On October 17, 2015, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland opens its latest exhibit, Graham Nash: Touching the Flame. Pieces from Nash’s heroes and inspirations – the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Buddy Holly and Duane Allman – and treasures from his time with the Hollies and Crosby, Stills and Nash come to life as the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee reflects on the visceral and profound impact of the music and world events on him and those around him.
In this interview with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Graham Nash shares the story of how he left the Hollies and followed his heart to form CSN.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: What were your feelings were about The Hollies and how you had changed over the years? What informed your decision to leave?
Graham Nash:One of them was that I didn’t feel that they trusted my need for direction. Every Hollie single that we had made, apart from the first couple made it to the top 10, and that’s where we were used to being. We’d bring out a single, it would go into the top 10, that’s what we were used to.
When I was with the Hollies, I think we had 14 maybe 16 top 10 hits, right. “King Midas In Reverse” came along, and that I wrote in Croatia. We made a very decent record of it, but it only got into the top 30. And so the Hollies went, “well, bloody hell, we failed.”
Most bands would give their right arm to have a top 30 hit, but because we were used to being in the top 10, being in the top 30 wasn’t so special. That was one point. Then they wanted to do an album of Bob Dylan’s songs. And I just didn’t like the way that it was going.
I’m a great fan of Bob Dylan. I think he’s our greatest poet and I think he’s one of our greatest singers.
And the way that the Hollies wanted to do some of his stuff appalled me. I did actually sing on “Blowing in the Wind,” and it’s out there somewhere and to me, it’s just awful.
It’s kind of a Las Vegas… This isn’t the Rat Pack here. Come on. That’s gone. … So those couple of things plus I’d written “Marrakesh Express” and the Hollies had tried to record it, and they just weren’t into it, and it was obvious to me that my time with the Hollies was coming to an end.
RRHOF: How did you feel about leaving?
GN: I was ambivalent about leaving, I must confess. I’ve always liked being a member of a band. I’ve always liked interaction with other musicians. I was taking a big chance. My friends thought I was crazy: “You’re leaving the Hollies? All this fame, all these women, all this money? Are you nuts?”
But they hadn’t heard what me, and David [Crosby] and Stephen [Stills] sounded like. And if they had, they would probably have understood better. But it was a sad time. I was leaving my friend Allan Clarke who had been my friend since I was five or six years old, so that was painful for me.
But my mother and father had always taught me to follow my heart. And my heart said that this blend that I’d created with David and Stephen was magically unique and that I need to follow it, and that’s what I did.
See and hear more incredible stories in Graham Nash: Touching the Flame.