By In Stuff

A short story about rock and roll

Every now and again my buddy Brian — referred to through the years here as Pop Warner — opens up a door to the coolest scenes. Brian works for Warner Music; he is sort of the company’s liaison with iTunes. I say “sort of” because his job is actually quite a bit more complicated than the title and over time he’s offered me countless insights and fantastic access into the music world. In return, I tell him the Cubs teams he grew up with were generally terrible. It’s probably not an even trade.

In any case, he and his team put on this incredibly cool little concert for iTunes once or twice a year at a winery in San Francisco. And — because Margo and I happen to be in San Francisco for the national holiday that is Duane Kuiper Bobblehead Day (Friday!) — we were invited to come to the show on Wednesday. It was wonderful.

There’s something about seeing talented and determined musicians live (especially in an intimate setting like this was) that takes music to another dimension. The first performer was Atmosphere, a hip hop group from Minneapolis, the second was Gloriana, a country music group out of Nashville and the third was Night Terrors of 1927, an alternative rock band featuring the guitarist from a terrific band you might know, Rilo Kiley. The fourth band, AJR, featured three young brothers from New York City who have a YouTube sensation song going right now — this is the band our young daughters would love most.

In other words, the four bands could not have been much different. They were in completely different genres, a couple I’m generally skeptical about They had completely different sounds. Plus I did not know much about any of the four before seeing them. And yet, all of them, in that setting, were absolutely fantastic. You could just feel their energy, their enthusiasm, their life experience. All of them are young, developing, flowing with a sense of purpose and music and hope. I’m always envious of talented wine drinkers who can taste all these different flavors and fruits and woods so that the wine tells its own story. That’s sort of what it was like listening to their music.

And then afterward I talked a little football with Gloriana, a little boxing with the fabulous Jenny Lewis (shockingly that’s the only sport she cares about) and various other sports with iTunes folks. It was all pretty great.

But then comes the point of the story. The most famous musician at the event was certainly Graham Nash. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice — once with Crosby, Stills and Nash and once with the Hollies. He has lived an extraordinary rock and role life. He lived with Joni Mitchell. He wrote “Teach Your Children.” He clashed with Neil Young (and countless others), signed Elton John and is an accomplished enough photographer that a portrait he took of David Crosby is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Well, he was at this event to talk about a new Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young box set — CSNY 1974 — that he put together and will be released in July. He talked a bit about how extraordinary the CSNY music was, and how much they fought, and how surprised he is that they all seem to like this new box set. He was funny and retrospective … and then there was this little transcendent moment.

He was introducing the live version of “Love the One You’re With” that is on the CSYN album and all of a sudden he just stopped. He stared out into space for a moment. And he he apologized and said he just remembered something — the first time they played that song was the first time he met Rita Coolidge. He apologized for spacing out, but then he again stared off into space.

“Yes,” he said, “that was when I started to see Rita. And that created a row with Stephen (Stills) because he wanted Rita. … Stephen and I didn’t talk for a couple of years.”

Graham Nash one more time stared off into space, and everyone around considered this moment when Nash and Stills fought over Rita Coolidge.

“Ah,” Graham Nash said. “Rock and roll.”

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20 Responses to A short story about rock and roll

  1. Lance Richardson says:

    Graham Parker was in “This is 40”. But that’s just quibling, as this piece was yat another of hundreds of examples of why your writing speaks to people, and especially to forty-something people. You’re a credit to our generation, and one of it’s most representative and eloquent voices.

  2. Chad says:

    Graham Parker was in this is 40, not Nash.

  3. “There’s something about seeing talented and determined musicians live”

    My wife and I went on a bike tour down the west coast of the US, and there were two studio musicians on the same tour with us. The last night of the tour was a big party, and these guys got out their instruments and played for us – just two guys in a campsite surrounded by about 50 people they had gotten to know over the previous 4 weeks. It was fantastic. It’s amazing how talented some of these folks are. And seeing it up close (instead of 1/2 mile away in an arena) makes all the difference.

  4. Alejo says:

    changing subject: cool US map of baseball fandom.

    did you know the ChiSox were so small? that the Astros are unloved in most of Texas?

    Surprising, at least for me.

    • Pat says:

      Houston and Chicago are pretty big cities! More surprising to me is the complete absence of Mets territory. Queens county—Yankees. Zip code 11368 (home of Citi Field)? Yankees. The A’s seem similarly overshadowed by their cross-bay neighbors, even in their hometown.

      Also I love that Utah, Idaho, and Montana are an expanded reflection of Connecticut—just a battleground between Red Sox and Yankee fans.

  5. Alejo says:

    right, no Mets nation at all. Amazing.

    The A’s are out too… These are historic franchises with no territory of their own.

  6. CSNY. The ultimate Super Band. Four big egos. Normally that wouldn’t work, especially since Neil Young’s ego was big enough for all four of them by itself. But, it was probably better that they broke up. Neil Young’s solo stuff is pretty much all better than CSNY stuff. Not that CSNY wasn’t really good, but Neil Young was, to me, transcendent. So, I guess Neil came upon his ego honestly. I know I’m going to hear from all the CSNY fans that didn’t care for Neil Young, and that’s fine. To me, Neil is a rock god!

  7. tombando says:

    Hollies in the Rock Hall = Fred Lindstrom. Search your feelings.

  8. Daniel Louden says:

    So jealous of that line-up you saw. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Atmosphere. They’re from south Minneapolis and they’ve done a great job of staying true to their roots and midwestern sensibilities while also creating great hip-hop music.

  9. Spencer says:

    Don’t envy those wine drinkers who can taste all those flavors. Or, rather, if you want envy them for their capacity for self delusion. They have nowhere near the discerning palate they think they do. This isn’t personal opinion, there is a wealth of evidence that indicates that wine tasting is mostly bullshit.

    Here’s a good rundown of experiments that have been done.

    I like the time they died white wine red and not one of 54 wine experts noticed. And they proceeded to describe an identical undyed white wine completely differently.

  10. Kuz says:

    Two thoughts on comments…..1) Yeah, that NYT article about fan/territories is great. My next door neighbor showed it to me yesterday knowing I would love it. It is especially gratifying being a Yankee fan. 2) I disagree with disparaging remarks concerning wine tasting. I was a professionally trained beer taster, and the skills learned translated well to wine/liquor tasting. Being skilled at something does not imply infallibility. See batting averages of Hall of Fame members.

    • Spencer says:


      That’s a really bad analogy.

      But let’s play with it. At least the hall of fame members could tell whether they were thrown a fastball or a curveball, even if they couldn’t hit it. The wine tasters couldn’t even tell they were drinking white wine.

  11. jimmy says:

    bus stop was a great song. we”re all alone by rita coolidge wsa too

  12. puckpaul11 says:

    well, when i was growing up in the 70’s, there wasn’t as much yankees territory, and the Mets had more fans and drew better. now, you have this whole bandwagon yankees thing, as much because of long-term Mets mismanagement as anything. it can change, especially as its getting harder and harder for the Yankees to keep buying championships. Then again, maybe it won’t change if the Mets don’t get going soon, since all those national league NY fans that hated the Yankees get too old to Teach [Their] Children.

  13. John Leavy says:

    The Hollies’ best known song, “Bus Stop,” was written by the same man who wrote the Yardbirds’ two best known songs: “Heart Full of Soul” and “For Your Love.”

    The songwriter was Graham Gouldman, who later scored some big hits of his own as leader of the band 10cc, for whom he wrote “I’m Not in Love” and “Things We Do For Love.”

  14. John Leavy says:

    P.S. after helping break up CSN&Y, what did RIta Coolidge do? She married Kris Kristofferson!

    For better AND for worse, Stephen Stills has always been absolute ruler of every band he’s been in, from Buffalo Springfield to CSN&Y (Neil Young regularly vied with him for the alpha dog spot, but always failed). Because of Stills’ dictatorial ways, when David Crosby was near death, waiting for a liver transplant, Graham Nash told him, “Don’t you dare die and leave me alone with Stills!”

    Hilariously, during the last CSN tour, one reporter wrote, “Neil Young was not present, as he was too busy making GOOD music.”

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