I recently finished reading David Browne’s Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970, and had an absolute blast doing so. Please read it, while this playlist unfolds in the background. Here are a few of the music0-cultural insights Browne imparts regarding the subjects of his book, and their music.
[At the August 1970 Summer Festival for Peace in Shea Stadium] Knowing that any destruction of the grounds would result in fines, [Peter] Yarrow walked onstage and admonished the kids, saying they could feel free to jump on it [the Astroturf], but if they did, it would be akin to jumping on a dead soldier’s chest. To calm them down, he sang “Puff the Magic Dragon,” which, despite its reputation as a drug song, didn’t fully do the trick.
Rolling Stone’s [Jann] Wenner asked [John] Lennon about the trial and [Charles] Manson’s interpretations of some of his songs. “He’s balmy, he’s like any other Beatle kind of fan who reads mysticism into it,” he said of Manson. “ . . . I don’t know, what’s ‘Helter Skelter’ got to do with knifing somebody? I’ve never listened to the words properly, it was just noise.”
Everyone returned to Sunset Sound on December 17 and quickly cut “Suite for 20G,” named in honor of the amount of money they’d receive once they handed in the completed album. “Twenty thousand dollars was a lot of money back then,” [drummer Russ] Kunkel recalled. “It meant [James Taylor’s manager] Peter [Asher] could buy some furniture.”
“The Only Living Boy in New York” described [Paul] Simon’s ambivalent feelings about [Art] Garfunkel leaving for Mexico to film Catch-22. (Calling Garfunkel “Tom” was a furtive nod to their Tom and Jerry days, but few made the connection, since the duo excluded any references to those days and records from press releases.)
Driving back to Laurel Canyon from the airport, [Stephen] Stills glanced in his rearview mirror and saw a squad car. The moment was unintentionally comical, as if he was parroting the words to [David] Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair (“It increases my paranoia, like looking in my mirror and seeing a po-lice car” indeed).
Approximate playing time: 50 minutes.
- Simon & Garfunkel “Hey Schoolgirl / Black Slacks” (live, 28 November 1969)
- Peter, Paul & Mary “Puff, the Magic Dragon” (1963)
- The Beatles “Helter Skelter” (1968)
- Mary Hopkin “Those Were the Days” (1968)
- Crosby, Stills & Nash “49 Bye-Byes” (1969)
- The Beatles “Two of Us” (1969)
- James Taylor “Oh Baby, Don’t You Loose Your Lip on Me” (1970)
- James Taylor “Suite for 20G” (1970)
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young “Woodstock” (1970)
- Simon & Garfunkel “The Only Living Boy in New York” (1970)
- The Beatles “Let It Be” (1969)
- Simon Garfunkel “El Condor Pasa” (1970)
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young “Almost Cut My Hair” (1970)