Wednesday, January 1, 2014

David Crosby: Laughing

Last week my friend Greg Rector posted on my Facebook account that he and a couple of coworkers were discussing what three albums they would take with them on a deserted island. If you’ve ever contemplated this, you know how difficult it is to whittle down a collection to only three albums. Not so for Greg though, he has his three selections already in mind for the post apocalyptic world: Little Feet’s “Waiting for Columbus,” Graham Nash’s “Songs for Beginners,” and David Crosby’s album “If I Could Only Remember my Name.” Greg was amazed that neither one of his friends had any familiarity with the album.

I must confess, of the solo albums released in 1971-72 by the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; this is one that I don’t have in my collection. That was not by decision – it just never happened. It’s not an obscure LP, as “If I Could Only Remember my Name” charted on the Top 200 Album charts at #12 and has never gone out of print since its initial release in July 1971 – which shows Atlantic’s commitment to the LP.

As I have rekindled my knowledge of this album, I could see why it holds a special place in Greg’s heart. He asked that I feature the song “Laughing” for a Wooden Music Wednesday selection and I’m happy to oblige by making it the first selection of 2014.

The album features a veritable Who’s Who of musicians – especially from the San Francisco music scene. I remember in 1971 that Circus Magazine did a feature on the cross-pollination of musicians from the Bay Area and that contained groups like CSN&Y, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Jefferson Airplane, and their splinter bands. The article, which charted the activities of these musicians, was spurred on by the Crosby album and the release of the first Jefferson Starship project by Paul Kantner.

“If I Could Only Remember my Name” contains personnel from many of the aforementioned bands. “Laughing” features Crosby on all of the guitars and lead vocals. Back-up harmonies were provided by Crosby, his partner in crime – Graham Nash, and longtime friend Joni Mitchell.

Members of the Grateful Dead fill out the remainder of the musicians. Jerry Garcia is on pedal steel guitar – a role he held on with CSN&Y’s “Teach Your Children.” Bill Kreutzmann handles the back beat while Phil Lesh attacks the bass with a vengeance.

Even during his tenure with The Byrds, Crosby’s songs were notoriously complex and his compositions on “If I Could Only Remember my Name” are no different. The chord changes are unique and the harmonic qualities of his arrangements are unlike any other artist at this time. Good stuff for a New Year. Happy New Year all.


  1. Great song and nice post! The album definitely falls into that "overlooked and under-appreciated" catagory.