“Music is love,” as David Crosby once sang, and nothing breeds deeper love than a sense that something is overlooked. So that’s why Variety asked Cameron Crowe to dig deep into the Crosby canon and pick not just a triad but five favorites from among the CSN singer’s most underrated tracks.
Crowe, of course, has had a lot of time to consider the catalog in the last few years, having signed on as an interviewer and producer for “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” the newly released documentary directed by A.J. Eaton. Several of these less heralded tracks appear in the film, so if you want to know what earworms were going through the journalist-turned-director’s mind on the way to his Q&As with Crosby, here’s his mini-playlist of slightly lost classics and oddities.
“Music is Love”
“Underrated: Totally number one is ‘Music Is Love’ from [Crosby’s 1971 solo debut] ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name.’ It was a riff that he had that got built into a song by (Graham) Nash and Neil Young. I think Neil took a rough practice track, and Crosby said, ‘You can’t take it, this song is not finished yet.’ And Neil is like, [he breaks into an imitation of Young’s Canadian patois] ‘Oh, I’ll bring it back to you.’ And he comes back, I believe the next day, with a finished, re-edited version of ‘Music is Love’ that’s just perfection.” (Crowe puts two fingers to his lips in the universal kissed-by-the-gods gesture.)
“Kids and Dogs”
“’Kids and Dogs’ is an outtake from ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’ [first officially issued as a bonus track on a 2006 reissue]. We used it in the ‘Aloha’ movie. It’s a jam with Jerry Garcia where they’re trying to play a game, to play a chord at the same time and see if they’ll mesh, and this game that they’re playing turns into the song ‘Kids and Dogs,’ which is great. It’s so Crosby.”
“‘Lady Friend’ is an early Byrds song that is kind of the genesis or beginning of … It’s kind of toward the end of Act 1 Crosby. He’s in his ‘Triad’ kind of ‘I’m stretching the boundaries of the Byrds’ mode. ‘They’re not loving me, but I’m kind of loving me myself, so I’m gonna write “Lady Friend’.”‘
“It’s McGuinn/Crosby, a Byrds song. It’s vital and it just feels modern in a cool way.”
“The Wall Song”
“This is a Nash/Crosby song from their first duet album [“Graham Nash David Crosby” in 1972], that I believe has some Garcia in it, and it’s just a wonderful little deep track.”
Having gone deep with Crowe, we had to go not quite to such far depths to ask the “Almost Famous” auteur what the favorite would be of Crosby’s not-as-underrated songs … his desert island Crosby track. He had a perhaps surprising pick.
“’Laughing’ is about the Maharishi, I find out while doing the research for this. I guess (George) Harrison comes back from the Maharishi time that the Beatles had together and tells Crosby that the Beatles had all this stuff going on, and that Lennon had this feeling about the Maharishi, and people were doubting him. So Crosby writes this song about that, and it’s ‘Laughing’ — which is about a cynical situation, but you can’t really tell from the song. It’s revelatory and takes you to almost a religious place, but the interesting thing about it is that it’s about false religion, I think. But it’s just a beautiful track. You know when you used to go into a stereo store and they put on a Steely Dan record to show you all the specs of the speakers, and how good it would sound? ‘Laughing’ is that kind of a song for me, too. Sonically it just kind of envelops you in the way that only Crosby can take you to a kind of otherworldly place where… music is love!”
Crowe was tempted to provide an add-on to his list of underrated tracks.
“I had a sixth song that was influenced by Crosby, which someday I have to bring it out in some form. It was written by Nancy Wilson and me on our honeymoon, and what we tried to do was to write a definitive David Crosby-like song. One day I’ve got to play it for him. It’s like the Rutles of David Crosby, snd it’s a song called ‘Deep in a Flower.’ Someday I’ll have to play it for you.That’s six on a list that you only needed five songs for, and it doesn’t really qualify. But I love those five.”
Look for a full interview with Crowe about Crosby and his work on the film, coming in Variety.