Picks and Pans Review: Long Time Gone

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by David Crosby and Carl Gottlieb

A decidedly unconventional autobiography—disjointed and often fascinating—this book begins with pop singer David Crosby's 1983 medical charts from a pair of drug detox units. An equally appropriate preface would have been this quote from his young daughter, which appears later in the book: "I love Daddy, but he's always in the bathroom." The subject's own jottings rarely extend beyond a page at a stretch. They alternate with recollections from people in Crosby's life, ranging from a prep school Latin teacher to Peter Fonda. These sections offer more detail and insight than Crosby's own gauzy, rationalization-rich memories, and the passages from co-author and old friend Carl Gottlieb offer additional context. The brevity of Crosby's sections can't disguise the fact that he's no writer. ("Dylan affected me. No question about it. The man was one of the major poets of our time. There was no way around it.") He isn't even much of a yarn-spinner, which is a shame. He has some great anecdotes, like the one about the time an insulted Janis Joplin knocked Jim Morrison unconscious with a bottle of Jim Beam at a party at John Davidson's house. (Don't worry, Hollywood Squares fans: Davidson's girlfriend at the time threw the party while John was out of town.) The son of a cinematographer, Crosby grew up in wealthy Santa Barbara, and after high school he drifted to the nascent folk movement in Greenwich Village. Eventually he was at the center of the '60s-70s golden era of L.A. hippie troubadours as part of the Byrds and then Crosby, Stills and Nash. The rock life-style agreed with him—right up until it nearly killed him. In the book one participant in a 1974 Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tour recalls being forced to discuss business with Crosby in a hotel room while a woman was administering sexual services to the singer. That revelation launches the "Cros" into a heated denial and an incoherent defense of his sex life. ("I'm a very inventive guy and used a lot of imagination. Nobody was idle. Waste not, want not.") For an avatar of the ostensibly peace-loving Woodstock generation, Crosby was an amazing gun freak, often taking a loaded .45 onstage. He once held a gun on a Château Marmont parking attendant who had told him to move his car and said, "Do you really want to die now? Here? Just like this?" If he liked guns, he liked freebasing cocaine even more—although he got into that habit only after years-of snorting the drug dissolved his nasal septum, making sniffing impossible. Crosby was so addicted his body was covered with burns from passing out with the propane torch needed to ignite his cocaine still flaming next to him. He was so wasted after years of abusing cocaine and heroin that when it came time to face two of many drug and weapons charges, his lawyer says, Crosby wasn't even aware he was in court. On the day in 1983 he was found guilty of cocaine possession and carrying a loaded handgun into a nightclub, he kept nodding out; he served 13 months in Texas jails, an enforced detoxification that he admits saved his life. Crosby is such an extreme burnout he can't be trusted to tell his own story, so his parts of the book must be read skeptically. Considering the monumental self-abuse he has endured, though, it's no wonder his autobiography is so erratic. The miracle is that he survived to tell any tale at all. (Doubleday, $18.95)

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