From parties to politics: Graham Nash talks wild cocaine days and political activism


Published October 11, 2013


In 'Wild Tales,' Graham Nash definitely remembers his wild days. The 71-year-old English singer who first hit it big with The Hollies and then as a member of Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) has a near photographic memory for parties, political fundraisers and of course drug-fueled adventures. He spoke to FOX411 about it all.

FOX411: You did enormous amounts of coke for 20 years and then just quit cold turkey.
Nash: Correct, but I've never been an addictive person. I've always been curious, I've always experimented but when it started to get dark, when David started his downward spiral and went into cocaine madness, it wasn't for me. I stopped immediately in 1984.

FOX411: [We] can't imagine working with someone like that.
Nash: We used to build a room right off the stage so he could get high between songs.

FOX411: Isn't that enabling?
Nash: Yes, I spent years feeling very guilty. Here's what was going on: Music was such an important part of David's life that to take the music away would have really sent him downward, and we never could do that. Music was the only joy in his life and I spent many years feeling guilty that I was enabling him because if you make great music, then you make great sales and if you make more money you can afford better drugs. It drove me crazy but I managed to deal with it.

FOX411: Tell me about The Beatles.
Nash: I first saw The Beatles when they weren't even The Beatles, November 19, 1959. It was a local talent show.

FOX411: Did they win?
Nash: No they didn't. Me and Allan Clarke won. I think it was pretty obvious from my early experiences with The Beatles that every girl wanted to take off their knickers for them. It was very obvious that they were something else. They drove the girls crazy. It was like having four James Deans in the room. That was just their physical appearance and attitude. When you put that incredible music together it was obvious they were going to be one of the world's best bands.

FOX411: Speaking of knickers you managed to peel quite a few pairs off. How many do you think?
Nash: One pair at a time!

FOX411: Ha! Most rock stars would say three pairs at a time.
Nash: I'm still English my dear.

FOX411: You fell in love with America immediately.
Nash: We were from Manchester and the first thing you want to do, you want to conquer Manchester, the second thing you want to do is conquer London and the third thing you want to do is go to America. We had been trying a long time and we finally got to do it in 1965.

FOX411: What did you love?
Nash: The phones rang just like they did in the movies! You can get takeout food, unheard of in England and real hamburgers! I loved America the first moment I came here.

FOX411: You left a very successful band to form Crosby, Stills and Nash. That was a big risk.
Nash: Not to me. Everyone else in my immediate circle thought I was mad to leave The Hollies but I had heard me and David [Crosby] and Stephen [Stills] sing. It wasn't a risk for me at all. I knew where my future was. Whatever vocal sounds Crosby, Stills and Nash have was born in 40 seconds. We didn't have to rehearse for months. We didn't have to hang out for years to get that blend. It happened immediately. It was amazing. We started laughing in the middle of the song. It was just obvious that it was something very special.

FOX411: You became very political.
Nash: I think it was from my sense of unfairness. My father went to jail for a $30 camera for a year [a family member had hidden the stolen camera in their house] and I always felt the justice system was buyable. Rich people don't go to jail, it's always the poor people.

I got a call in 1968 from a friend of mine who said that the people who disturbed the Democratic Convention in Chicago needed money for their defense and would we come to Chicago and sing. When I heard about what happened to Bobby Seale, where they bound him and chained him and gagged him and called it a fair trial. That's not a fair trial. When you put Bradley Manning into a room with bright lights for 24 hours a day and strip him naked and humiliate him for a thousand days before his trial, that's not fair to me.

FOX411: It's amazing after all these years together you're still singing and speaking to each other.
Nash: I don't hate my partners. I love them to death. We're human beings trying to get on with our lives, doing the best we can. I've been working with David and Stephen for the last forty years. I love them dearly. They're my brothers. Do we argue? Of course. Do we love each other? Of course. Do we realize the most important part of our relationship is music? Absolutely.