Out Takes – Crosby, Stills & Nash

Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1970
Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1970

While designing my album’s cover, I’ve taken a closer look at the covers that have supplied me with years of pondering, consideration, study and entertainment. By this I mean that I still really look at a cover whenever I pick it up. In the 1960s and ’70s a lot of covers had secrets or in-jokes embedded on them and we’d spend a lot of time trying to analyze them. This was taken to ridiculous lengths with the Beatles’ Abbey Road cover on which some obsessed fans found meanings that didn’t even exist. One of my favorite covers in this regard is that of the Crosby, Stills & Nash eponymous debut album, a cover that perfectly typifies the era as it was in southern California. Laid back, unconcerned with material possessions and down home in a rock and roll sort of way. There weren’t any heavy secrets in the photo, but there was a bit to see.

I remember the first time I heard this album. I’d driven to Topanga Canyon to visit some friends who lived in a quasi-commune and, as we sat smoking a little grass, talking and having fun, one of the guys who lived there put the album on the stereo. I was blown away. This group blew everyone away when they appeared out of seeming nowhere. Looking the cover over in my grass addled state I wondered, Who’s who? The guy on the far right is David Crosby, but who are the other two? What are their first names? Where was this photo taken? Why such ratty furniture, who’s the guy looking out the door and why is he on the back cover? I knew that Crosby was David Crosby of the Byrds fame, but I didn’t know that Stills was Steven Stills of Buffalo Springfield and Nash was Graham Nash of the Hollies. And I had absolutely no clue about the guy in the door. Since the music was obviously sung by a vocal trio, I figured he must be a friend or a session musician. It was only later that all these things came to light.

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This is the front of the album’s now iconic front cover as we all know it.  At the time of the photo shoot, which was done by the incomparable Henry Diltz, the trio hadn’t settled on a name so they didn’t consider in what order to sit on the couch, which is, from left to right: Nash, Stills and Crosby. A few days later they decided on Crosby, Stills & Nash as their official name, but when they went back to reshoot the photo, sitting in that order to avoid record buyers’ confusion, the old railroad workers house had been torn. Oh, and the guy peering out the door on the back cover was the group’s drummer, Dallas Taylor.

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In 2007 this out take was made the cover of a European compilation CD. I wish I could see Henry Diltz’s originals of this photo session, but alI I have are what I could find on the web. Still, It’s interesting to see the photos that were rejected.

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Their label, Atlantic Records, asked the team of photographer Diltz and art director Gary Burden to create the cover. On the day before the shoot, Gary and Graham drove through Hollywood and West Hollywood looking for a suitable location that would convey what the group wanted to say about themselves as well as match their music, a site that was, according to David Crosby, “down home and comfortable”.

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They decided on a little abandoned house with a couch outside.

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 It was on Palm Avenue, a small side street near an Orange Julius stand
on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

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No Dallas Taylor in these shots.

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 This is the location as it is today and below is a map.

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Many thanks to Bob Egan at PopShots. All photos (except map) © by Henry Diltz.

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Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Heat Nor Gloom Of Night

PonyExpress

One of the things you have to get used to when settling in the Oklahoma territory is the difficulty of mail delivery. As city slickers from Boston, New York, or even St. Louis you are used to the mail arriving at your front door in a timely fashion. Out here, we have the USPS Pony Express, those stouthearted riders who brave all and sundry dangers to bring us our mail and small parcels. These boys are fast despite their stops in cities and towns along the route to change horses and have a whiskey or two, never mind their oath to “under no circumstances, use profane language and… drink no intoxicating liquors.”  Yes, sir, order something from a catalog in July and you’re sure to receive it within 10 days. Imagine that!

But this is the 21st century, isn’t it? We have trucks. And jets. And conveyor belts. And computers.

On July 10th I ordered all of my studio gear from the Musician’s Friend website. That’s six items: the 8-track recorder, foot switch, headphones, microphone, mic stand and cable, a capo for the 12-string, and a 32 GB class 10 SD card. The only thing I didn’t order from them was the AC power adapter I need for the recorder. That I ordered from Amazon Marketplace. The Musician’s Friend order arrived five days later, all in good shape and free of all shipping and handling charges. What a deal!

However, I’m still waiting on the AC Power adapter for which I paid Amazon’s usual high shipping fees. According to tracking info:

  • July 10: Order placed with Amazon Marketplace (wherever that is)
  • July 13: Package sent by Pony Express rider to San Francisco, CA relay station
  • July 14: Received by San Francisco, CA relay station and sent out by Pony Express rider, hopefully to Stillwater, Oklahoma
  • July 16: Received by Pony Express relay station in Shrewsbury, MA and sent out by rider to Dallas, TX
  • July 23: Sent out by Pony Express relay station in Dallas, TX…

And that’s the last I’ve heard about it.

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Apparently, the rider in Dallas couldn’t be located for a full week before being sent out on the straight-arrow, 286-mile road between there and here, because I’ve seen neither hide nor hair of him. The Pony Express service has promised me a 10-day delivery from San Francisco, as you can see above, so I might have to take into account the many saloons, poker games, rodeos, fistfights and brothels that the poor rider has had to dodge in order to uphold his oath and deliver my package.

I finally just drove to Best Buy and bought one. Note to self. But I’m worried about that rider because any number of things could’ve happened to him. We never found out what happened to the rider who was supposed to deliver an electric blanket last winter, after all. That never came. I assume the rider was ambushed by Billy the Kid and his gang. I have little hope where this new rider is concerned. The Oklahoma territory can be treacherous to travel through.
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UPDATE, 2:00 pm: Joe at Amazon Marketplace has emailed me to say that that have sent out a new rider with a replacement adapter. I expect that will get here in time for Christmas. I’m still worried about the other two riders they’ve lost on my account, though.

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A Pleasant Valley Sunday

garage

Today feels like a typical Sunday in Camarillo, California, where my parents lived from 1968 to 1990. It was where Joel grew up for the most part, and was considered the “family seat”.

In the Sixties, we who lived in Camarillo believed (I still do, by the way) that the Monkees’ song, Pleasant Valley Sunday, was written about our little suburb just north of the L.A. Basin. After all, the valley that leads the eight miles from town to the beach is called Pleasant Valley, and the 10-mile thoroughfare from Camarillo to Port Hueneme is Pleasant Valley Road. What would you think if you lived there?

 

The local rock group down the street
Is trying hard to learn their song;
They serenade the weekend squire,
Who just came out to mow his lawn.
Another Pleasant Valley Sunday,
Charcoal burning everywhere;
Rows of houses that are all the same,
And no one seems to care…

Today feels like one of those days. Today, I feel like I should pick up my sunglasses from the bar and say to Lynette, “I’m going over to Dad’s. Be back later!” And I’d go to Mom and Dad’s. The garage door would be open and Dad would be at his work bench in the back, working on some TV that he’s been meaning to get to for several weeks while Glenn Miller plays from his favorite AM station on that old 1940s radio he fixed up. I’d grab a Miller from the garage fridge. “Hi Dad!” and he’d turn and smile and begin wiping his hands on a red handkerchief he carried in the back pocket of his khaki trousers. “Hi Hon!” He’d give me a squeeze, turn down the radio a little, pull out a couple of 4-legged stools and we’d talk about nothing in general. Later, we’d go to Builder’s Emporium together and walk through the aisles looking at drill bits, kitchen cabinet hardware and garage shelving. He’d probably buy me a plant from the garden area as well as some leaf bags and extra batteries for the flashlight he bought me the last time we went there together. In the front yard the sprinklers would be watering the lawn he’d just mown and edged and the droplets of water on Mom’s lavender roses would sparkle in the flower bed beneath the kitchen window. Yeah, that’s what today feels like.

See Mrs. Gray, she’s proud today,
Because her roses are in bloom;
And Mr. Green, he’s so serene,
He’s got a TV in every room.
Another Pleasant Valley Sunday,
Here in status symbol land,
Mothers complain about how hard life is,
And the kids just don’t understand…

My dad’s garage was a like taking a trip down the rabbit hole in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, if Wonderland was located at Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Builders Emporium. We never had to take anything to a shop or garage, because Dad could fix anything. When I’d ask him where something was, he’d splay all of his fingers, pointing with his hands, and say, “Somewhere over there.” It was a mess, but it was an organized mess. He’d made hinged doors with shelves built into them and then filled the shelves with coffee cans he’d painted matte black and labeled, “Nuts”, “Bolts”, “Gator Clips”, “Resistors”, and etc. He had everything out there. Everything but cars, that is. I cannot remember one time when a car could actually fit in his garage. The closest he ever got to that was when he’d pull a car’s nose in just far enough that he could work on the engine out of the sun.

Both of my sons remember Dad’s garage with great fondness, because Dad always took them out there with him: “You wanna come out and help Grandad?” he’d ask. “We need to adjust the headlights on Nanny’s car.” I have pictures of Joel out there in his walker, not quite two, screwdriver in hand, following right behind my dad. So, if you can read this, Dad, or hear it in my heart, I miss you. Especially on Sundays.

Creature comfort goals,
They only numb my soul,
And make it hard for me to see;
My thoughts all seem to stray
To places far away;
I need a change of scenery.
Another Pleasant Valley Sunday,
Charcoal burning everywhere;
Another Pleasant Valley Sunday,
Here in status symbol land…

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Edited & reposted from my old blog, Incurable Insomnniac
Pleasant Valley Sunday © Screen Gems-EMI Music, Inc.

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Stop Dancing-By-Numbers

aging

These days I’m all about extolling the benefits of aging rather than pissing and moaning about its drawbacks. I mean, why bother? Whining doesn’t change anything and we can’t fight the inevitable, can we? Why throw away what time we have left by focusing on the negatives about anything? Everything in life has its good and bad points. We all grow older if we’re lucky and, as I always say, it’s better than the alternative. But I wasn’t always this forgiving of life’s natural process. Back when I was in the midst of my personal midlife crisis, I faced each birthday with as much screaming and crying as I did the doctor’s syringe when I was a kid.

Now that I’m back in the world of musicians, I’m noticing something really cool. Male musicians talk to me. They don’t try to feel out my dating status and they don’t try to impress me. In a word, they don’t turn stupid on me. Take the guy at the music store. I’ve been there a lot lately and when I went in yesterday to get some new guitar strings he remembered me as “the Luna 12-string.”  (N.B.: this is typical for music store introductions and not a means of dehumanizing someone. He’s the Music Store Dude and I’m the Luna 12-String. To be remembered in this way is the first step in building a relationship with a music store musician. First names will come next, then jamming on the store’s instruments.) The entire time we talked to each other I was a musician, not a possible partner in the mating dance. He looked in my eyes, not at my chest, and we talked shop musician-to-musician, not man-to-woman. There was no flirting, no googly eyes, or body language.  Just guitars, strings, bands we’ve played in, and the CDs we’re working on.

Now, I know there are a lot of older women who truly miss the whole could-this-be-a-thing ritual. I don’t. I like being invisible. I like being able to walk my dog without cat calls, whistles, woots, and revving car engines. I like crossing streets without being mentally undressed and I really enjoy not being hit on every time I sit at a bar. It’s not that I never enjoyed these things, it’s just that it got frustrating—and boring—when that was all there was. These days I’m finally out of the game. Benched. And I love it. I’m a seasoned veteran and I made it through the worst of what life can throw at us. And young people want to talk.

One of the things I really like about our younger generation these days is that, despite their own issues about getting older, they don’t age discriminate socially. At least not the young people I’ve met. When I was in my twenties I liked older people, but a lot of my counterparts didn’t. “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” and all that crap. But I still didn’t socialize with older people. These days, many of my friends are much younger than I am, just starting out, building careers and having babies, but when we’re together I sense no demarcation line between us in either their attitudes, their speech, or their actions based on age. I’m treated as if I’m one of them. And I am, actually.

What have numbers got to do with anything, really? It’s our experiences that set us apart, not how many times we’ve orbited the sun. Say what you will, but it has been my experience that today’s youth are much more gracious than we were when it comes to this. Generation Gap? I’ve never run into that with my younger friends. If anything, I’m the one that’s hung up about the years that lie between us. I find myself thinking things like, “Oh, they don’t want an old fart like me at their party,”  but in every single instance that I’ve told this voice to shut-up and have gone to a party, a restaurant, or a bar to be with these friends I’ve had a great time. And I get to feel 26 again, but without the mating dance. These days, that spells a fun, relaxing evening. They don’t pull the age card on me and I don’t pull it on them. And this, I believe, is the secret of eternal youth: don’t go through life being numbers obsessed. Drop that BS and just get on with living! What we focus on is what we get; I’ll take that kind of attraction any day.

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