During the first two-thirds of a 39-minute “Awards Chatter” interview, Hollywood Reporter columnist and podcaster Scott Feinberg and legendary rock star David Crosby seem to hit it off. But then Crosby starts to lose patience with Feinberg’s questions, which he regards as overly generic, simplistic and boilerplate.
Crosby seems particularly irked by Feinberg’s questions about Joni Mitchell, whom Crosby has known for over 50 years, first as a musical admirer, then a lover, then a creative partner, and then as an off-and-on friend. Crosby visited Mitchell after her 2015 stroke and was the first person to say anything substantive about her condition, or so I recall.
Things begin to go wrong around the 26 and 1/2 minute mark. And then during the last three or four minutes Crosby shifts into outright hostility, calling Feinberg “a dumb guy,” “an asshole”, a “dipshit”, an “idiot” and so on. Feinberg understandably wasn’t at all charmed by this. He also understands, I’m sure, that you can’t win ’em all. All interviewers try to get along with charm and intelligence, dealing the usual cards (upfront, polite, deferential), but some people are like oil and vinegar. You just have to shrug it off when this happens.
I think this was was actually a fascinating interview. Hundreds upon hundreds of podcast chats are posted on a regular basis these days, and for the first 25 or so minutes Feinberg vs. Crosby was just another amiable discussion that was ostensibly about promoting a film (i.e., David Crosby: Remember My Name). And then came the thorns and abrasions.
The first stirring of trouble happens at the 26:55 mark when Feinberg begins asking particulars of Crosby’s relationship with Joni Mitchell, which began in late ’67 or early ’68 (or something like that). Here are some roughly transcribed portions of the discussion — words and phrases are omitted but the gist of the interview is, I feel, fairly represented.
Crosby: I have to ask…are we going to go through my entire history, week by week?
Feinberg: No, no, no…
Crosby: Tell me what we’re doing here.
Feinberg: Well, what would you like to do?
Crosby: I’d like to talk about the last four records in a row that I just made.
Feinberg: Well, we have an hour so…
Crosby: Okay, we’re creeping along here. Uhm, I had already been living in Laurel Canyon.
Feinberg: Everybody knows retroactively what Laurel Canyon scene was about, but at the time was it known as a kind of artists’ community?
Crosby: No, hell no. We just trying to get above the smog. I had lived in L.A. and knew how bad the smog was. I had already been living in Laurel Canyon when I came back from Florida with Joni. We were just trying to get above the smog. You go up into the hills and there’s a smog line. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, could’t afford Beverly Hills, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to live downtown so…
Feinberg: It’s just that there are such differing recollections about you three guys initially got together.
Crosby (under his breath): Oh, God.
Feinberg: What [unintelligible]?
Then things got blunt.
Crosby: (pregnant pause) You’re asking me to do my entire history in the music business. Week by week here. I mean, I’m trying to be patient. To talk about stuff that everybody knows, that is historically all over the map. We haven’t talked about the documentary.
Feinberg: What did you think we were going to do?
Crosby: I wrote this [history] down in books. You could read it.
Feinberg: I have read it.
Crosby: Then why are you asking me about it?
Feinberg: Because the readers haven’t read it, and we’re doing this [interview] to try and get people to see the movie. But if you don’t wanna go there we don’t have to. We can stop right now. I’m not trying to make this unpleasant.
Crosby: It’s not unpleasant — it’s just kinda dumb. But go ahead. I mean, I can do this all day. But I think it’s dumb. I mean, everybody already knows this shit.
Feinberg: Okay, but I can tell you that people in their 30s and 20s don’t [know all this history].
Crosby: Okay, let’s go ahead.
Feinberg: (Pause) I mean, I have a bunch of questions.
Crosby: Go ahead.
Feinberg: [after long pause, obviously flustered] I think we…I don’t know. (another pause) What is the actual story of how you guys (CSN and then CSNY) first came together? As a band.
Crosby: I heard [Stephen] Stills sing. And I heard his songs. And I was very drawn to him. The guy was immensely talented. I went to see The Hollies at the Whisky a Go Go. And I listened to them [and Graham Nash in particular], and the guy was an incredible harmony singer. Maybe the best I’ve ever heard. And time passes and I got to know Stephen, and his songs were really good. “Helplessly Hoping”? And we were at Joni’s house one day, and Stephen was signing a song and Graham joined in with a top-part harmony, and it sounded really good. So we sang it again, and then again. And from that point on we knew exactly what we were going to be doing. For the next few years. Wasn’t any question. There aren’t that many people who can [get] a blend like that. The Beach Boys, Everly Brothers.
Feinberg: What were the strengths that each of you brought to the band?
Crosby: We knew what we were about ’cause we were song guys. When we were making that first album we knew. We knew we were making some of the best work of our lives. Right then. We had no idea if [we] would be a success or not. But we knew….we invite every friend we had at the time to come down and listen. Cass [Elliot], Joni…a lot of people.
Here’s where things went really downhill:
Feinberg: [Question about the massive highs and lows of ’69, the success of CSN album, the Manson murders, losing someone you love in a car accident]
Crosby: That was a tough one. It was hard. Heroin is a pain killer…that’s where the problem was. It doesn’t work, of course. It doesn’t work at all. Just makes things worse. And it led to my eventual downfall. I’m one of those lucky people who managed to get out on the other hand. To this day I am baffled about why I made it and so many of my friends did not.
Feinberg: So you had known Neil [Young] from Buffalo Springfield.
Crosby: Steven knew what Neil was. Once I heard Neil’s songs that he was writing. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to be in a band with that guy. Songs are the meat of the matter.
The launching of serious grenades begins around the 36-minute mark:
Feinberg: [Recites shorthand romantic history between Crosby and Joni Mitchell and then Mitchell and Graham Nash, and then asks “was it tough to perform a sing about her having moved on to someone else?” or words to that effect]
Crosby: So you didn’t watch the documentary?
Feinberg: Of course I watched the documentary!
Crosby: Then you need to go back and watch it again.
Feinberg: I…I’m queuing up a question for you.
Crosby: (pause) Graham was unquestionably the best person for Joni. And it was a good match. I was quite happy about it.
Feinberg: And you recognized that [this song] was a special one in this regard?
Crosby: [Quietly seething] You’re kind of a dumb guy, you know that?
Feinberg: Well, I can understand why some of these other guys have a problem with you. If you don’t wanna do it, don’t do it. But don’t come here and insult me.
Crosby: And you’re an asshole, man. You fucking go through…fucking go through this kindergarten shit here.
Crosby: We could’ve talked about all kinds of serious stuff. And you’re going through fucking infantile crap. That anybody could’ve gotten out of a fucking book.
Feinberg: Yeah, well, okay…good.
Crosby: You’re a dipshit. [Crosby gets up and leaves.] Fucking idiot.
A few hours ago Cameron Crowe gave the podcast a listen and offered the following: “It’s 26 minutes of one of the best, most detailed Crosby interviews I’d ever heard. Make that 35 minutes of the best Crosby interview. I never knew John Sebastian was considered, and never heard that Stills rap about blues in the band. I’m telling ya, this is a high-quality interview.”