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Think ‘Woodstock’ and the mind turns to the seminal 1969 festival that crowned a seismic decade of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But Woodstock itself was over 60 miles from the site to which the fabled half a million flocked. So why the misnomer? Quite simply, Woodstock was already a key location in the Sixties rock landscape, the tiny Catskills town where Bob Dylan had holed up after his 1966 motorcycle accident.
In Small Town Talk, Barney Hoskyns recreates Woodstock’s community of brilliant dysfunctional musicians, opportunistic hippie capitalists and scheming dealers drawn to the area by Dylan and his sidekicks The Band. Central to the book’s narrative is the broodingly powerful presence of Albert Grossman, manager of Dylan, The Band, Janis Joplin and Todd Rundgren – and Big Daddy of a personal fiefdom in Bearsville that encompassed studios, restaurants and his own record label. Intertwined in the story are the Woodstock experiences of artists as diverse as Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Butterfield, Tim Hardin, Karen Dalton and Bobby Charles.
Drawing on first-hand interviews with the remaining key players in the scene, and on the period when he lived there himself in the 1990s, Hoskyns has produced an East Coast companion to his bestselling L.A. Canyon classic Hotel California – a richly absorbing study of a vital music scene in a revolutionary time and place.
Hoskyns offers a pitch-perfect East Coast corollary to his classic tome on the Laurel Canyon scene, Hotel California.
[A]fascinating account of the epic influence and mysterious magnetism of this Dibley-sized corner of the Catskill mountains ... Hoskyns appears to have talked to everyone who ever lived here, and amasses their testimony with admirable grace and ease...[an] enthralling but melancholy tale.
Hoskyns paints a brilliant portrait of the colourful characters that turned this little patch of woods in upstate New York into a hotbed for much of the music that changed America ... stunning.
Hoskyns' love for the area, and the music it inspired ... shines throughout and drives this supremely evocative book, which also manages to set Woodstock's decline as a mirror to the changes riddling the outside world. Barney Hoskyns has painted his masterpiece.
Engrossing, enlightening... an important addition to a fuller understanding of how American music was shaped in the late sixties/early seventies and an impeccable guide to much of what was truly great about it.
Hoskyns scrapes away the myths to reveal the harder truths: of magnificent music created amid hard drugs, bent business deals, gossip, claustrophobia and bed-hopping.
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