Take most of the Jefferson Airplane, add some of the Grateful Dead and CSNY, ensconce them on David Crosby’s property with all that involves and see what happens. The answer is If Only I Could Remember My Name by David Crosby. One of the most perfectly sublime listening experiences ever.
Yes it is self indulgent, rambling and a little odd in the lyrical content. But it is on the Vatican’s list of the 10 most influential albums of all time so it must have some merit. It has been an album that I was only aware of by reputation for many years, I eventually found a copy when a friend was getting rid of their records and there it lay. It has some crackles and pops but sounds wonderful to my ears. It is not an album I grew up with but an album I always wanted to hear. In England as a teenager you could find so many CSN, Neil Young, Stills or Nash albums but this was one I could never track down.
It is like early Floyd managed to relax, you can hear so many ways this album impacted later music throughout the years and just wallow in the harmonies, guitars and the warm mellow comfort of Crosby’s voice.
Crosby has always been the most melodic member of CSNY and intriguing. For many years this was his only solo effort, at least until he cleaned himself up after jail and started releasing solo records. When we went to see Crosby Stills and Nash earlier this year he was the member who was definitely still closest to the peak of his powers as a performer, yes Nash was holding the whole thing together and Stills is still a guitar hero but Crosby was perfect, smiling and singing and playing like your favorite stoner uncle.
Anyway back to the record. It is not hard to find in some sort of format, it is well worth the time to sit and listen to. It is like a little slice of Southern Californian perfection and innocence right before the hippy dream crashed. It unleashed on us all the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra and a David and the Dorks tour. What Are Their Names will always be relevant in the world and may be one of the most chilling protest songs ever written and Cowboy Movie is jam band perfection.
After a night of staggering around Liverpool I ended up at the then Liverpool Polytechnic in one of the halls of residence where I was fed some strange curried cabbage and more red wine. The soundtrack to that experience was Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. It was an almost perfect counter point to the night that went before. It was calm and serene after an evening of drinking and smoking and shouting.
My friends and I were seldom quiet on a night out and our taste in music in those days was more likely to be Deep Purple or Van Halen than the quiet ruminations of the slightly awkward looking troubadours on the cover. This was the essence of uncool for me at that time, thoughtful songs with harmonies and gentle guitar accompaniment. It was however a gentle relief to the clamor in my mind, the cacophony that went along with any night out in Liverpool in the eighties.
We had undoubtedly spent the night in the Cave on Mathew St. that was no longer Eric’s but a pale shadow of it’s past glory days. A dark damp cellar were desperation often reached new lows on the sticky carpet. Sweat was in every piece of fabric it seemed in that place but we went every week to try and meet girls and drink too much.
So that end of a Saturday night eating curried cabbage, drinking red wine and listening to Art Garfunkel’s sweet voice is forever fixed in my mind. As is the walk to the station that morning with The Boxer, 59th St. Bridge Song and Bridge Over Troubled Water still playing through my mind.
This moment is so clear in my mind the walk back to the train station in Wavertree, the ride and changes back to Whiston and my parents house. That week I got the cassette version from the library and lay on my floor headphones on and listening. I tried to listen to the other records but they never had the same draw or felt as satisfying, I kept getting the wrong next track and wondering why.
A short time later we were trying to find our way back to Liverpool from Widnes after a raucous night watching Dumpy’s Rust Nuts. Sitting on a bench one of my more aware friends threw the gem out, Paul Simon may have written Homeward Bound on this very bench which brought us all to silence and rightly so.
A couple of weeks ago someone asked if I had any vinyl, I thought about giving up my copy of Greatest Hits but went with the Bridge over Troubled water album instead. The reason in my mind is that there is no more perfect Simon and Garfunkel album than the Greatest Hits collection and you don’t give that away.
So as I played both these album my mind drifted and they were just as magical this time as the first time. The physical act of playing vinyl ensures you listen at least to a whole side and not skip around, this almost preserves the moment as a real event in your mind. It causes you to listen and pay attention, music becomes and act to take part in actively not just a background noise.