Sunday, August 22, 2021

Graham Nash on Joni Mitchell

The following is an excerpt from Graham Nash's article in London's Daily Mail. There is nothing quite like hearing the story, as much as you may already know it, from the source.

Graham Nash: On an August evening in 1968, the sun was sinking in the western sky as the cab crawled up Laurel Canyon, bathing the Hollywood Hills in a golden flush of summer. We stopped in front of a small wooden house on Lookout Mountain Avenue. Inside, lights glowed and I could hear the jingle-jangle of voices. I leaned on my guitar case – the only baggage I'd carried off the plane at LAX – and considered again where I was and what I was doing here: leaving my country, my marriage and my band, all at once.

...the Hollies and I had come to an impasse. We had grown up together and enjoyed incredible success, but we were growing apart. The same with my marriage: Rosie was off in Spain chasing another man, and I was in Los Angeles, the city that already felt like my new home, to visit Joni Mitchell, who had captured my heart. For just a moment, I hesitated. Sure, I was an English rock star – I had it made. I had co-written a fantastic string of hits with The Hollies. I was friends with the Stones and The Beatles. You could hear me whistle at the end of "All You Need Is Love." But deep down, I was still just a kid from the north of England, and I felt I was out of my element.

Suddenly, Joni was at the door and nothing else mattered. She was the whole package: a lovely, sylphlike woman with a natural blush, like windburn, and an elusive quality that seemed lit from within. Behind her, at the dining room table, were my new American friends, David Crosby and Stephen Stills – refugees, like me, from successful, broken bands. I grinned the moment I laid eyes on them. I had never met anybody like Crosby. He was an irreverent, funny, brilliant hedonist who had been thrown out of The Byrds the previous year. He always had the best drugs, the most beautiful women, and they were always naked.

Stephen was a guy in a similar mold. He was brash, egotistical, opinionated, provocative, volatile, temperamental, and so talented. A very complex cat, and a little crazy, he had just left Buffalo Springfield, one of the primo L.A. bands. 

That night, while Joni listened, the three of us sang together for the first time. I heard the future in the power of those voices. And I knew my life would never be the same.

Joni and I had first met after a Hollies show in Ottawa, Canada in March. I'd seen this beautiful blonde in the corner by herself, and I'd shuffled over and introduced myself. 
"I know who you are," she said, slyly. "That's why I'm here."



She had invited me back to her room at a beautiful old French Gothic hotel, where flames licked at logs in the fireplace, incense burned in ashtrays and beautiful scarves were draped over the lamps. It was a seduction scene extraordinaire. She picked up a guitar and played me 15 of the best songs I’d ever heard, and then we spent the night together. It was magical on so many different levels.

That evening with Crosby and Stills at Joni's, five months later, was the first time I'd seen her since. After that, I moved out to Los Angeles for good, as soon as I had messily extricated myself from The Hollies. The plan was to crash at Crosby’s house, where a party was always in full swing: beautiful young women all over the place, some clothed, some not so clothed. Music pulsing through the place. Hippy heaven.

On my first night, in the midst of the party, Joni appeared. Taking me by the arm, she said: "Come to my house and I'll take care of you." 

Joni had a great little place, built in the 1930s by a black jazz musician: knotty pine, creaky wooden floors, a couple of cabinets full of beautifully coloured glass objects and Joan's artwork leaning discreetly here and there. From the moment I first heard her play, I thought she was a genius. I’m good at what I do, but genius? Not by a long shot. She was finishing her Clouds album and writing songs for what would become Ladies Of The Canyon

We both wrote whenever the spirit moved us, but in Joni’s house, when it came to the piano, I always gave way. If she was working there or playing guitar in the living room, I'd head into the bedroom with my guitar or simply take a walk. Occasionally, I lingered in the kitchen, just listening to her play. 

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