By Mike Jurkovic
“Nash,” he greets, in that seer-like voice generations recall. And it’s that warmth speaking to us humbly and humanely, in his best-selling book, Wild Tales. No revision. No apology. In a free- wheeling discussion, we touch upon many of the themes he’s written about and how the journey that started in Manchester, England has brought him here: Author, activist, artist, humanitarian, mentor.
He paid for Maroon 5’s demos. “They were my kid’s classmates.” Yes he’d tour with The Hollies if Clarkie (Allan Clark, Hollies bedrock and childhood bud) sang like he did at the Hollies’ 2010 Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame Induction.
The Hollies ascent was. . .“Immediate! We were a real good band who wrote good songs that caught the imagination and we never looked back. We’ve never even officially broken up.”
MJ: You recall in the book writing out the lyrics to Arthur Alexander’s “Anna” for Lennon in ’63 the night before The Beatles recorded the song. It reminded me of John bringing Paul into the Quarrymen after Paul showed him the lyrics and chords to “Twenty Flight Rock.”
“John was a very smart boy. He surrounded himself with the best.”
In both book and daily interactions, he’s ever loyal to Croz. “David’s a fascinating person. A great heart. A great humor. He basically saved my life during the latter days of the Hollies as artistic tensions began tearing at the band. I was writing songs and they wouldn’t record them because “King Midas In Reverse” hadn’t done well chart-wise. That’s when David comes along and says “”Marrakesh Express” is pretty cool. Follow your path.”” He said the worst thing to do was give an artist self doubt because it paralyzes them. David broke my paralysis and for that I will be eternally grateful.”
He’s still close to Joni (who earlier this year suffered an aneurysm and is reportedly slowly recovering.) “I couldn’t have started the book without her. She confirmed the first time Croz, Stephen, and I sang was at her house, which became our house.”
MJ: The openness with which you discuss LSD in Wild Tales is really refreshing given all the mea culpas these days.
GN: “I’m not advocating drug use, but I discovered things I believe I intrinsically knew. I’m a speck of dust on a gigantic planet in an expanding universe moving ever away from us. So to bark at someone because your coffee’s too hot is utterly pointless. So I try to do the best in everything I do. It’s obvious I won’t make it though.”
His Manchester laugh pitches high above
my South Bronx chuckle, harmonizing as ever. And harmony, and voice, is why he’s deeply saddened by Linda Ronstadt’s Parkinson’s diagnosis. “Linda was and still is a very powerful, beautiful woman. But losing her voice means not only never singing, she may never again speak outfor justice, and we need every voice to be heard to overturn the corporations.”
MJ: You were at the fall of the Berlin Wall and participated in, and supported, Occupy Wall Street. Why can’t we sustain a global people’s movement to defeat the corporate/political order?
GN: “But we can! And it’s most important to remember that we are! It’s a revolution of ideas!
Is the Berlin Wall still standing? Occupy isn’t grabbing headlines but they’re working towards getting better people elected and reducing student debt and inequality. We just need to continue talking to those who oppose us. It’s a slow process, but not hopeless.”
“It’s the same thing with the climate deniers. We know damn well what’s going on. Ninety five percent of scientists agree we’re the reason behind global warming. But you have senators saying “It’s freezing in Topeka. All those scientists are wrong.”
MJ: As a founder of Musicians United for Safer Energy, does that frustrate you?
GN: “I understand it takes a great deal of energy to move the planet even a microsecond forward. And, in all due respect, most people are taught just the opposite. The powers that be, in the endless pursuit of greed, don’t want an educated populace. They want sheep. So they pigeonhole us with their media. Everywhere else in the world those who stand up for human dignity are called freedom fighters. Here they call us unwashed, unemployed, unorganized, homeless hippies.”
“There was a great song in the 40’s, “Money is the Root of All Evil” (sings a line or two) an incredibly profound song that I’m thinking of bringing back to life.”
“But not one nuke plant has been built here since the late 70’s when we started. Several have been shut down ‘n we’re gonna get them all. Because what’s happening in Fukushima will be going on for centuries and that has been deliberately buried in the news under Kim Kardashian’s ass. It’s dreadful. Absolutely dreadful. You’ll never find out the truth because 37 plants in the US are built on the same design.”
“Y’know, I had a meeting with the Rockefeller Foundation a few days ago. We have eleven hundred environmental groups that all want the same thing but speak a slightly different language.”
MJ: Why eleven hundred? Why can’t we all get on the same page?”
GN: “It’ll happen. By divesting from fossil fuels that’s what they’re hoping to do: empower a divesture movement. But it’s truly a matter of educating our kids. Bring music and art, bring imagination, back into the classroom and watch new thinking, new ideas, arise.”
MJ: As a world citizen, do you see the same attack on education throughout the world as in the States?
GN: “No. No, I don’t. It’s not like that in Indonesia. It’s not like that in China. It’s abysmal here.”
MJ: Most readers of Wild Tales will discover for the first time your other artistic achievements: Your photography is globally acclaimed. Your digital art is setting standards while the founding role you played in the realm of digital printing cannot be understated (www.nasheditions.com). You’re a new grandpa. Do you still fret your cool quotient?
GN:“Miles is cool. Belafonte is cool. Am I cool? I don’t know. I try to create something of beauty everyday. Sculpture, music, art . . .a great cup of tea. Creating beauty advances mankind forward.”
MJ: Any recent wild tales?
GN: “I was at a book signing in Manchester and this bloke hands me an envelope and says I should look at it later. So I get back to the hotel and open the envelope. It was my report card from when I was eleven and the teacher’s remarks were ‘this boy wants to know everything.’ And that’s who I am.”
Original interview re-published with permission from Elmore Magazine (www.elmoremagazine.com)
For this reprint new content has been added.