Joni Mitchell was the poster-girl of the hippy generation. Graham Nash first met Joni Mitchell after a Hollies gig - within months he left the band and moved in with her in LA It was the biggest tour ever staged.
Everything was going to be first-class. Travel was in private planes, helicopters and limousines with police escorts. That same logo was burned into the teak plates we all ate from. It was a wild, profligate, orgiastic, self-indulgent tour. David Crosby, our resident free spirit, took two beautiful young women on the road with him. Other nights, the excess would overwhelm.
Tensions between us crept up all the time. It was six years since Crosby, Stephen Stills and I had first sung together and discovered a flawless three-part harmony that came naturally to us.
Our first album caught fire and went burning up the charts; our second show was Woodstock. We were in love with each other and in possession of something magical. Graham Nash writing songs in the house he shared with Joni Mitchell. I'm good at what I do, but genius? So we did it for the money. 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. It was August , and 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. But deep down, I was still just a kid from the north of England, and I felt I was out of my element.
On David Crosby far left: She was the whole package: 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 mould. 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 LA 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. It was a seduction scene extraordinaire. It was magical on so many different levels. Music pulsing through the place. Taking me by the arm, she said: Joni had a great little place, built in the s by a black jazz musician: From the moment I first heard her play, I thought she was a genius.
Not by a long shot. Occasionally, I lingered in the kitchen, just listening to her play. I wrote there too. On one of those grey days in LA that foreshadows spring, Joni bought a vase on the way home from breakfast. When we got back, she gathered flowers in the garden, and while she was away from the piano, I wrote Our House, capturing that little domestic moment. Joni represented one aspect of my new life in LA; Crosby and Stills the other.
We were finally free from our previous bands. Now, I know a few things about crazy tours. Some of those gigs had an eerie, war-zone quality. If a chick took a shine to the lead singer, you could bet he was going to get his ass kicked by her boyfriend and his pals after the show.
One time, I got three front teeth shattered. Woodstock, however, was something else. We heard it was going to be monumental, transformative, a cultural flashpoint.
As the festival approached, rumours told of , people there, then , By the time we headed to New Jersey to catch a helicopter on the Sunday evening, they were calling it a disaster, a revolution; they were calling out the National Guard. We flew up along the Hudson River, and then it came into view. David said it was like flying over an encampment of the Macedonian army.
It was more than a city of people — it was tribal. Fires were burning, smoke was rising, a sea of hippies clustered together, shoulder to shoulder, hundreds of thousands of them. We went straight to his tent at the right-hand side of the stage and got incredibly wasted. The sound of the audience was enormous, their energy thrumming like an engine. We only knew we had done well. We could sense it. We were flame-throwers in the best democratic sense. It was us at our best: We had a TV backstage.
I was very hesitant, and Joan picked right up on that. Although I loved her, our relationship started winding down. Crosby had far worse problems. His girlfriend Christine was taking the cats to the vet, when one escaped in the van.
Veering into the opposite lane, she was hit by a school bus and killed instantly. I watched a part of David die that day. He wondered aloud what the universe was doing to him. And he went off the rails; he was never the same again.
We kept working, but the hippy love and sunshine in the first album had disappeared. We were all tormented, miserable, all coked out of our minds. We had a short tour in Europe with Joni, and it went weird in Copenhagen. A few days earlier, we did a show in Stockholm, rapping as usual about politics onstage with a gentle anti-American slant, especially when it came to the Vietnam War and the myth behind the Kennedy assassination.
We were in our hotel when I asked her what was up. Then she poured her cornflakes and milk over my head. She expected some response from me — she knew who I was.
There was a maid in the room. I turned to her and said: With all due respect, she took it very well. It was over within 30 seconds.
Later, we laughed it off. Me, with a bowl of cornflakes on my head, spanking Joni Mitchell. It was a crazy time. Back in the U. A row broke out, Joan yelling that I hated all women.
Things had turned ugly between us. She decided to leave us and fly back to LA. I was somewhat relieved. When I got home, Joni decided she needed a break.