Inkwell: Authors and Artists
David Gans (tnf) Thu 6 May 04 11:02
Dave Zimmer returns to the Inkwell to talk about "4 Way Street: The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Reader." Born and raised in the SF Bay Area, schooled at UC Davis, and inspired to be a writer by the music of Stephen Stills (as well as Croz, Nash and Neil), Dave has had the good fortune to live out some of his dreams while pecking away at an old Royal manual before surrendering to the digital age and learning his way (just enough) around a computer keyboard. Before completing a 13-year run with MCA/Universal/Seagram/Vivendi as a communications writer/editor, Dave's days as a music journalist were mostly spent at BAM Magazine, where he was a writer and editor from the late '70s to the turn of the '90s, writing pieces on such artists as Tom Waits, Roseanne Cash, Jefferson Starship, Todd Rundgren, Robbie Robertson, k.d. lang and Randy Newman as well as Mssrs. Crosby, Stills & Nash and Neil Young. He wrote "Crosby, Stills & Nash: The Authorized Biography" (featuring more than 275 photographs by Henry Diltz), published by St. Martin's Press in 1984, with an updated edition published by Da Capo Press in 2000 (which remains in print). Dave was the editor of and a contributor to "4 Way Street: The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Reader" (Da Capo Press, February 2004), a collection of more than 30 articles on and interviews with CSNY, individually and collectively, from 1969 through 2002, by such writers as Ben Fong-Torres, Cameron Crowe, Joel Selvin, Ellen Sander, Lenny Kaye, Peter Knobler, Roy Carr and Vicki Wickham. Dave currently works in the publishing industry in New York City and lives in West Orange, New Jersey with his wife, son and dog. Our interlocutor for this discussion is Tony Bittick. As a veteran newspaper reporter/columnist, Tony says his favorite writing years were the ones spent sticking his head in speakers and chasing down mid-level bands as a writer/photographer. Today, Tony earns a paycheck and supports a family of five, a beagle and a budding aquarium working in the world of corporate communications. When he's not coaching soccer, hockey or baseball, or serving as a human jungle-gym for his kids, he spends his "free time" as a photographer, freelance writer and media consultant. A casual fan of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Tony dove head deep into the rock trio's music and history after reading a copy of David Crosby's book, "Stand and Be Counted," and ultimately Dave Zimmer's biography of group. Tony's music writing/photography career experienced a rebirth after a 10-year hiatus when he was asked to do some work for CrosbyCPR.com, the Web site for Crosby's band CPR. Tony credits David Crosby directly for "reawakening the muse" and indirectly for leading him to the Well more than two years ago.
look, it's all right there in front of you... (cmf) Thu 6 May 04 17:25
Dave... Let me start by welcoming you back to the Well, it is of course, very nice to have you here again. Most fans of CSN and or Y will reconize, if not your name,certainly your work as the author of the primary biography for the group. This book is filled with literature that really serves as something of a living retrospective to the band. I want to talk a little about how you selected these particular articles, but first, having already authored the biography, what was it that inspired you to go back at it and come out with this book?
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Thu 6 May 04 20:13
Hey Tony, It's always nice conversing with you. Thanks for making this happen and getting the topic rolling. What inspired me to go back at it with these guys? To be honest, ever since I finished the updated edition of the Crosby, Stills & Nash biography back in late 1999, with stacks of magazines, clipping files, photographs and posters housed securely in plastic tubs in my attic, I was thinking that someday it would be nice to read a collection of some of the best articles that had been written about CSNY over the years. I wanted to see a permanent record of the best pieces on Stills, Croz, Neil and Nash that I felt captured the essence of CSNY. I really wasn't certain I was going to be the one to do this book. I just knew I wanted to *read* it. While a lot of old and new articles on the guys were turning up on the Internet over the next couple of years, no one was stepping forward to try and do a book like the one I imagined. So in 2002, in the wake of CSNY's Tour of America, I was buzzing with renewed enthusiasm for their music and pitched the concept of a CSNY Reader to Da Capo Press, the publisher of the CSN bio I did with my friend, photographer Henry Diltz. Luckily, I found an ally in Da Capo Senior Editor Ben Schafer, who got genuinely enthused when I verbally layed out my vision for this book over drinks at a bar in New York. Within two weeks, a deal was done, and I was flying high with the realization that many of the contents of those tubs in my attic were going to be presented between two covers as I'd always hoped they would be.
look, it's all right there in front of you... (cmf) Fri 7 May 04 04:22
Dave... the most precious commodity any of us has is time. The one burning question I can't get away from is why have you spent so much of yours dedicated "spreading the word". We both know that this was a labor of love and not a financial boon. I share a great many of your feeling for the band so I think I understand on a personal level, but I'd like to hear you say it and for our other particiants to hear... this was a great deal of work on your part in a very short amount of time.
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 06:29
Time certainly is precious ... and the hours, days, years I've spent working on projects related to CSNY I would count among the most precious moments of my life. It's human nature to gravitate toward things that make you feel good. And delving into the music and lives of CSNY has always brought me pleasure ... even though it has taken a lot of time and effort. But I rarely think about that. And when I do, it's about how these projects take me away from time I should be spending with my wife and son. But I certainly never think about it from a financial standpoint. If me and my family had to survive on the trickles of money that have come in from books and articles that I've done on Crosby, Stills, Nash and/or Neil Young over the years ... we'd be living in a tent or a cardboard box. Thankfully, I've always had other things going that have allowed me to dedicate pockets of time to these CSNY projects that bring such happiness to me and, I always hope, to others. Even though, ostensibly, this 4 Way Street book would seem like a simple thing to do ... just collect a bunch of previously published articles together, get permission to republish them, slap together an intro, some connecting text and, voila ... a book appears. Wasn't that easy. Took more hours that I can calculate over about a six month period after having spent more than 30 years collecting and saving content. The culling process was immense. The organization was tricky. Thankfully, I had some help from such friends as Paul Higham, Scott Oxman, and my editor, Ben Schafer, among many others who are noted in the Acknowledgments pages in the book. Finding photographs to accompany the text was another element that I added in. The publisher didn't request it, but I *wanted* images in there to illustrate the stories. I didn't care if it added another layer of effort and frustration. I've read countless other "Reader" books that include few or no photos and I always felt cheated, like there was something missing. I was determined that 4 Way Street would not be like those other books. The shape the collection took was up to me, and I was happy to have the responsibility and kept focused on my goal. I wanted 4 Way Street to stand as the definitive collection of writings on CSNY. Even though it was not possible to include every piece I wanted, I think the final number and order of pieces work pretty well as a tapestry that captures moments in time, painting the story of the lives and music of CSNY with a pretty diverse palette of words and images.
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 06:37
<scribbled by tnf Fri 7 May 04 08:12>
look, it's all right there in front of you... (cmf) Fri 7 May 04 07:49
You mention being focused on your goal. Can you elaborate? Were there certain things with this book you hoped to achieve, and if so are you far enough away from the project at this time to determine how successful you were in achieving those goals?
David Gans (tnf) Fri 7 May 04 08:12
(Response #5 was a duplicate of #4, deleted by me. Carry on!)
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 08:47
Thanks for digitally erasing my error, David. As for being focused on a goal, Tony ... I meant, and I thought I articulated it in post #4, that I wanted the book to stand as the definitive collection of writings on the CSNY gang. I'm probably too close to the project to objectively judge whether or not I reached that goal. But I was pleased when Nigel Williamson, a writer for Uncut magazine and author of several music books, including one on the stories behind Neil Young's songs, called 4 Way Street *the ultimate CSNY anthology.* Also, my valued friend John Einarson, the author of many great books, including ones on Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield, used the words *definitive collection* in his kind quote for the book jacket. So, if people I respect are using words of praise that centered my objective, I'm very happy. Beyond that broad general goal, I wanted to make sure that 4 Way Street worked as a cohesive book rather than read like a hodge-podge of articles that were simply cobbled together. That's why I tried to keep the thread of CSNY going from beginning to end, so there would be a feeling of progression, a fluid narrative, with different voices that illuminated different parts of the band's legacy.
look, it's all right there in front of you... (cmf) Fri 7 May 04 09:18
That's great praise indeed. Can you talk to us a little about the process that went into story selection... and do you have any count or idea of how many articles you acutally made your way through in order to find the ones selected for the book?
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 10:22
Before the culling process began, the number of writings that I initially gathered together for 4 Way Street totaled about 150. This included not only pieces that I had in my personal possession, but articles from Scott Oxman's CSNY Archives, pieces from UK publications that were found by my friend, Paul Higham, and writings that I discovered by visiting Dolf van Stijgeren's www.4waysite.com and Lorraine Kaczorowski and Ramiro Agredo's www.suitelorraine.com. I then organized the writings by era and artist. I wanted to maintain a balance. I didn't want to weight the book too heavily toward one era or any one of the four artists. This process involved sitting up in my attic, surrounded by stacks of paper, trying different combinations and establishing a list of *essential* pieces. Among the early *must include* writings were the following: an excerpt from Ellen Sander's book Trips: Rock Life in the Sixties; Ben Fong-Torres' 1969 story on CSNY and his *David Crosby: The Rolling Stone Interview* from 1970; Cameron Crowe's 1975 Rolling Stone Interview with Neil Young and his 1977 Rolling Stone article on CSN; Peter Knobler's 1977 Crawdaddy article on Stephen Stills; Lenny Kaye's 1970 article on CSNY that originally appeared in Circus; my fall 1979 Q & A interview with Graham Nash that was publised in BAM in February of 1980; Roy Carr's 1972 New Music Express interview with David Geffen; The Sounds Talk-In with Neil Young and Stephen Stills by Allan McDougall and Penny Valentine from 1970. There were others. Those are the *essential* that come to mind. One of the hardest choices I had to make involved cutting out a wonderful Q & A conversation between David Crosby and Steve Silberman that was published in 1995 in Goldmine. As great as the piece is, however, I finally determined that such a small portion of it dealt with CSNY that it would throw the book's balance out of kilter. I made a similar kind of decision about a 1988 interview of mine with Neil Young. I cut the Q & A down from 35 to the eight questions and responses that dealt with CSNY. If I had not adhered to the CSNY thread rule, it would have made the job of cutting down the selections almost impossible. But with that vision in mind, within three months I'd cut the number down to about 50 articles. I needed to get closer to 30. That's when my editor Ben Schafer helped me close in on that number ... which was 31, in the end.
look, it's all right there in front of you... (cmf) Fri 7 May 04 10:57
There are certainly some wonderful writings collected here, but your book also includes a fair amount of photographs, does it not? Is that unusual for a "reader" and if so, why?
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 11:44
Yes, at least one photograph accompanies each piece. Some feature two or three. Most "Reader"-type books do not include this many. Most include not at all or just an image on the cover. My sense is that the absence of many photographs in most other books of this kind is a matter of budget concerns or the editor's reluctance to gather representative images together if a long time period is covered. It takes extra time and money, for sure. I was lucky, though. Photographer Henry Diltz allowed me to use as many of his shots as I wanted -- some of which also were in our CSN biography, and several that were not, including the great 1975 shot of Neil Young in Malibu. Other photographers also supported the project with generous hearts, especially Joel Bernstein, Roger Barone, Buzz Person and you, Tony. Beyond Henry's many classic shots, including my favorite photograph of CSNY (which graces the cover of 4 Way Street) and fav image of Stills -- playing his White Falcon guitar at Madison Square Garden in 1971, I'm so happy that other key images are in the book, most notably Roger Barone's shot of Stephen and Neil backstage at the Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1976; Joel Bernstein's shot of CSN in the kitchen in Miami in 1977; Buzz Person's 2002 shot of CSNY in mid-jam and your recent shot of Croz with acoustic guitar at the microphone. Last month, a member of the CSN online list, The Lee Shore, sent me an e-mail and wrote: "the photographs alone make 4 Way Street a book to treasure." They make the book that much more special for me, too. The images help bring the stories to life and create a "fifth dimension" that would otherwise not be there.
look, it's all right there in front of you... (cmf) Fri 7 May 04 11:55
Dave... I understand or conversation is now live and I'd like to welcome all of those who may be joining us. Please feel free to add your questions. The one compliment I've heard about you, and have shared with you, has been your ability to tell the story of a turbulent band with a sense of fair representation to all sides of the story. So tell us, how the heck have you pulled that off... again.
Howard Levine (hll) Fri 7 May 04 12:04
Hi Dave - I find it interesting, in light of recent events, to find a note about Crosby's love of guns early on. Some things appear to die hard.
Steven Geoffrey Sak (ssak) Fri 7 May 04 12:05
Hi all, It's been a while since I read the book so some of the specifics are a little hazy but I do have some general comments. As I was going through the book I felt that it would have been useful to have read a biography of the band to help provide a framework for the articles. It would have helped put things into perspective. I also felt that some of the articles themselves had the distinct flavor of having been written by sycophants, especially the earlier stuff. That said, it provided an interesting historical perspective. Finally, I felt that I was missing something in terms of the underlying "dirt" related to some of the animosities in the band. Again, a lot of this would have been cleared up by reading a bio of the band beforehand.
Uncle Jax (jax) Fri 7 May 04 12:06
Great collection. Took me back not only in the lives of the band but also into the ambiance of the era. Some of the language in the interviews is so slangy it may be a bit impenetrable to today's youth!
Joyce Richards (joyceincali) Fri 7 May 04 12:18
Hi Dave! I'm in the midst of reading the book now--while listening to a boot from the recent CPR tour! What a treat! :-) I'll be back at ya this weekend!
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 12:47
Hey now ... I'll get to each post in order ... I had a response to Tony's comments in #13, then accidentally deleted it. A quick recant ... in the CSN biography, I had a lot control over the perspectives from each guy. And during the final editing process, Stills added in "his side of the story" in a number of places and Nash did as well. Croz's views ran throughout. I while I had less control in the 4 Way Street book, I was able to pick the pieces and maintain the balance and diversity of perspectives I felt provided "multi-sides." I tried to keep the wheel turning and catch the views of each guy as much as possible. #14: <<I find it interesting, in light of recent events, to find a note about Crosby's love of guns early on.>> Howard, I think you're referring to the Ben Fong-Torres Rolling Stones interview, in which David does talk about his "rifles" and why he had them. The reasons he goes into and about his desire to live in other parts of the world make sense and certainly do not make him seem like a violent revolutionary. #15: Thanks for the valid comments, Steven. You know, I considered adding a CSNY timeline or "group biography" to the introduction, but then I chose not to in order to allow the pieces themselves to tell the tale. To me, the earlier pieces capture the magic without glossing over the conflicts. They're in there. And as for "the dirt," Peter Knobler's 1997 article on Stills and Mark Christensen's mid-80's piece on Croz certainly don't pull any punches. #16: <<Great collection. Took me back not only in the lives of the band but also into the ambiance of the era. Some of the language in the interviews is so slangy it may be a bit impenetrable to today's youth!>> Thanks, Jack. You're about some of the language. I think Croz uses the word "cat" about 20 times in the 1970 Fong-Torres interview. The slang language of the late '60s may sound odd to today's youth culture. But it's an accurate reflection of the times. #17: Hey Joyce, thanks for stopping in. I look forward to trading words with you later.
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 12:50
Jeez, sorry for the typos in the previous multi-response post, folks. I'm a little rusty at this.
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 13:03
Quick corrections: #14: I meant, of course, Ben Fong-Torres' *Rolling Stone Interview* (not Rolling Stones) #15: The Peter Knobler piece on Stills, one of my favorite articles in the book, was originally published in Crawdaddy 1977 (not 1997).
Uncle Jax (jax) Fri 7 May 04 13:57
>The slang language of the late '60s may sound odd to today's youth >culture. But it's an accurate reflection of the times. I didn't mean to sound critical ... that was the best part for me in many ways, that and the just the general ambiance. The articles were rife with assumptions about the general knowledge and the attitudes of the readership, things that seemed so obvious that the time that they passed without explanation, things that re-awakened memories of the surrealistic and apocalyptic zeitgeist.
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 7 May 04 14:35
Jack, I didn't think your comments were critical and I agree that the "hippie colloquialisms" in some of the articles and interviews representing the '69-'70 era, in particular, helped color the ambiance that I've always found attractive. If time-travel were possible ... Laurel Canyon circa 1969 would be high on my list of destinations. And, yes, some of the writings make assumptions about the readers' knoweledge and attitudes which were taken for granted then (e.g. Fong-Torres writes in his 1969 piece about Croz "hand-cleaning future refreshments") and may re-awaken fond memories for some readers but not connect with others.
Uncle Jax (jax) Fri 7 May 04 14:49
Yes. The one you mention I think could be divined by the modern reader, but there were some really obscure ones. I'm at work now :-) so later at home I will try to dig out some of the stuff I mean that sort of brought the mindset of the times rushing back in a flashback.
Uncle Jax (jax) Fri 7 May 04 14:54
Anyway, it was great to read all this stuff. I'm not much of a "fan" type, I enjoy CSN(Y) music and CPR, and had some idea of the travails of the band and its members, but you've provided a valuable volume summarizing the long strange trip. I read your book cover-to-cover with warmest pleasure and the satisfaction. It was not so much the satisfaction of a rock fan closeted with his idol, which I'm not and they are not for me. Rather, I experience the satisfaction of a grandfather who barely survived the '60's discovering that some talented souls of his generation have managed to salvage satisfactory lives and family relationships out of the chaos of coming up through the terribly psychologically destructive world of rock-superstardom.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 7 May 04 16:29
Dave, welcome! I love both CSN(Y) books -- you did an excellent job of both storytelling and selection. I totally understand why my Goldmine interview with Crosby wasn't appropriate for a CSNY book -- my own hidden agenda for that interview was to tease the Crosby thread out of the CSNY weave, because I often feel that Crosby is the most famous obscure musician alive: everyone knows his name, everyone knows his face (if they're over 30 or so), but if you ask most people to name a single song he wrote, you often get responses like, "Was he the one who sang 'Marrakesh Express'?" (If anyone's interested in reading the interview, by the way, it's here: http://www.levity.com/digaland/crosby95.html ). Dave, I also love your choice of WELL name. :-) I have a question about the music, Dave, that will allow you to flaunt your most subjective and personal judgement. If planet Earth was about to be sucked into a black hole, which ten songs, by any member of CSNY, solo or together, from any era, would you choose to save, and why? Great to see you here.
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