Thursday, December 12, 2019

Sadly 'Twas Not To Be A Silent Night

It’s that time of the year again when Catherine and I head off to Santa Monica. We set off on our annual adventure for two reasons mainly: 1) to avoid the bad weather and 2) to enjoy a feast of movies lining up for Oscar to give them a nod, if not a nomination.

So far I’ve enjoyed The Irishman; It’s a Beautiful Morning in the Neighbourhood; The Marriage (which without it’s embarrassing dragging-you-out-of-the-fantasy, OTT Karaoke, moment, would have been an Oscar contender); Maiden; Queen and Slim; Parasite; After Parkland; Where’s My Roy Cohn; Dark Water and Knives Out.

It’s too early to tell yet if The Two Popes will walk away with all of the Oscars – it’s most certainly, at the very least, a masterclass in film-making and acting.

However I feel I should reserve my final opinion until after I see Clint Eastwood’s latest, Richard Jewell, which will be his 38th film as a director, most of which could/would/should have been contenders, as in fact quite a few were. Plus, there will be the usual rush of Christmas Day Blockbusters. Christmas Day seems to be the final day to release a film the studios feel worthy of Oscar consideration. It’s always a bad sign when a much talked about project is announced as having a Jan or Feb release. That’s usually a sign that the final product has turned out to be… well maybe the best way to put it would be to say that it’s not all that the studio and/or director hoped it would be.

I wonder what BMG/Sony Classics feel about a recent co-production of theirs? It was entitled David Crosby: Remember My Name. Cros, as he’s known backstage, was one fifth of the Byrds; one quarter of CSN& Y; one third of Crosby, Stills & Nash; one half of Crosby & Nash and now, that he is touring under his own name, is down to just the one.  I represented CSN and C&N for many a year.

The film was released last Friday 6th December. It’s playing in one cinema in Los Angeles – the funky and friendly Lamelle in Santa Monica. The cinema is fine, I love it, but to put it on at 9.55 p.m. for its single nightly screening, it’s well… well let’s put it this way, at least they didn’t release it on the following Friday. (Friday the 13th!)

Anyway I arrived at the Lamelle early to ensure my seat. I was expecting the screening to be sold out.  As it turned out I was so early I was able to watch an earlier screening of the Wolf Hour and still have time for a cup of tea between features. But I really needn’t have worried about getting there early.


The cinema was embarrassing empty. Monty Python’s dead parrot hadn’t even bothered to turn up.

So what about the film, PC?

Okay… well I felt it looked great, beautifully shot. I thought he was painfully honest; maybe too honest if I too, can be too honest.

“Why are you still working?” the interviewer asked after discovering Cros has had three heart attacks, is a diabetic, has several stints in his heart and just about to embark on a six week tour. “I need money to put food on the table and pay the mortgage,” Cros replied.

Okay he’s honest but I can hear a loud but rolling down the nearby Route 66?

But… for all of that I didn’t feel he came across as a nice man. 

I didn’t see the point in not showing the other side of the man.

Crosby although usually very cutting is also, really a very funny man. “What’s the main difference between CSN and CSN&Y?” he was once asked. He thought for a few moments before replying, “Oh about $650,000 a night.”   

In my book David Crosby is one of the benchmark artists of our era. If Only I Could Remember My Name, his first solo album, is an amazing piece of work. It’s a breakthrough album of an artist pushing the boundaries of making music while, at the same time, delivering a masterpiece that is revolutionary yet still manages to be so pleasing to the ear. Like all classic albums If Only I Could Remember My Name continues to sound stunning. It’s mentioned in the documentary, but kinda like only in passing. It would be like doing a documentary about Van Morrison and not making a fuss over Astral Weeks.

Crosby’s soulful harmony work with Graham Nash took what the Everly Bros were doing and still managed to up the ante. Crosby & Nash were the go-to harmony guys for everyone making music on the LA/Laurel Canyon scene in the 1970s and 80s as proven by the number of album-sleeve-credits they have to their names.

David Crosby may be, by his own omission, his own worst enemy, but why focus on one aspect of his life at the expense of the great music he made over the decades? Does doing so make this a better film? I certainly didn’t think so.

The film also shows the final performance of CSN. They appeared at the White House on December 26th, 2015, to preform Silent Night for the Obamas and their friends. Their performance is so excruciating out of tune that even the president and some of his guests are witnessed (on camera and in turn on the screen during this film) grimacing in apparent pain. What is the point in showing that?

As I mentioned I worked with Crosby Stills and Nash as their agent and also as promoter for a good few years. I have had the pleasure of witnessing at least a hundred of their concerts all over the world and please believe me these boys do not know how to sing out of tune. While I was watching the Remember My Name film clip of the White House performance I tried to focus in on Graham’s voice, he seemed fine. I then focused on Crosby’s voice, he seemed fine. I didn’t have time to pay the same attention to Stephen Stills and I couldn’t hear his voice as clearly. On the walk back along the beach from the cinema I thought about the Silent Night performance quite a bit.   

Now as you know I do love a good conspiracy theory. I still believe that the president who pulled the trigger on JFK is still on the run, hiding out somewhere… sorry… sorry… let’s backtrack there a wee bit. Did I actually say the president who pulled the trigger… of course I meant to say the person who pulled the trigger, as in the person who pulled the trigger is still on the run?  I’ve obviously been reading too many Phillip L. Nelson books for my own good.
But let’s get back to CSN’s dubious harmonies. What if someone in one of the best harmony groups the world has ever known didn’t want to be there in the White House singing Silent Night? Or, what if one of them was so annoyed by one of his colleagues, he just didn’t want to be singing with him? I mean David’s falling out with Graham (and with Neil Young) are so well (not to mention embarrassingly) documented all over the internet.

I’m just saying… but my main point being: why include the clip in the David Crosby documentary in the first place?

Surely at the very least we’re entitled to a more balanced view of the man and his musical heritage?

Happy Holidays.

Until the next time…