You’ve got to love Graham Nash. And you’ve got to sort of envy him, too, obviously; and.. sort of feel proud of him as an apparently ordinary sixties’ pop Hollie who left behind Top Of The Pops Britishness, and transformed himself transatlantically, and was suddenly no longer singing ‘Hey Carrie Anne’ etc but was part of a West Coast Supergroup and… (how did this happen? Dream of dreams?) shacked up in an idyllic Laurel Canyon home with Joni Mitchell and two cats in the yard!
The story is that in his ambitions and creativity he was always aiming ‘outside the box’ –take , for instance, ‘King Midas In Reverse’ (not a great song, really?) that the other Hollies had to be persuaded to record against their better judgments. As I believe the story goes. Anyway, and I may be making this up, ‘Marrakesh Express’ was a step too far for them, too left field, too non-UK-charts, and so he left behind their Northern narrowness, and the provincial unimaginativeness of the British scene, man, and (suddenly?) became the N of C S N – and the rest is history.
So there’s a touch of our-lad-made-good when we hear him of waxing lyrical about this particular popular bit of the sixties’ hippy trail, think of him in the ‘striped djellabas we can wear at home’ and ‘blowing smoke rings from the corners of [his] ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-mouth’… And it’s a happy sound, as recorded with this harmonising pals Crosby and Stills.
In interviews, they always say what a happy recording that first album of theirs was –because they were all in love at that time –Stills with Judy (Blue Eyes) Collins, Nash with Joni, Crosby with… his boat? (and the girls who sailed on it with him?). And indeed the album has a really easy, relaxed, happy feel. In fact – that whole West Coast interaction/crossover from late sixties’/early seventies was a buzz of good feeling for a teenager: include in this Stills’ first album with its (dubious message song) ‘Love The One You’re With’, and Young’s ‘After the Goldrush’ album with ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’. (love, love, love –lots and lots of philosophising pronouncements about love in those times!) I’m glad that the loved-up harmonising boys decided to include Graham’s moderately lightweight Marrakesh song, though.
My anecdotal attachment to it dates back to 1970, I think, and to an overnight charity walk I did in aid of Oxfam (?). It was called the Yog-Jog, and we walked from Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens, starting at midnight, 26 miles to Porthcawl. Most of it, as you might imagine, is a blur, but I remember that some of the walkers had radios with them, and, as day broke, and our tired legs were nearing the goal, daylight giving us the last surge of motivation, we were listening to some early morning radio programme, and this song came on. Although a walk to Porthcawl is not quite the same as ‘taking a train to Casablanca going south…’ there seemed some sort of vague resonance in the sense of movement and mission, and the zippy feel good factor of those sunny west coast harmonies must have added something of a spring to the tired steps. ‘All on board that train…’!
Good man, our Graham.