The End of An Era, Crosby, Stills & Nash and ‘Marrakesh Express’

I don’t know if this applies to everyone, but because life hasn’t been ‘normal’ for such a long time now, I’ve almost forgotten what it used to be like. I do know that I miss it however, and what has replaced it just doesn’t cut the mustard for me, for all sorts of reasons. Compared with many, I have been spared some of the worst outcomes of the pandemic, and of our departure from the EU, but I can’t seem to curb that continual feeling of anxiety about what is potentially coming round the corner next. I was horrified to hear this week, that worries about climate change are really affecting children, even young ones – How sad is that. Lets hope COP26 in Glasgow goes some way to allaying their fears, but I’m not holding my breath.

WIAA: Whoa Alyson, you’re being a bit miserable in this one. Can we raise the mood a bit please?

ALYSON: Sorry WIAA. Of course, but sometimes we just get a bit overwhelmed by everything negative going on in the news and closer to home. I seem to have lost a lot of people from my life of late and last week our neighbours of 18 years, who were also close friends, moved away from the area.

WIAA: That’s a shame.

ALYSON: It’s good for them of course, as they have a whole new life planned for where they are going, but there have been many, many get-togethers over the years, and we’ll miss that. They specialised in Murder Mystery Parties when we all dressed up in costume, and coming out of lockdown last year when we were still only allowed two people in our gardens, they joined me for a (very pared down) 60th birthday bash.

WIAA: What can I say Alyson? Things change, but I’m sure you’ll keep in touch and your new neighbours might also become friends. Any songs you associate with them?

ALYSON: Many, but here’s one that became very relevant a few years ago after they booked a trip to Morocco. Whenever they mentioned their holiday destination, I had to give a few bursts of this gem of a song, Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Marrakesh Express by Crosby, Stills and Nash:

Yet again I am revisiting artists who set up camp in late ’60s Laurel Canyon but I have a great affinity for the music of those days, despite having been a bit too young for it at the time. The song came about after Graham Nash journeyed from Casablanca to Marrakesh on the ‘Express’. He soon realised there was little to interest him in his first-class compartment so moved down the train and experienced all the sights and sounds written about in the lyrics of the song. When he got back to England, his band The Hollies rejected the song for not being commercial enough, which precipitated him parting company with them and he headed to LA. Once there, he got together with Stephen Stills and David Crosby to form Crosby, Stills and Nash. The song became the first single from their debut album.

I love the story behind this album cover. The band had been driving around with their photographer friend Henry Diltz when they saw an abandoned house with a sofa outside. They took the iconic picture and then went home. After finalising the name of the band, they realised they should change the seating order. Sadly when they returned to the same spot, the house had been reduced to a pile of timber, so the original picture stood.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – Things change over time and it saddens me that we will never have the same experiences with new neighbours as we did with the ones who have moved. We’re just not in that age demographic any more. Fortunately they have not moved to Morocco, so we will hopefully be able to arrange a few visits over the coming months and years, but it’s not the same as living next door.

Life in late ’60s Laurel Canyon, where Crosby, Stills and Nash set up camp, really sounded idyllic. All these musicians and artists living in close proximity to each other, in those rustic houses overlooking downtown Los Angeles, formed a hotbed of creativity which has had a long-lasting impact. It too came to an end however, as all things must.

ALYSON: Hope I’ve redeemed myself, WIAA, by sharing a classic song?

WIAA: You have indeed. Chin up. The world leaders at COP26 will sort out all our problems in one fell swoop, I’m sure of it.

ALYSON: Let’s hope so, otherwise the North of Scotland might end up looking like Marrakesh. Strange times, as I often say around here.

Until next time…

Marrakesh Express Lyrics
(Song by Graham Nash)

Looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes
Traveling the train through clear Moroccan skies
Ducks and pigs and chickens call
Animal carpet wall to wall
American ladies five-foot tall in blue

Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind
Had to get away to see what we could find
Hope the days that lie ahead
Bring us back to where they’ve led
Listen not to what’s been said to you

Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh
All aboard the train, all aboard the train

I’ve been saving all my money just to take you there
I smell the garden in your hair

Take the train from Casablanca going south
Blowing smoke rings from the corners of my mouth
Colored cottons hang in the air
Charming cobras in the square
Striped djellebas we can wear at home Well, let me hear you now

Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh

Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express
They’re taking me to Marrakesh
All on board the train, all on board the train
All on board

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

15 thoughts on “The End of An Era, Crosby, Stills & Nash and ‘Marrakesh Express’”

  1. ”Yet again I am revisiting artists who set up camp in late ’60s Laurel Canyon”

    One who moved there but is usually not associated with the scene (like Frank Zappa, who also lived there but is not considered to be part of the west-coast soft-rock scene) is John Mayall (originally from Macclesfield, Cheshire), who still lives in the area. I was looking forward to seeing him again, the last time being shortly before the pandemic hit, but on his website he says he is now limiting travel to local venues, so he might never return to Germany. But he is 88 and still performing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m fascinated by Laurel Canyon and it wasn’t until I wrote about the documentary of the same name that I took the time to understand the geography of it. What a great place to live amongst all the trees and the birdlife, just a stones throw from Hollywood Blvd. I especially like the sound of Lookout Mountain Ave.

      It’s obviously been good for John Mayall who is still performing at 88 – Hope you do get to see him again live. Who knows.

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  2. “After finalising the name of the band, they realised they should change the seating order.”

    Well in Morocco the language is Arabic which is written and read from right to left so the order is correct.

    Someone once remarked that “Crosby, Stills, and Nash” sounds like a law firm. Previous supergroups had chosen a regular rock-group name, but here egos were on display. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t think they were using the Arabic alphabet for the seating plan but good point! They do sound like a law firm and it got even more wordy when Neil Young joined them, as happens when the firm grows.

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    1. It is and we’ve certainly been lucky here but things are starting to change now which is sad. Can’t imagine we’ll have that same amount of time with any new neighbours. We’re now the oldies!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great song, Great Album and a great thought about neighbours, new and old. The album was released in my 2nd year of University, Living on campus initially, then in a nearby apartment, neighbours were plenty. I had a SONY reel to reel tape recorder that I loaded up with music whenever I visited home. In addition to CS&N, there were The Moody Blues, Laura Nyro, Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority. Set the tape up and let it run. Neighbours would drop by between classes and the music would keep on playing. Recording at slow speed allowed for more songs but did compromise the fidelity. There weren’t many audiophiles around in those days to complain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I too have fond memories of other neighbourhoods. In my 20s I lived in flats in the centre of a large city but somehow most of our friends took up residence in the same area so it was a bit like the TV show Friends, with comings and goings galore between our respective pads. We were the era of the Music Centre where you taped everyone’s albums onto cassette and shared them amongst each other. Like the sound of your reel to reel playing music by all the bands you mention. Must have been a fun time.

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  4. I love the story about the CSN photo shoot; it’s a similar tale to Hall & Oates Abandoned Luncheonette cover. (All things must pass, Alyson. I hope you will still be part of your friends’ life when they move on.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a great story isn’t it and Henry Diltz had so many more like it in the Laurel Canyon documentary film.

      Ironically you always have a real social whirl with people just before they move as there are all sorts of “leaving dos”. We certainly did. Will be a bit dull now but hopefully will meet up with them before the end of the year in their new abode.

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  5. Oh yes, I really love Marrakesh Express, as you say – a gem of a song. I can imagine it working for the Hollies too as an album track but Nash’s collaboration with Stills and Crosby gives it that extra West Coast feel, a perfect combination. Love the story about the CSN photo shoot too.
    Sorry about your neighbours leaving, it must have been a wrench, but I hope you’ll get to see them again before too long. Have you met your new ones yet? The cottage one side of us has just been sold (a nice young couple lived there but had a baby this year so had to find somewhere bigger). The new buyers have put it up for rent straight away so we wonder who on earth we’re going to get as a new neighbour. I’m hoping for a quiet, arty older lady who loves birds and wildlife, and doesn’t have a car (parking can be iffy round here). Maybe one who’s a little hard of hearing too so we won’t worry about playing music. Well, we can hope!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always loved it too but once you find out the backstory to it, it’s even better. I can just imagine a young Graham Nash taking notes of what was going on in the regular carriage, and making them into a song.

      I can’t believe what’s been happening around here of late. Everyone was jealous of the social life we had with all our neighbours but one by one the circumstances have changed for many of the residents (sadly ill health and bereavements for some), so not the same at all now. There is no sign of anyone new moving in yet and the person buying it wouldn’t need a four bedroomed family house. I think it may become a rental too but we’ll just have to wait and see. Good luck with the quiet, hard-0f-hearing arty lady who loved birds and worms! To be honest you actually want someone who hears very well, otherwise their telly will be turned up really loud all the time. Be careful what we wish for.

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  6. Graham Nash made the right decision. He made far more interesting music in LA than he had in the UK. I hope your neighbours benefit from their change of scenery also, but I can’t imagine them finding better neighbours…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t all that long ago (a decade) that I discovered he was one of the Hollies – Just wouldn’t have clicked before as he wasn’t the Hollies frontman really. Yes he made the right call.

      Neither of us will ever have those kind of neighbours again as we were all still in our thirties when we moved in with young children, and parents who came round to babysit. So many get-togethers over the years, New Year, Murder Mysteries, My Wheel of the Year soirees etc. It’s really changed around here over the last 18 months, partly down to the pandemic and partly natural ‘passage of time’ changes. Bit sad must be said but my loft full of the jetsam and flotsam of life (and my mum and granny’s lives) is preventing any sort of move for us, for the moment anyway.

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