Excerpt: 'Fire and Rain' by David Browne


From Rolling Stone:

On the night of January 6th, Paul McCartney settled into his seat at the Royal Albert Hall. Along with five thousand others in the elegantly domed theater with boxed seats, he was about to witness the London debut of the band everyone was calling the “American Beatles.” (One of them was actually English, but a catchy press moniker couldn’t be denied.) Thirteen months earlier, George Harrison had passed on signing them to Apple, but now they were stars on a headlining tour of Europe. In one sign of their stature, their massive sound system, complete with a lighting rig specially designed for them, had arrived in London from the States by boat. They were put up in the city’s five-star Dorchester Hotel—where the grand reception party for the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night had taken place in now far-off 1964—and the Rolling Stones lent their managers an office in town. Whatever David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young wanted, they received.

They were a little nervous, with ample reason. All the major newspaper critics and a host of celebrities—not merely McCartney but Donovan and Ahmet Ertegun, the worldly, Turkish-born head of their label, Atlantic—had assembled to scrutinize them in person. Nash, who’d grown up in Manchester, knew some of his fellow countrymen were skeptical because he’d left the beloved Hollies and his native country to join this new band in Los Angeles. Before they began the show, they calmed their nerves by indulging in one of their pre-show rituals, a shared joint. By the time Crosby, Stills & Nash took the stage—with Young to follow later—Crosby was either so high, nervous, or energized (or some combination of the three) that he didn’t notice a stagehand slapping an “L” sign—the British learners permit for driving lessons—on the back of his brown fringe jacket as he walked out.

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