The Real Woodstock
On a charmed night in August 1969, residents of tiny Woodstock, New York, had the choice of seeing Van Morrison or blues great Johnny Winter, who were both in town performing at intimate venues. If that wasn't enough entertainment, Jimi Hendrix was a few blocks away, holed up in a converted Methodist church workshopping the rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" he'd make legendary just weeks later, 60 miles down the road at Max Yasgur's farm.
Veteran music journalist Barney Hoskyns' fascinating new history of Woodstock, Small Town Talk, explores one of rock's most mythic settings, drawing on interviews with dozens of residents and visitors, including Morrison, the Band, Todd Rundgren, Patti Smith and Bonnie Raitt, as well as memories from his own years living there during the Nineties. Hoskyns, who covered some of this ground in his 1993 biography of the Band, Across the Great Divide, details Bob Dylan's legendary work at Big Pink with the Band, and offers a complex characterization of Dylan's mercurial manager Albert Grossman, de facto mayor of the local counterculture. The book also shows how the area's idyllic energy was hard to maintain in a cloistered scene where, according to Band producer John Simon, "everybody was fucking everybody else."
Hoskyns writes that Woodstock "has become a kind of themed village of Sixties hippie life," and it's that loving honesty that helps him pin down the knotty reality behind the tie-dyed myth. – Jon Dolan