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Why I ❤️ Crazy Horse, by Nazareth's Pete Agnew

Pete Agnew looking angry in front of the cover artwork of Crazy Horse's debut album
(Image credit: Sergei Fadeichev/Getty Images/Reprise )

"Because he gave the middle finger to the business so many times and wrote all those incredible songs, I really admire Neil Young. But Crazy Horse were a lot more than just Neil’s backing band. 

“Back in the very early 70s I was more into the laid-back American rock bands than many of the British ones. As good as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Spooky Tooth were, Britain didn’t have anything that sounded like The Band or Little Feat

“I first got into Crazy Horse, the band, through hearing their song Gone Dead Train in the movie Performance. In rotation with stuff by Little Feat and Jackson Brown, we [Nazareth] played Crazy Horse, the album, in the van as we drove to gigs across Scotland. 

“It really affected us all. In fact when Nazareth became a recording band we covered two of its songs: our version of Gone Dead Train [from 1977’s Expect No Mercy] became a very successful single, and we still sometimes play Beggar’s Day, which was on the Hair Of The Dog album [1975]. 

“Crazy Horse must be one of the most covered albums of all time, because we were just about to record a third song – I Don’t Want To Talk About It – when we heard that Rod Stewart was doing a version for his Atlantic Crossing album. Rita Coolidge, Everything But The Girl and others have also had a go at that one."

“That we’d cover two songs from any album, let alone consider a third, tells you how much Crazy Horse connected with us. I’d never heard anything like it back then. You couldn’t call them country rock, but they had more of an acoustic quality than the electric-based records that were being made in Britain at the time. From the opening song, Gone Dead Train, to Crow Jane Lady, it was consistently strong. I loved the way they rotated the vocals and took turns at the front; it was a real band effort. 

“Keyboard player Jack Nitzsche, of Rolling Stones fame, wrote or co-wrote a lot of that album. He wasn’t what some people might consider a stylish singer, but that tortured voice of his really makes the album for me. And let’s not forget the late Danny Whitten, who also sang marvellously and had a hand in some of the album’s best songs, like I Don’t Want To Talk About It and I’ll Get By. Nils Lofgren wasn’t actually a member of Crazy Horse, but he was the album’s main guitar player, and Ry Cooder’s on there too. 

“Russ Titelman’s production is nice and raw. Perhaps the best thing you could say about this album is that it sounds thrown together, but of course it was incredibly thought-out."

Pete Agnew was speaking with Dave Ling. Nazareth's new album Surviving The Law will be released on April 15, and is available to pre-order now (opens in new tab)

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.