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