15 February 2015

Audio Book Review: Wild Tales by Graham Nash

It may be a disappointment to my brother, who used to own a record shop, for me to admit in a public space that up until I was given a copy of this book to listen to, *literally* the only thing I knew about Graham Nash is that he comprised the "Nash" portion of the music group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I didn't know that he was British, I didn't know that he formed the band known as the Hollies.  Basically, I didn't know the second thing about this guy.

Which is probably why it took me more than 18 months after the book was published for me to get around to listening to his memoir.  Random House Audio sent me a copy back in September 2013 and it had been sitting on my shelf ever since, but when I was in between audio books last month, I gave it a go.

Graham Nash does his own narration, and he's a competent reader. I'm not sure that I'd sign on for him to narrate audio books in general, but this one came with a bonus: every time a line of lyric comes up in the text, Nash sings it instead of just reading it straight.  In this way, I came to realize that I knew far more of his songs (and the music of C, S, N, & Y) than I realized.

While the specifics of this book were new to me, the general content is about what I expected: celebrity memoir that was slightly dishy, slightly masturbatory, and filled with more than a little drugged stupor. Not particularly well written but occasionally engaging, in listening to this audio I felt like I was getting a history of popular music from the 1960s and 1970s. Nash opens with the moment he meets David Crosby and Stephen Stills at Joni's house, where the "Joni" turns out to be Joni Mitchell.

He then backtracks to his childhood in the north of England, through the rise & fall of The Hollies until he leaves them to form Crosby, Stills, and Nash.  Neil Young comes in later, and along the way the reader gets Nash's personal impressions of such music greats as The Beatles, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas and the Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and scads more.

Mostly I was left with the impression that Neil Young was an arrant asshole and that Graham Nash is unrepentantly sexist, and yet there were moments when I was completely carried away on his narrative.  I found myself coming home at night after listening to the book to do a little googling. Weary as I felt about reading about  all of the hash, heroin, and cocaine consumption, there were occasionally some instances of truly good writing--mostly when it came to describing music and songwriting. And several times over the last few weeks of listening to this book, I've found myself humming, whistling, or singing some of the songs that Nash and/or his bandmates have performed: Bus Stop, Carrie Anne, Love the One You're With, Southern Cross, Our House, Judy Blue Eyes, and more.

I'm glad that Random House Audio sent me a copy of Wild Tales, as I do feel it's important to occasionally read beyond one's usual turf.  There were times when I was very pleasantly surprised by where this book took the reader, and I feel much more knowledgeable about the formative tunes American music in two pretty turbulent decades when the entire social fabric of this country was changing.

What about y'all? Are you a fan of The Hollies? Of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and Young) in general, or of Graham Nash in particular? 


  1. Hello - I recently discovered your blog, and I love the subtitle "Book blog? Travel blog? Why not both, I say?" - I have turned my blog into both over the past few years as well. I think books and travel go together quite nicely. :)

    I enjoyed this review and your thoughts and critiques. I'm in the same boat as you were, I don't know a lot about Graham Nash, but I really enjoy learning more about this period in American Music. This is also the kind of book I enjoy on audio - things I might not read in print, but that have a conversational tone that is enjoyable to listen to while learning about things I didn't know a lot about. I've added it to my wish list.

  2. Yes, conversational is the right word indeed. And I'm the same way -- I often listen to audio books that I would never dream of reading. It's one way to diversify my intake a bit, and it seems that I listen to more nonfiction than I read. Thanks for stopping by!


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