West Coast Rock

This page is dedicated to some of the performers who first came to the forefront of popular music during the late 1960's. They were all based on the west coast of the United States of America. Their careers are inextricably linked and all are extremely talented. I have always been interested in this genre of music and particularly the collection of consummate artistes below. I thought that I could share this with others. To quote David Crosby in a recent interview (The Official CSNY Website - 27/03/01), "One of the things they used to say about us (CSNY) was that we were speaking for our generation. And I think, in a sense, that its still true. You hear a lot of music these days about rage and frustration and anger, but not much about hope and love and forward motion. That's what we want to continue to stand up for."

Crosby, Stills and Nash

Crosby, Stills and Nash

This legendary band formed in 1968. David Crosby originally came to fame with the West Coast folk/ rock band, the Byrds. Stephen Stills was a member of Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash was from the very successful British band, the Hollies. Legend has it that they met at the house of Joni Mitchell and first performed their stunning three part harmonies there. Their debut album, 'Crosby, Stills and Nash', was released in 1969. It perfectly captured the mood of the time and was a big success.

Neil Young

Neil Young Neil Young, also from Buffalo Springfield, joined them shortly afterwards. Young was and still is a prolific songwriter. He has worked with a huge number of musicians, including Pearl Jam and most consistently, Crazy Horse. CSNY toured that summer and performed at Woodstock and Altamont. 'Deja Vu' was released in 1970 and had a more rock orientated sound than its predecessor. Neil Young also wrote several of the songs. It instantly became a No.1 hit. Shortly after this success, pressures from within caused the band to break up and all of its members pursued their own solo careers.

All four reformed the band in 1988, to record 'American Dream'. In 1990 they recorded 'Live it up' and 'After the storm' in 1994, which was not very well received. They last toured the US in 1999 in support of their last album 'Looking Forward'. Neil Young has had some considerable success as a solo artist and is still an influence today. In fact, he is about to start a European tour, appearing in this country during June (2001).

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell was originally based in New York, performing in many of the bars and clubs there. At the suggestion of her manager she moved to southern California, late in 1967. She moved in with David Crosby who helped promote her. During this time, her song "Both Sides Now" was a top ten hit for Judy Collins. By early 1968 she was with Graham Nash and toured as the opening act for Crosby, Stills and Nash. She was due to appear at Woodstock, but could not make it because of the awful traffic problems at the time. She did, however, write the wonderful song "Woodstock", which was a hit for CSN and others. She appeared at the troubled Isle of Wight festival in 1970.

She has recorded many innovative albums, since then, often dramatically changing her style. She is also a talented and prolific artist, with her artworks adorning many gallery walls.

A Personal View

I was privileged to see Joni Mitchell at Wembley Arena, around the time of the release of 'Court and Spark'. She was on top form, with a marvellous line up of musicians behind her. However, the best section of the night was when she bowed to audience pressure, sent the band off stage and performed some of the 'old favourite' songs with just her own acoustic backing. Possibly one of the first 'unplugged' sets ever!

I can remember hearing the first CSN album in 1969 and was immediately knocked out by the marvellous soaring harmonies. It was also quite innovative, as no - one else had fused folk and rock so well. Of course, we had Fairport Convention but they had more of a bias towards the folk content of their music. Crosby, Stills and Nash infused the most wonderful hard rock riffs into what were almost traditional folk songs.

Neil Youngs' 'After the Goldrush' was also a very innovative album and a huge success. It certainly set the seal on his solo career. The solo efforts of the others were less successful. I can remember seeing CSN in concert, also at Wembley Arena, some years after their original success and they were still quite impressive. But then I am a fan.


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Photographs © Corbis. Licensed for this use to John Dickson