Photo: BBC/Tricia Yourkevich David Crosby Does a very good Graham Nash impersonation.
The 72 year-old singer-songwriter is sitting on a high stool in BBC's Maida Vale Studio Three, guitar across his lap, speaking to interviewer John Wilson about the evolution of Music Is Love, the opening track on his 1971 debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name.
The mood is suitably laid-back and confessional, allowing Crosby to joke about the work of the BBC backroom boys (“They're using smoke signals”), go off at abstract tangents and entertain the invited audience with a play for voices as he details the evening jam session with Neil Young and Graham Nash “just after we made Déjà Vu”, that gave rise to one of Crosby's most magical and timeless compositions, and led in turn to one of the greatest singer-songwriter albums of the decade.
This intimate freewheeling mood, allowing the interviewee to switch from songs to stories, is one of the reasons why BBC Radio 4’s Mastertapes works so well. Since starting in 2012, and now into its third series, Mastertapes has put Wilson in the studio with such esteemed performers and songwriters as Paul Weller, Suzanne Vega, The Zombies and Eliza and Martin Carthy. Recorded in front of a live audience, each edition includes two episodes, one where Wilson quizzes the artist about an album that made them or changed them, and then, in the B-side, where the invited audience asks the questions.
Wilson is a relaxed, confident interviewer as well as an enthusiastic fan and David Crosby is an artist at ease, happy to talk sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and sex (“We were obsessed with sex!”) and his life from The Byrds to the present day, but also willing to explain the heartbreak behind If I Could Only Remember My Name’s creation – “My girlfriend had been killed in a car crash and the only place I could exist was in the studio” – catalogue the album’s remarkable cast of characters – “Garcia would come every night. The Airplane and the Dead were recording in the same complex... They were all buddies of mine…” – and, with the help of his touring band, slip easily into remarkable freewheeling versions of The Byrds’ Eight Miles High and such otherworldly album highlights What Are Their Names, Laughing, and a truly remarkable Cowboy Movie.
As with last week's Robbie Williams episode, the Crosby Mastertapes is also happy to hand over some of the better questions to its invited audience for the B-Side half of the programme, so tune into both episodes if you want to hear David Crosby confirm the identity of The Indian Girl in Cowboy Movie and explain exactly why he thinks there will never be another Byrds reunion.
Check out two tracks from the evening here: