Friday, June 12, 2009

C,S,N & K

Actually S,N & K.
As a member of the Board of Trustees in Cooperstown, I have been involved in attracting concert promoters to Doubleday Field. Doubleday's charm - a beautiful old ball field in the heart of a charming village - is also its drawback. There are few modern amenities, no lights, and, as is true of all of Cooperstown, pretty hard to get to.

We've been pretty lucky though. Since 2004 we've had five major shows - Wilie Nelson and Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys (Mike Love version), Paul Simon, Bob Dylan (again) and this past Friday, Crosby, Stills & Nash.
I was asked to join Stills and Nash and their entourage on a tour of the Hall of Fame. (There may be able to put some pics up at a later date).They all seemed genuinely interested, particularly Erik Jensen. Not sure why he was there, but Erik had his baseball cred - he played Thurman Munson in the mini-series The Bronx is Burning. Though he's dropped considerable weight since portraying the pudgy catcher, Jensen is still the spitting image of Thurm's 1976 Topps baseball card.

Stephen Stills, a bit shorter than I thought, was pleasant enough. Graham Nash was a joy. He was interested in everything - "Why did they call him 'Shoeless Joe' then?" he asked when face to face with Joe Jackson's cleats. Looking up at the wall of cardboard boxes containing old uniforms, Nash pointed, "Here's Sandy Koufax!"

I had a chance to talk with him a bit. I told him that my 13 year old played "Simple Man" once at open mic night.

"He did? What a compliment."

"Songs for Beginners is one of his favorite albums," I told him.

"Really, How old is he?"


A few second later, I heard Graham turn to someone else and say, "His 13-year old son played "Simple Man" at open mic night."
Later, pre-show, the Mayor and myself were asked to come backstage for a photo with the band. I had been told that it was rare that C and S and N were willing to stand for a pic, and I see why. It was very difficult to get them together and Crosby seemed particularly surly. Rolling up the cuffs of his long sleeved black shirt, he said "What are we doing here?" Told it was a picture with the Mayor, he stood for a second. "1, 2, 3, 4. OK." Then he walked away.

They hit the stage on the dot at 8. Although it took a bit to get in the groove, they sounded great. Crosby seemed genuinely unhappy to be there, hands in pockets, no guitar, but once he got revved up, he shone. His voice was beautifully clear and his rhythm guitar playing on "Wooden Ships" a marvel. People forget that David Crosby was at the apex of the L.A. rock scene in the late '60's - The Byrds, CSN, discovering and producing Joni Mitchell, singing on Jackson Browne's first LP - and more.

Nash, early in the show sporting a Hall of Fame with the #3 on back, kidded Crosby constantly.

"I don't know what they were thinking when they made Crosby the lead-off hitter."

"You'd know what a bad idea it was if you ever saw me hit," replied Crosby.

Later, Nash told the crowd, "We're going to play every song we remember. For Crosby, that will be three more!"

Great covers, including a highlight version of the Stones' "Ruby Tuesday," blues melding into "Rocky Mountain Way" (co-written by drummer Joe Vitale), and plenty of Buffalo Springfield, which always makes me happy.

One other moment. Nash noted, "Some of you are holding up Hollies albums. Well, here's a song they didn't want to record." The band launched into "Marrakesh Express." As Nash wanted to widen the Hollies horizons, they balked and insisted on sticking to Top 40 stuff. It led to Nash quitting and opening the doors to the possibility of CSN's existence.

The show ended with "Teach Your Children." Such a popular tune, it's easy to overlook how unique it is. For songwriters of that generation, the easy way out was to rail at parents, shouting how they didn't understand the younger generation. But "Teach" is more than that. While, sure, it implores parents to understand their kids, it makes the same demand of the young. Pretty thoughtful stuff.

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