feel the necessity to stand and be counted.

How does that work? Writing about issues?

I think we react just as you do. When you saw the picture of the girl kneeling over the kid dead on the ground after Kent State, you were horrified, right? You said, how can they shoot somebody’s child for doing what the Constitution says they have the right to do? How can they do that? How can this happen? Well, we feel the same way. The only thing is, we have this incredible, lucky thing that we can do: We can externalize it – and also we can have a cathartic release about it. We can crystallize it and put it out there. I think we have every right to speak our minds. I don’t think we should preach. The point is not to point fingers and say, “This is how it should be. This is what you should do, this is right and that’s wrong.”

Sometimes pointing fingers is the right thing to do.

We did it when we did “Ohio,” that’s for damn sure. But that was pretty clear cut. It’s better if you can lead by example, and it’s better if you can talk in metaphors so that people get the essence of the thing without you saying, “Jesse Helms is an asshole.” That makes a dull song.

Depends who you’re singing it to.

Yeah, maybe Nine Inch Nails could do a really good song about that. . .

Twenty-eight years ago today, three a.m. this morning in fact, CSN hit the stage at Woodstock. What’s your memory of that?

The truth is, man, my memory of it is very good. I loved it. I thought the second one was a media zoo, but the first one was a very heartfelt, wonderful, accidentally great thing where a lot of incredible music got played. There was a genuine feeling of brotherhood between the people who were there. Nobody killed anybody, nobody raped anybody, nobody shot anybody. I think that’s probably the only group of people that size who didn’t do that in the history of mankind. Anytime you get that many people together, even at a religious gathering, somebody beats somebody up. There was something special going on. It was a wonderful, wonderful time.