guilty pleasure monday: chicago (graham nash)

yippee! a song about abbie hoffmann and a few of his pals. seven, to be precise.

the story is a lot more complicated than this, but in short: protesters went to chicago to protest the war during the democratic national convention in 1968.  things got violent. hilarity did not ensue. the eight ringleaders of the experience were arrested: one, black panther  bobby seale, was bound and gagged and tied up to a chair as nash alluded because he was protesting that his attorney could not represent him (his attorney required gallbladder surgery) and he wanted to wait so that he could be represented by his attorney.  the judge was enraged, severed him from the trial, and threw him in jail for four years for contempt (an absurdly long amount of time for that offense, in my humble opinion.)

and then there were seven.

former hollies and CSN/CSNY member graham nash tends to write best when he’s protesting, like the gem immigration man. but chicago is an incredible piece of music. released in 1971, it may very well be the last song that had any ounce of 1960s optimism in it before it was completely beaten out of everyone (and they all gave in to a bummer of a bad trip known as watergate.)  in it, nash pleads with wildly-talented (and wildly-egomaniacal) bandmates neil young and stephen stills to join him in chicago just to sing. if the group got together to perform there, magical things could happen:

We can change the world
Re-arrange the world
It’s dying – to get better

unfortunately, i believe they both turned him down. i believe any convictions that the seven had were eventually overturned anyway, sans musical fanfare.

for me, this song brings back an extremely optimistic point in my life.  it was 1996, and i was working for a major american online service, helping to develop online content in a variety of areas. i had already helped develop an online astrology site, an online moms site, and a matchmaking site (which was eventually bought out by match.com), and i was truly enjoying a creative work period. it was definitely not one of the easiest parts of my worklife for reasons i’ll keep to myself; but in general, it was an exciting time to be on the bleeding edge of the popularization of the internet.

one of my boss’ secretaries had a boxed set of crosby, stills, nash and young, a box set i still covet to this day. other versions of many classic chesnuts appear in this four disc set — jerry garcia shows up with his slide guitar for a few numbers, for example. this wonderful woman let me borrow this set for what seemed like months; i listened to discs in my car on the way to work for a lot of that summer. and as i drove, thinking about all the novel ways that the internet was revolutionizing the world, the words had a particular resonance.

We can change the world
Re-arrange the world
It’s dying – if you believe in justice
It’s dying – and if you believe in freedom
It’s dying – let a man live his own life
It’s dying – rules and regulations, who needs them
Open up the door
We can change the world

sure, i was being absurdly idealistic; the next year, my job disappeared and only thanks to the deus ex machina known as my original company boss did i get another job in the company.

but for one brief shining moment, i really thought i was a tiny, tiny piece of a revolution.

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2 Responses to “guilty pleasure monday: chicago (graham nash)”

  1. Nice words… many thanks… If you send me your snail-mail address I’ll send a gift..

    Graham

  2. graham, you are a gem 🙂 i wrote and received an autoreply, so if i need to write again, just let me know. in the meantime, know that i’m a HUGE fan and hope you’ll keep writing amazing songs! ❤

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