Think “Woodstock” and the mind turns to the seminal 1969 festival that crowned a seismic decade of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. But the town of Woodstock, New York, the original planned venue of the concert, is located over 60 miles from the site to which the fabled half a million flocked. Long before the landmark music festival usurped the name, Woodstock-the tiny Catskills town where Bob Dylan holed up after his infamous 1966 motorcycle accident-was already a key location in the ’60s rock landscape.
In Small Town Talk, Barney Hoskyns re-creates Woodstock’s community of brilliant dysfunctional musicians, scheming dealers, and opportunistic hippie capitalists drawn to the area by Dylan and his sidekicks from the Band. Central to the book’s narrative is the broodingly powerful presence of Albert Grossman, manager of Dylan, the Band, Janis Joplin, Paul Butterfield, and Todd Rundgren-and the 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 and associations of artists as diverse as Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Tim Hardin, Karen Dalton, and Bobby Charles (whose immortal song-portrait of Woodstock gives the book its title).
Drawing on numerous 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. This is a richly absorbing study of a vital music scene in a revolutionary time and place.