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I Got Into Rock & Roll To Get Laid!


Legendary singer and songwriter Graham Nash first came to fame as a founder member of The Hollies, before he become part of supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash – and with Neil Young. 

Graham speaks to editor Simon Redley from his New York home, before his UK tour in July and the release of a new retrospective double album…     




I dial the number at bang on 5.45pm UK time. A male voice answers. I ask to speak to Graham Nash. It’s Graham here, he answers. How are you, Graham? “I am absolutely great, Simon”.

“It’s a beautiful day in New York city”. I reply: “It is here too, amazingly”.  Graham quips: “Wow, what happened? Did the Prime Minister talk to God”?

I am speaking to the former Hollies’ star and member of supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young), to plug his summer UK tour and the imminent release of a new double album, “Over The Years”.

That 30-track two CD set on the Rhino record label, shines the spotlight on Nash’s best known songs of the past  50 years and includes a slew of previously unreleased demos and mixes. Due for release on 29th June. His eight-date tour kicks off in Gateshead on 20th July and ends up at Salford on 29th.

Shane Fontayne, former Springsteen sideman and longtime Nash collaborator; producer of Graham’s most recent album, “This Path Tonight”, and former CSN keyboardist and vocalist Todd Caldwell will join Graham for the tour. The trio will perform songs from his days in the Hollies, his years with Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young) and from his solo recordings.

The second disc of the new compilation, offers up 15 demos of Graham’s early work, including the smash hit  for CSN, “Marrakesh Express”.

Graham reveals that despite the music history books and stuff on the internet stating it was because The Hollies rejected his song “Marrakesh Express” that he quit the band, and moved to the USA to join Stephen Stills and David Crosby, the Manchester band did in fact, record their own version of his song.

I thought it sucked…

“That demo on the new record makes me think back to the Hollies attempt to record ‘Marrakesh Express’, which left a lot to be desired; I’ve got to tell you. Somewhere in the bowels of EMI is a tape of The Hollies doing ‘Marrakesh Express’, and the last time I heard it, I thought it sucked, quite frankly”.

But in the history of the band, it says one of the main catalysts of you leaving the Hollies was when they rejected that song. So, by the sound of it, that is just not factually accurate? “Not factually accurate. We did try it; but it was just lifeless. There was no energy in it.

“After ‘King Midas in Reverse’ didn’t scream up to number one, they decided that they would no longer trust my musical direction. That basically was the end of my time with the Hollies.

“Particularly because I had already in late 67, early 68, sung with David and Stephen and I knew what that sound and what that vocal blend meant to me. It helped me move on from the Hollies for sure”.

Just before I called Graham, I was refreshing my memory as to CSN’s unique sound, and in particular their other worldly three-part harmonies. I mention to Graham, the 2012 video footage on You Tube of CSN performing “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” live, for the first time in many, many years, and how perfect the vocals were.

I mention how to my ears, those harmonies are still 100% after all those years, and no one else sounds like those three voices together. It is quite stunning, and is quite simply, the benchmark for three-part harmonies, for me. Graham replies: “I knew it was very special when we first sang together in Joni’s (Graham’s former girlfriend Joni Mitchell) living room.

“I knew that my life had changed dramatically. Obviously the Hollies and the Springfields and the Byrds were good harmony bands, but this was something completely different than anything that the three of us had heard. We don’t have any claims on the notes that we sing, but that blend.; that vocal blend, those three voices becoming one voice”.

It’s all down to chemistry, isn’t it? “Absolutely”. A once in a lifetime thing. I was curious to see if Graham had ever joined forces with any other singers to see if he could somehow replicate that close harmony vocal sound.

“I would never try and replace that vocal sound. You just can’t. It’s like Woodstock; you can do as many Woodstock reunions as you want, but you’ll never make it like the first one”.

His mention of the famed free festival in southern New York State in 1969, which CSN + Young appeared at, brought forward my questions about their attendance and participation at the most famous festival in history.

There must surely be a zillion memories of being there, and being part of music history, but I was intrigued to know what one or two memories of that event were most vivid after almost 50 years.

Playing At Woodstock…

“A couple of things. One; flying in to Woodstock in a helicopter. Flying over ‘an encampment of the Macedonian army’, with fires, hundreds and thousands of people, rain and mud. Flying over that was quite an interesting vision. Obviously the first thing we did was find our friend John Sebastian and go to his tent and get as high as we could.

“Then, when we were leaving; just as we were leaving, Jimi (Hendrix) was starting to play the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and that was the sound of us leaving Woodstock, with Jimi playing ‘Star Spangled Banner’ ”.

So, before that day, when he was back in the UK and part of a band who were at one time, bigger than The Beatles and part of the British Invasion to the US, if he had to pick out one or two memorable moments from The Hollies days, what would that be?

“One of the first great memories of that was; The Hollies were down in London, to do a BBC show and we were walking past; on Regent Street I think, and we were walking past a shop having a new front window put in.

“Workmen had a little radio there and our song ‘(Ain’t That) Just Like Me’ came out of the radio. An unbelievable moment for us, because when you hear yourselves on the radio, you’ve made it, in a certain way, you know”. That was The Hollies’ first single, released on 4th April 1963 on the Parlophone record label, which got to # 25 in the British chart.

“That was the start of the Hollies. That was a great memory for me. The next memory; we cut all the way back to December 8th in 1968, which was the last show of the Hollies. At the London Palladium for a ‘Save The Children’ benefit, with Crosby walking into the dressing room in his cape.

“Well, the Hollies knew I was leaving, and they knew why I was leaving. For them to see David and to see the look on their faces; pure hatred”.

In addition to his double Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame honours, Graham Nash is a two-time Songwriter Hall of Fame Inductee, Grammy Award winner, a New York Times best-selling author, and an OBE.

76-year-old Graham is still regularly in touch with former co-lead singer with The Hollies Allan Clarke, and the pair have been friends since they were six-years-old in Manchester.

The history books and on-line info about The Hollies and about Graham’s life, often wrongly mention he was brought up in Blackpool.

His mother was evacuated to Blackpool from Manchester to have her baby on 2nd February 1942, in the middle of World War II, but then relocated back to Manchester straight after.

Graham was two weeks old when he went from the seaside town to spend the rest of his days in Manchester, before emigrating to the USA in 1968.

He lived in L.A. and Hawaii until he moved to New York City where he lives today, and where he is speaking to me from. He was married to Susan Sennett from 1977 until they split in 2015 after 38 years, and they have three children.

Loved up…

Today he is very loved up, and lives with artist Amy Grantham, and tells me he is very, very happy. “I am so glad about it. She is an amazing woman. I’ve been with some incredible women in my life. Amy shines above all of them.

“I’ve never met a more brilliant woman in my life. She paints and is a collage artist. She not only suggested the title of the new record, but the collage she did is the cover and one inside, and one of the photographs of hers is inside.

“I moved to the USA in 1968, and have been there ever since. The last show of the Hollies was at the London Palladium, Dec 8th 1968 and on Dec 10th, I was with David and Stephen recording”.

An American citizen since August 1978, Graham tells me: “I’ll always be English. There’s nothing in this country that can stop me being English. It’s a beautiful country and the people are phenomenal. I kind of miss it; I do go back a couple of times a year to see my friends.

“Yeah, I miss England a little, but I need this America place. It’s got so much energy. With all due respect; I can hear a dozen languages while walking down the street. I need the museums and the galleries and the swap meets, I need life. I spent a lot of time in Hawaii where the side walk rolled up at 4.30 in the afternoon!”

With CSN, who split after only 20 months together, (from December 1968 to late 1970), but have reformed a few times over the years, Graham is used to filling huge venues around the world, but for this solo tour, he asked his manager to book him into smaller venues.

“There are incredible fans of music in each of the cities I will visit. There is incredible energy in those music fans, and I told my new manager; I wanted to play smaller places. I wanted to see their eyes. I wanna make contact with the people…”

Graham is a very respected and celebrated photographer, aside from his music. So don’t be surprised to see him out and about in the town or city on his tour, camera in hand, capturing life as it happens.

With his photography, Nash has drawn honours including the New York Institute of Technology’s Arts & Technology Medal and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, and the Hollywood Film Festival’s inaugural Hollywood Visionary Cyber Award.

His work is collected in the book ‘Eye to Eye: Photographs by Graham Nash’; he curated others’ work in the volume ‘Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock ‘n’ Roll Photographs Selected by Graham Nash’ (2009).

His work has been shown in galleries and museums worldwide. His company Nash Editions’ original IRIS 3047 digital printer and one of its first published works: Nash’s 1969 portrait of David Crosby, is now housed in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, in recognition of his revolutionary accomplishments in the fine arts and digital printing world.

How about his most vivid memories of Crosby Stills and Nash? “The first time I ever heard ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’. Stephen played it, and it was like,  ‘what the fuck?’ Who can write a seven-and-a-half, eight minute song nowadays, you know? It was beautiful and it moved through four kind of musical movements. It was an astonishing thing.

“When were doing ‘Déjà Vu’ (famous CSN album) and we were half way through the recording sessions, I said to Stephen; ‘You know, we don’t have like ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’. He said, I know, we used it on the first record.

“I said, no, no, no; we don’t have that song where once you put the needle on the record and you hear that song, you are not going to take the record off. We don’t have that song. Two days later he comes to my hotel room, and says, what about this, and sang ‘Carry On’ for me. He is an amazing writer. An amazing writer”.

The Queen asked me how the Hollies were…

Graham’s biggest ‘Pinch yourself’ moment of his career: “Standing in front of Queen Elizabeth II”. In 2010, Graham was awarded an OBE for his services to music and charity, and visited Buckingham Palace to collect his medal from The Queen.

“She asked me how the Hollies were? I said, well, your Majesty, I’ve been gone for 45 years. I didn’t know anyone was watching what I was doing, in terms of why she was awarding me this OBE.

“She looked at me with this beautiful smile and she said: ‘And now you know’. She was looking beautiful. An 84-year-old woman and a twinkle in her eye. She had an emerald brooch on her suit that looked like my hand….”

So is his OBE proudly displayed in his New York home, amid dozens of Gold and Platinum discs for his work across five-plus decades? “My OBE. I keep it in a drawer under my bed. I don’t have Gold records out, I don’t have Platinum records out. I am not one of those people”.

He tells me that David Crosby’s Father was a famous cinematographer, and he shot the classic Western ‘High Noon’. Revealing that David keeps his Father’s Oscars propping open his  bathroom door!

I mention I knew Allan Clarke years ago, and recall being at his home and him telling me his gold discs from The Hollies days were either up in his attic, or he’d donated them to charity auctions. Graham is quick to tell me why that is: “We never got into rock and roll to win awards. We got into rock and roll to get laid”. Moving swiftly on!

In 2016, Graham went on record with a no-holds-barred rant about how nasty he says David Crosby had been towards him and Neil Young for some time, and he had had enough and wanted nothing more to do with him.

No More CSN – And It’s David Crosby’s Fault…

So any thoughts of further CSN shows and recordings were most definitely off the table. I ask if that has changed in the last couple of years, if he is now back in touch with Mr Crosby and if they had resolved their differences. “No. That’s the way it is gonna stay”. That is such a shame. What a shame. “Yes, but look what we did in the last 50 years”.

So will CSN ever work together again, Graham? “It is absolutely finished”. And you are putting that all down to David, his attitude and what has happened, are you”? Graham Nash: “Correct”. If there was a message to him, what would that be, Graham? “Keep riding”.

How do you feel about it? Are you sad about it or angry? “I feel both of those, and let’s move on”. What could he do or say to change your mind? “Nothing”. That’s the bad news. The good news is, Graham is still in touch with Stephen Stills and Neil Young, and I ask if he could see those three getting together some time, without David Crosby.

“It’s possible. I’ve always wanted to do a record with Stephen. I think him and I – it’s undiscovered what he and I can do together. Right now, he is on a brilliant tour with Judy Collins. That’s going to take up rest of this year.

“I would really like to make an album with Stephen. Stephen is a great songwriter and a fantastic guitar player. I think he deserves much more credit as a guitar player. But me and him making a record together; I am most curious. I am gonna follow up on that”. You read it here first folks!


Graham also reveals he is seven tracks in to making a new solo record, as follow-up to his acclaimed 2016 album “This Path Tonight”.  He has co-written tracks with his guitarist Shane Fontayne, and he says some of the songs will be ones he has written on his own.

Graham has always held strong political views and has campaigned for nuclear disarmament and many other worthy causes. Nash’s passionate voice continues to be heard in support of peace, and social and environmental justice.

The No Nukes/Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) concerts he organised with Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt in 1979, remain seminal benefit events.  In 2011, Nash was instrumental in bringing MUSE back to the forefront with a concert to benefit Japan disaster relief, and groups promoting non-nuclear energy worldwide. That same year, he and David Crosby were among the many musicians who made their way to the Occupy Wall Street actions in Lower Manhattan.

So I felt it was relevant to get his views on Trump as his President, as a US citizen, and what he thinks about the recent tearing up of the Iran deal, North Korea and Brexit. Brace yourselves…

Trump is a lame excuse for a human being…

Nash on Trump: “This is an incredible country. I know it has its weak side. But this is an incredible country, and I thoroughly believe we deserve better than Trump. This man is a lame excuse for a human being. Everybody knows it.

“He does have a base here, which is about 30 to 35%, so he is always making sure his base is satisfied. It is his base that don’t like immigrants, don’t like people of a different religion, don’t like people of a different colour. Trump is dividing this country by fear and I will stay as long as I can and fight. I will definitely not support him”.

Nash on Trump’s rejection of the Iran deal: “I think it is a gigantic mistake. I think it is one of the best anti-nuclear treaties ever signed. He is always trying to undo whatever Obama did. He is furious that a black man led this country. The majority of this country are stunned at what’s happening. I personally can’t wait for him to be impeached and leave office”.

Nash on the North Korean situation: “I think it seems like a wonderful idea. One of the things Kim Jong-un has always wanted, is to be a player on the world stage and holy shit; this brings him right to the foremost centre of the stage.

“I believe if they are serious about talking about denuclearisation, I think it can only be a positive thing. It has already paid off, we got three Americans back this morning that were in prison in North Korea.

“I sure can’t stand these people over here, which are mainly Republicans in his base, suggesting that he should get the Nobel Peace Prize. That would be an insult of ginormous proportions”.

Nash on Brexit: “England should not even plan to leave the European Union. We don’t need any more borders, we don’t need any more barriers, we don’t need any more fucking countries and flags; fuck this. It’s one planet”.  Nuff said!

So, as the clock ticks on to more than 10 minutes beyond my allotted time with Graham, I finish up by putting him on the spot: Sum up Graham Nash in just one sentence, please. “I try to do my best”. Your decision if he has achieved that with his music via The Hollies, Crosby Stills and Nash and CSN + Young, and with his solo work. I know what I think about that….


  • “Graham Nash: Over The Years” is released on CD , vinyl LP and digital download on Rhino records on 29th June 2018.



By Simon Redley

Black & white photo: Amy Grantham




The UK tour dates are:

July 20                  Gateshead  The Sage

July 21                  Liverpool  Philharmonic Hall

July 22                  London  The Bridge Theatre

July 24                  Bexhill-on-Sea  De La Warr Pavilion

July 25                  Bristol  St Georges

July 26                  Birmingham  Town Hall

July 28                  Perth  Southern Fried Festival

July 29                  Salford  The Lowry







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