Biographies & Memoirs


The Caesar bangs and straightlaced-student look that had once graced Simon and Garfunkel album covers were gone. In their place on the afternoon of December 2 was Paul Simon’s counterculture makeover: longish hair pulled behind his head in a knot, beard, and red-checkered work shirt.

In an interview earlier in the year, Simon had put down “San Francisco groups” and acid rock; his fastidious, perfectionist side had no use for ramshackle songwriting or musicianship. Not only did he now resemble one of those musicians; he was on their turf at Columbia’s new San Francisco studio on Folsom Street, just south of the city’s seedy Union Square area. In the control booth, Simon gazed through the glass at the trio of distinguished musicians he’d assembled: drummer Jim Keltner, fresh off the Delaney and Bonnie tour and sessions with Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge; bass player Donald “Duck” Dunn from Booker T. and the MG’s; and keyboard player Michael Finnigan, who’d played on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland and was now the singer and organ player in a local band, the Jerry Hahn Brotherhood. Given their collective roots in soul, R&B, blues, and funk, they didn’t seem the model backing band for Simon. Trying to get comfortable with them, Simon joked with Dunn and told stories about his days playing rock and roll revue shows in New York.

Before work began, Rolling Stone reporter Ben Fong-Torres dropped by for an interview. Simon confirmed he was working on an album of his own, without Art Garfunkel, and admitted the project was a result of his partner’s film career—about which Simon was still quietly stewing. In a comment Fong-Torres didn’t include in the final version of the story, Simon groused that Garfunkel was “someone who had never acted and never been interested in the theater or movies until he met Mike Nichols.” For attribution, he confessed he only had a handful of songs and that some of them might be “dated” in two weeks’ time; he also said this was the first time he’d sung without his partner since at least 1966. Apparently Simon had already deleted memories of the Shea Stadium debacle from his mind.

After Fong-Torres left, Simon and the musicians tackled the work at hand. With loyal engineer and coproducer Roy Halee at his side, Simon asked the band to play one of his semi-formed songs. As they worked their way through it, a hard-to-read but unhappy expression took over Simon’s face. To Finnigan, it was clear Simon was casting about for a direction. “It didn’t have a real strong sense of purpose to me,” he recalled. “Most sessions I did were a little more clear.”

At one point, Simon emerged from the booth and approached Dunn, asking if he could borrow his bass. Despite Dunn’s reputation as a dependable and funky player—those were his parts on Otis Redding’s “Respect,” the MGs’ “Green Onions,” Sam and Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” and countless other Stax and R&B hits—Simon began playing a bass line himself to demonstrate what he wanted.

Dunn wasn’t amused. “Did you fly me all the way from Memphis just to give me a bass lesson?” he snapped, caustically.

With that, the musicians took a break. In the bathroom, Keltner, another formidable player, cracked, “Well, it looks like we got fired.” Finnigan was startled: What did he mean? They’d only started. Sure enough, all three were told not to come back the next day. The sessions were so exploratory they were never logged into Columbia’s tape archives, and none of their work wound up on Paul Simon, the wonderfully eclectic and acutely personal and witty album he would release in early 1972. As he moved into the great unknown, Simon needed more time to discover how he would sound, and fit into, a new decade.

With filming of Carnal Knowledge wrapping up, Garfunkel was already preparing his next role. In the coming spring, he would teach a geometry course at Litchfield Preparatory School in Litchfield, Connecticut. Like his partner, he would be a singer and instructor—and, he hoped, a revered actor as well.


The long-distance calls into Stephen Stills’ Elstead manor always arrived at night. “These heavy telephone things have lately gone down,” Henry Diltz noted in his journal. “Calls from agents, lawyers. People in disfavor.” On the line from Los Angeles during the first week of December was art director Gary Burden, who’d designed the cover for Déjà vu. With an eye toward a concert album for Christmas release, Atlantic had recorded Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young shows at three stops on their summer tour, New York, Los Angeles, and a rescheduled Chicago date. If the label couldn’t bring them together in one place, at least they could reunite them on record—and try to convince their audience that one of the preemiment bands of the year remained intact.

Hitting the holiday deadline shouldn’t have been too difficult, especially once Crosby, over Stills’ objections, insisted the group not correct any of their onstage vocal flubs. But Bill Halverson, who’d overseen the recordings, knew otherwise when it came to getting all four to agree on anything. Once he finished preparing a preliminary mix of the record, he’d bring it to one of them for approval. Even if that person okayed it, the next man would reject it: Maybe it didn’t sound right or didn’t have enough of his songs. Shuttling back and forth between London and the West Coast, Halverson had the distinct feeling he was the only one in touch with all four musicians. Halverson also had to ensure Stills and Young had the same number of bars of guitar solos in the “Carry On” and “Southern Man” jams—tracks so manic and messy that Halverson was forced to edit together performances from two different cities for “Carry On.” The circle went around and around for months, until an album planned for November was delayed until the spring of 1971.

They remained in four different and only occasionally overlapping worlds. Stills stayed ensconced in London studios for days at a time, making the album that would become Stephen Stills 2. Young had completed a solo tour that, like After the Gold Rush, launched him into a career of his own. Thanks to his tenure with CSNY, the public knew his name, and Young was no longer the struggling solo artist of a mere year and a half before. He was already planning the early 1971 sessions that would become Harvest.

In San Francisco, Crosby finished his solo album, called If I Could Only Remember My Name, and awaited its release in February 1971. In the meantime, he continued exploring his concept of a nonrestrictive, unconventional rock and roll band. With Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart of the Dead, he played three nights at the Matrix club in San Francisco in the middle of December. The creative rush of the album sessions spilled out onto the club’s intimate stage, the quartet playing several of its songs as well as space-jam versions of folk standards like “Motherless Child.” During a largely instrumental take on the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High,” Garcia’s guitar sweetly danced around the melody. Garcia took the lead on “Bertha,” a rollicking number he’d recently finished with longtime Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.

The shows were loose and informal, occasionally too much so: At times, the singing, chords, and rhythms felt enveloped in a marijuana haze. This wasn’t acid rock but acid-comedown rock. Crosby debuted “The Wall Song,” which he and the Dead had taped in the fall but wouldn’t release until later. The lyric, about someone “stumbling half blinded and dry as the wind,” was clearly about Crosby’s struggles over the past year—and, like the foggy music, hinted at a potential darkness. (“Could’ve been autobiographical,” he later recalled.) He also gave his first public performances of “Cowboy Movie,” his epic about CSNY and Coolidge. “It’s dinner time,” he said, sounding noticeably high. “. . . You got your Swanson TV dinner in front you ... And you tune into this bum movie on TV.” CSNY’s unruly summer felt more and more like a hokey shoot-’em-up western.

With Coolidge often at his side when she came up from Los Angeles, Nash opted for domesticity and home restoration, working on his own record and renovating his house. On New Year’s Eve, he found himself alone in his house overlooking the Haight. Sitting down at his keyboard, he dashed off one of his recurring lonely-guy love songs. “Girl to Be on My Mind.” “Come another year, I am sitting here . . . What’s happening to me?” he wrote. Even for someone as levelheaded and focused as Nash, it had been that kind of twelve months.


Allen Klein was thrilled. There he was, meeting with two of his favorite clients, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, on Klein’s home turf of New York. The Lennons had flown into town the first week of December, part of a trip to promote his Plastic Ono Band album, and they were already talking up the myriad projects they had in mind for their stay—making movies, for instance. Excitedly, Klein told them he’d hire a name like Richard Lester, who’d directed A Hard Day’s Night and Help! They’d “make millions!” as a result, he told them.

No, no, Lennon and Ono patiently explained—he didn’t understand. They didn’t want to make that kind of movie. They wanted to make underground art films, and they wanted to direct them on their own.

Shortly before he left England, Lennon gave an interview to Ray Connolly, his friend at the Evening Standard. “It seems so far away, like school or college,” he said of the Beatles, “because the whole thing died in my head long before all the ruckus started.” Lennon’s month-long visit to Manhattan bore out that comment. Checking into the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, he and Ono threw themselves into the Manhattan art, film, and music world with a newfound frenzied intensity. To friends like Dan Richter, who accompanied them, Lennon seemed reborn. Constantly on the phone in his hotel room, making calls and plans as he wrote new songs and immersed himself in American television, Lennon was clearly not the same detached, depressed person who’d started the year in Denmark.

To Richter, Lennon clearly craved the respect of the art world—as if his Beatles music weren’t legitimate enough—and he responded to Ono’s way of conveying her unconventional art projects to the masses. One of his and Ono’s first meetings, in the East Village, was with envelope-pushing filmmaker and writer Jonas Mekas. Ono had been making experimental movies for several years, but now that Lennon had joined in, Mekas proposed showing some of their joint films at a film festival at the Elgin, a theater in Chelsea. For the occasion, Lennon and Ono volunteered to make two new movies to premiere at the festival. Inspired by Ono’s book of conceptual art projects, Grapefruit, they set up a camera at a space near Columbus Circle and, by word of mouth, phone calls, and any other means necessary, convinced a steady stream of musicians, actors, photographers, artists, and members of the Andy Warhol crowd to drop by. Upon their arrival, each would be asked to walk into a stall off to the side, take off their clothes, and don a robe. When they stepped in front of the camera, Richter would ask each to turn around and hand him the robe. The resulting movie, Up Your Legs, amounted to nearly ninety minutes of filmed butts, culminating in Lennon and Ono’s own naked rears.

The next day, Ono and Lennon took over photographer Robert Frank’s loft on the Bowery, where they auditioned female actresses for their second film. Given that that woman would have to lie spread-eagled on a bed as flies crawled around her, it wasn’t easy to find the right person, but they ultimately did in underground actress Virginia Lust. Since flies don’t normally walk for long periods of time, Richter used a technique he’d learned on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey: He and others rounded up as many live flies as possible (easy enough to do on the decrepit strip that was the Bowery), put them in coffee cans, and sprayed them with CO2 to temporarily stun them. The flies, over two hundred of them, crawled over Lust’s nude body, resulting in an even more mesmerizing short film, Fly.

With statements like those, Lennon wanted the world to know he was no longer a Beatle. He was an ex-Beatle, and a multimedia ex-Beatle to boot. On December 8, he sat for the first of two long interview sessions with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner. The conversations would prove cathartic for Lennon and Beatle fans alike, with their page after page of Lennon talking openly about the infighting in the band, heroin, primal scream, and McCartney’s issues with Klein. “The Beatles,” he said at one point, “was nothing.”

Three days later came his all-out declaration of independence, Plastic Ono Band, the album he’d recorded in the fall. Billboard called it “selfdetermination music,” certainly less snide than the magazine’s assessment of Harrison’s All Things Must Pass as “a masterful blend of rock and piety.” Although no one imagined a Harrison album would make a larger impact than one by the others, All Things Must Pass nevertheless defied expectations. “My Sweet Lord” became a number one single, with EMI rushing to press one hundred thousand copies a week by year’s end. On December 26, All Things Must Pass was number 2 on the album charts (Led Zeppelin III still commandeered the top slot), followed by Stephen Stills (number 4), Sweet Baby James (10), and Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band (14). After the Gold Rush and McCartney were hovering nearby as well.

As a group, the Beatles had had another profitable year. The Let It Be album earned $1,441,766 in American sales, and a total of 2,378,000 British pounds in royalties. (ABKCO’s share amounted to 475,642 pounds.) The Beatles’ annual income for the year was $10.4 million. On December 28 and again two days later, two $500,000 checks for Apple Corps were delivered to ABKCO for disbursement.

But the joint venture wouldn’t last long: Unbeknownst to the others, the time had arrived for McCartney and his legal team to begin the process of legally dissolving a partnership that dated back to April 1967. On December 31, David Hirst, one of McCartney’s lawyers, had writs hand-delivered to Lennon, Harrison, Starr, and Klein. Among the charges, the papers claimed, was that “the Defendants have taken it on themselves to exclude the plaintiff from his proper share in the conduct of the partnership.” The writ deliveries were straight out of a movie that could have been called Let It Be: The Sequel. Starr was at home having dinner with his wife, Maureen, when a court officer showed up. Lennon’s was delivered to the Regency and Harrison’s to his Friar Park estate. “Fuck,” Harrison said to Klaus Voormann, who was still living in a cottage on his property. Since the writ ordered them to respond within eight days, an associate in Klein’s New York office signed the delivery notice on behalf of them all.

Although some assumed McCartney’s team had chosen New Year’s Eve for tax-deadline purposes, the reason was far simpler and pettier. The feeling was that the other Beatles and Klein had messed with McCartney’s head too much during the previous twelve months. Now came payback—McCartney’s way of having the last word, on the last day of the year. New Year’s Eve plans resumed, but a pall hung over them. As someone in McCartney’s camp said, it was his way of saying, “Welcome to 1971.”


Among those who returned to school in the fall was Vietnam Moratorium co-organizer David Hawk. Like many of his fellow activists, Hawk felt the need for a break after three or more nonstop years of demonstrations, organizing, and frustrations. The midterm elections had been heartening in some regards, but the war dragged on, and the aftershock of the Summer Festival for Peace lingered: The concert lost money, not raising a cent for peace candidates. In need of downtime, Hawk resumed studies for his master’s in theology at Union Theological Seminary at Columbia. “Sitting and reading,” he recalled, “was a nice change.” Since there was no reason to keep his hair short in order to look presentable to bureaucrats, Hawk let his locks grow out.

As Hawk noticed, the campuses were more subdued than they’d been earlier in the year. At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the site of the infamous lethal bombing a few months before, a Time reporter on the James Taylor beat noted that “the campus is relatively quiet this year compared to last season, and a feeling of pensive, enlightened apathy seems to have set in.” Similar reports began emerging from other media outlets probing the first semester after the deaths in Ohio. First came a Time report on the “New Campus Mood,” which noted “a new climate on U.S. campuses this fall—a new mood of detachment that may well signal the end of large-scale student activism.” The revamped activism, it reported, “generally takes the form of community work or attempts to build various kinds of communes.” Frank Rich, a twenty-one-year-old student and editorial chairman of the Harvard Crimson (and future New York Times theater critic and columnist), told the magazine, “Students are still concerned about the war, racism and poverty; some are very active with ecology groups. But most are just waiting, with their pot and their Dylan records, for the grass to grow through the concrete.” (By then, many had moved on to Taylor, Cat Stevens, and Neil Young, but he was still right.)

The story’s angle—college students far more docile in the wake of campus turmoil—was reiterated in one outlet after another. “Kent State frightened a lot of students—there’s a feeling that if you demonstrate, you get hurt,” a student at Hofstra University told the Times in a December 20 story. Pointing out a rise in heroin use and a wave of students “tired of radical rhetoric,” “endless demonstrations,” and other late ’60s facets of college life, the story noted that “the calm on most of the country’s campuses this fall has been so pervasive as to have been almost unsettling.”


The final week of the year, Billboard declared “Bridge Over Troubled Water” the best-selling single of 1970, the LP of the same name the top album. Although Sweet Baby James was fifteenth on the album list, the magazine knowingly gave its “Trendsetter Award” to James Taylor.

Taylor and manager Peter Asher were preparing to set further trends in the new year. Asher had begun mapping out a bigger-scale tour for 1971. In the surest sign of his ascension in the culture, Taylor would be moving from theaters and clubs into arenas, with some tickets priced at an unheard-of $7.50. In New York, where he’d played the tiny Gaslight the previous March, he’d be headlining Madison Square Garden. To ensure that those in the less expensive seats would be able to take in Taylor’s every facial-muscle movement, massive TV monitors would be used for one of the first times in a pop tour.

In one of his last shows at an intimate theater, Taylor headlined the Fillmore East on January 25, 1971. Bill Graham’s open letter to the industry, written in his Fillmore office over the summer and published in music-trade magazines soon after, had caused its share of discussion, but had had little impact. Already, younger promoters in the New York area were salivating at the idea that the Fillmore would play its final note and their venues would take its place. They knew fans had far more attachment to musicians than to where they played. The Fillmore East would shut down in June of that year, almost a year after Graham’s letter.

During his show, Taylor performed a woeful rendition of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” It was a savvy choice: Paul McCartney, his former overseer at Apple, was in the house. Once again, as at the CSNY show at the Royal Albert Hall in January, McCartney sat watching an industry buzz act perform one of his songs. When he finished, Taylor told the crowd it was “a song written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Mr. McCartney’s in the audience tonight—let’s have a big hand for Paul.”

Craning its collective neck, the crowd broke into whoops and applause. It wasn’t quite the pandemonium of Beatlemania. But then, nothing would be again.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!