|Single by Crosby, Stills & Nash|
|from the album Crosby, Stills & Nash|
|Crosby, Stills & Nash singles chronology|
"Marrakesh Express" is a song written by Graham Nash and performed by the band Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN). It was first released in May 1969 on the self-titled album, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and released on 45 in July with another CSN song, "Helplessly Hoping". The single reached No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 23, 1969.
"Marrakesh Express" was written by Graham Nash during his final years as a member of the English rock band, The Hollies, of which he was a member from its formation in 1962 until 1968. The band rejected the song as not commercial enough, but it found a home with Nash's new band Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Nash recalled his inspiration for the song occurring during a Moroccan vacation he took in 1966. On the trip, Nash traveled by train from Casablanca to Marrakesh. He began the journey in First Class, surrounded by people he found to be uninteresting—as he described it, they were all "ladies with blue hair." Upon this observation, he decided the compartment was "completely fucking boring", so left his seat to explore the other train carriages. He was fascinated by what he saw.
The song mentions "ducks and pigs and chickens," and that, according to Nash, is actually what was there. He recalls the ride by commenting: "It's literally the song as it is—what happened to me."
The instrumentation of the song seeks to embody Nash's lyrics through an Eastern vibe and a "buoyant" flow to resemble a train ride. Stephen Stills was responsible for much of the creative musicianship, adding a vital inclusion of a riff played on two overdubbed electric guitars in a way reminiscent of the sitar. He also added Hammond B3 organ, piano and bass. The song was rounded out by Nash's acoustic guitar, drums by Jim Gordon, and the group's trademark three-part vocal harmony.
First concert performance
The first public appearance of "Marrakesh Express" was at the Woodstock Music Festival. Between 3 am and 4 am on August 18, 1969, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young came together as a band for the second time in public and performed a set that included what Graham Nash called "a medley of our hit," referring to this song, the first single from their debut album. (Neil Young did not play during the acoustic part of their set which included "Marrakesh Express.)
Reception and current appeal
The song has gained attention throughout the years and has remained popular since its release in 1969. Throughout the decades of touring done by Crosby, Stills and Nash, and the sometimes Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, "Marrakesh Express" is the ninth most-played song by them, and has been performed over 450 times. A Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tribute band is named, “Marrakesh Express: A Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Experience.” The song has also gained negative attention, most notably by the Stooges' singer, Iggy Pop. In a 2003 Rolling Stone article, Iggy Pop mentions the band in response to a discussion of the band's creation acting as a counter against the "hippie movement". He exclaims, "I mean, 'Marrakesh Express?' It may be the worst song ever written."
In 2012, the song was recorded by the famous private party band The Gypsy Queens for their eponymous album The Gypsy Queens, featuring Graham Nash himself and produced by multiple grammy winner producer Larry Klein. It was recorded at Jim Henson Studios in Los Angeles, (Jim Henson Company). The Album reached #46 in the English charts.
- Zimmer, Dave. Crosby, Stills & Nash: The Authorized Biography. Da Capo Press, 2000.
- Greene, Andy. “Track by Track: Crosby, Stills Nash on Their Self-Titled Debut | Music News | Rolling Stone.” Rollingstone.com. Accessed September 12, 2013. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/track-by-track-crosby-stills-nash-on-their-self-titled-debut-20080818.
- Fricke, David. “David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash & Neil Young.” Rolling Stone no. 838 (April 13, 2000): 92.
- see video
- Devenish, Colin. “Stooges Reopen House | Music News | Rolling Stone.” Rollingstone.com. Accessed September 12, 2013. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/stooges-reopen-house-20050623