Great Encounters #34: What David Crosby told Miles Davis about Davis’ recording of “Guinivere”

March 18th, 2014

Graham Nash tells a story about how bandmate David Crosby reacted to Miles Davis’ cover of Crosby’s song “Guinivere,” which Davis recorded during the Bitches Brew sessions in 1970, and was subsequently released in 1979 on Circle in the Round (also released on The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions).

Excerpted from Graham Nash: Wild Tales, a Rock & Roll Life

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Graham Nash and David Crosby

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Miles Davis

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“Lady of the Island”…was a three-track record on an eight-track tape that we got on one take. Me singing and playing guitar, with Crosby sitting right next to me, blending in that beautiful cellolike fugue. We also got a gorgeous take of “Guinevere,” which is a motherfucker to sing. Years later, it was catnip for a cat like Miles Davis. He was working on Bitches Brew at the time and bumped into Crosby in the Village. “Hey Dave,” he said, “I recorded that tune of your, ‘Guinevere.’ Want to hear it?” Miles had his arm around a tall leggy blonde he wanted to screw, so all of three of them went back to his apartment to hear “Guinevere.” Miles put on the song, a twenty-minute version that riffed in myriad cosmic directions, and went into the bedroom with the blonde, leaving David there to smoke it and listen to the track. A half hour later, Miles emerged from the bedroom rendezvous. “So, Dave, what do you think?” Crosby threw him one of his trademark glares. “Well, Miles, you can use the tune, but you have to take my name off of it.” Miles was crestfallen. “You don’t like it?” he asked. Crosby refused to temper his opinion, even for royalty like Miles Davis.

“No, man – no. I don’t like it at all.”

About ten years later, I was at an after-party event for the Grammys at Mr. Chow in LA and saw Miles come in with Cicely Tyson. He caught my eye and started waving insistently at me. I looked over my shoulder, certain he must be gesturing to someone else. “No, no, c’mere, man,” he insisted. When I got within earshot, he leaned close and asked in his low, gravelly voice, “Crosby still pissed at me?”

I said, “You mean about Guinevere’?”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “He still pissed?”

“I don’t think so, Miles. He was either too high or he wasn’t in the right mood to hear your take on it. He probably expected the chords to be the same as his, but I don’t think he’s pissed at you one bit.”

Miles pondered this with Socratic intensity. “Okay. Tell David hello. Tell him I hope he’s not still pissed.”

__________

Excerpted from Graham Nash: Wild Tales, a Rock & Roll Life

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Crosby, Stills and Nash play “Guinivere”

Miles Davis plays “Guinivere”

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6 comments on “Great Encounters #34: What David Crosby told Miles Davis about Davis’ recording of “Guinivere””

  1. Just revisited this subject after hearing an interview with Crosby with Marc Maron on his WTF podcast. Pretty much matches the story David told recently, so it’s authentically consistent except David got the impression Miles was pissed at his reaction- maybe they both were. They are pretty different and focus on different aspects. Miles takes the main riff and builds a completely new song around it, but it’s done with care and respect- both tracks are unique with a family tie of that theme, both are great in their own right.

  2. Just revisited this subject after hearing an interview with Crosby with Marc Maron on his WTF podcast. Pretty much matches the story David told recently, so it’s authentically consistent except David got the impression Miles was pissed at his reaction- maybe they both were. They are pretty different and focus on different aspects. Miles takes the main riff and builds a completely new song around it, but it’s done with care and respect- both tracks are unique with a family tie of that theme, both are great in their own right.

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