We love him for his part in The Byrds, and we love him for the brilliant “If I Could Only Remember My Name”. We can take or leave Crosby, Stills & Nash really (though its better with Young) and we love all the stories. And we love him because he loves music. So we liked his story of going to see John Coltrane:
“During my Chicago stint, I had one of the best experiences I ever had in my life!” he begins with a warm chuckle. “I was living in an apartment with an English guy called Clem Floyd. His girlfriend was a little German hooker who was about four and a half feet tall. One day she said to us, ‘Do you wanna hear some real music? John Coltrane is playing on the South Side.’ So this attractive little German girl took Clem and I down to McKee’s – 163rd and Cottage Grove, way South. We were the only white people in the room.
“The way ’Trane played then was that the band would come out and the set was one song which would start out with ensemble playing. ‘Trane would warm up by blowing a little to get going, and they all took their time because they figured their set would be an hour long so they had time [to stretch out]. He’d play for a bit and walk off still blowing. Then McCoy Tyner would play.
“Now, with McCoy Tyner, I’d never heard anybody play piano like that. At that point ‘Trane had two bass players, Jimmy Garrison and Reggie Workman. They had a conversation that was stellar, and then it was Elvin Jones’s turn. Now, I will admit to being higher than three kites hooked up in series. I was so high, I was hunting geese with a rake. I was blitzed. Elvin Jones is a pretty intense drummer. I think that’s understating the case, don’t you? [His playing] pushed me up from the table and up against the back wall of the room! I’m standing there trying to hold on and I ducked into the men’s room.
“So I’m in the men’s room, I’m trying to come down just enough for me to stay on this planet, and I’ve got my face pressed against this tile. I can still remember the colour of this filthy, light puke-green tile. I’m leaning against it because it’s cool. And – blam! – someone kicks the door in and it’s ‘Trane. (Makes shrieking jazz noises, as if playing a sax) He’s doing that and by this point he’s burning! Burr-ning! (Makes more squalling jazz-orientated noises) Skee-sa-wee-eek-swark! And I’m up against the wall. He doesn’t even know this little fake kid’s in there. He’s playing in there because it’s a good sound. And at that point my mind ran out of my nose in a puddle on the floor!”
Crosby harnessed the vibe and turned the Byrds out using Coltrane’s modal conception and his own drug experiences to create the brilliant “8 Miles High”.