May Days: Small town talking

9780571309764Never Enough cover

I’m doing the following UK events this month to discuss Never Enough, Small Town Talk (shortly out in paperback), and anything else anyone might want to ask me about…

Mon 15 May 19:30 (MEMBERS ONLY)

Shoreditch House, 1 Ebor Street, London E1 6AW

Weds 17 May 19:30

The Woolpack Inn, 6 Fawcett Street, York YO10 4AH

Thurs 18 May 19:30

Wakefield Beer Exchange, 14 Bull Ring, Wakefield WF1 1HA

Tues 30 May 19:30

Studio 2 Parr Street, 33-45 Parr Street, Liverpool L1 4JN

Small Town paperback, out today


The U.S. paperback of my Small Town Talk is published today by Da Capo. Read more about it here and/or buy it on Amazon here.

“A portrait of the musical life of Woodstock, an idyllic artists’ community that turned into a rock ‘n’ roll soap opera.”
The Guardian, “The Best Music Books of 2016”

A San Francisco Chronicle “Top 5 Rock Biography of 2016”

“A breezy, gossipy read that takes you inside Woodstock, N.Y., during its glory days…The always-erudite rock critic vet Hoskyns effortlessly connects the dots in the notorious town’s history.”—Addicted to Noise, “Best of 2016: Top 5 Books”


Publishers Weekly, 2/15/16
An absorbing glimpse into events that shaped Woodstock, N.Y., into a haven for musicians. Hoskyns’s stunning book highlights some of the most memorable music in American history.

Record Collector, Issue 451
[A] supremely evocative book. Hoskyns has painted his masterpiece.

Rolling Stone, 3/24/16
Goes inside the myth, debauchery and creative fire of one of rock’s legendary towns. Hoskyns’ fascinating new history of Woodstock, Small Town Talk, explores one of rock’s most mythic settings [Hoskyns] pin[s] down the knotty reality behind the tie-dyed myth.

The Guardian (UK), 3/2/16
[An] enjoyable study of the New York upstate village. [A] fascinating account of the epic influence and mysterious magnetism of this Dibley-sized corner of the Catskill mountains. Hoskyns, who appears to have talked to everyone who ever lived here, and amasses their testimony with admirable grace and ease, chronicles the excesses that set in during the ’70s in unsparing detail.

No Depression, 1/28/16
Absorbing and in-depth. Hoskyns so powerfully evokes the feelings and vibes both good and bad of living in and through those halcyon and fraught days. In his pages[he] brings new life to old tales[A] captivating look at this sometimes sad and always fascinating scene that gave birth to Americana music.

Mojo, March 2016
Barney Hoskyns has come up with something novel in Small Town Talk. Instead of focusing on the concert which actually took place 60 miles from Woodstock he nails the magic, and mayhem, of the town which inspired the festival’s organisers to co-opt its name. Hoskyns offers a pitch perfect East Coast corollary to his classic tome on the Laurel Canyon scene, Hotel California. Better, he chronicles the seeds of the Americana movement, whose fetish for rural music resonates louder today than ever.

Financial Times, 7/1/16
Woodstock, the Catskills town where Bob Dylan recuperated after his motorbike crash in 1966, [is] a hippy oasis with a storied place in music history, well related in Small Town Talk.

Austin Chronicle, 6/17/16
Hoskyns examines the small upstate New York town that lent the festival its name and uncovers details long forgotten, and in some cases, previously unknown. There’s sex, plentiful drugs, and all sorts of rock & roll.

Best Classic Bands, 7/29/16
In a word: Illuminating. Small Town Talk is the story of refugees fleeing the chaos and paranoia of the rat race, embracing the peace and nature of this welcoming oasis, making some of the best (and sometimes worst) music of their lives, but ultimately discovering that leaving their demons behind was just another pipe dream.

Spectrum Culture, 8/4/16
Some scribes get it right. Barney Hoskyns is one. The reader is moved at a deep level by the drama that unfolds, as the town’s glory fades or, rather, evolves into something that trades on its past rather than creating an ever-brighter future. A book that will hold you in its grip from cover to cover and encourage you to think more deeply about a town that has seen its time come and go.

Montreal Gazette, 4/11/16
A book that eloquently serves as both tribute and eulogy to what people used to call the counterculture. It’s a clear-eyed look at the bohemia-friendly town where many of rock’s major figures found themselves living, working and playing in many cases, playing very hard indeed.”

Woodstock Times, 4/8/16
Hoskyns has spoken to, or spoken to those who have spoken to, almost everyone who was a player, large or small, on the cosmic-bucolic stage of Woodstock, and his affection for them all is on a par with his scholarship and his love and respect for the music and art they created. What’s really valuable about Small Town Talk is the way the author has tied the disparate strands together and braided them into a single, intimate, extensively researched, and color-splattered narrative. The definitive history of Woodstock’s emergence as a world-renowned musical Mecca.

New York Post, 3/13/16
[Hoskyns] tells the colorful history of this town that began its life as an artists colony in the early 20th century.

Counterpunch, 3/11/15
An in-depth look at the Woodstock music scene, that also provides a history of the artistic inclinations of the town itself Small Town Talk is loaded with legendary stories of rock and roll, some funny, some crazy.

Catholic Herald, 3/11/16
How did a Republican-voting rural town in the Catskills become a magnet for disaffected hippies and its very name a metonym for the entire 1960s counter-culture? This is the question Barney Hoskyns, one of rock ‘n roll’s most engaging chroniclers, sets out to answer in this compelling new book. Hoskyns has written a fascinating, poignant and elegiac book that is about much more than music, success and the gentrification of rural AmericaIn Small Town Talk, Hoskyns has taken this tale of smashed hopes and turned it into an allegory of the American dream and of all Edenic aspirations.

Rare footage of the Grey Cloud

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Apart from Dont Look Back and the 1977 Bearsville Picnic on the Old Grey Whistle Test, there’s precious little footage of Albert Grossman… so the Grey Cloud’s brief appearance in this YouTube clip of a 1981 launch party for Bearsville act the Johnny Average Band (featuring the aforementioned Brit and his wife/bandmate Nicki Wills, as well as other Woodstock luminaries incl. another Wdstk Brit, Bearsville engineer/artist John “Brian Briggs” Holbrook) is worth a look. Albert’s cameo kicks in at about 17 minutes. The venue is the old Woodstock Record Shop on Tinker Street, opposite the Village Green.

Words in your ears


A most convivial evening in Islington last night in the company not only of my former MOJO boss Mark Ellen and David “1971” Hepworth but of Tony Fletcher (in the middle, top pic), who talked so infectiously about wicked Wilson Pickett, subject of his great new biography. Both “chat shows” will be available soon in the Word In Your Ear podcast series. Thanks, fellas.

The Testimony of Robbie Robertson


MOJO gave me a mere 150 words on this, but here’s my tuppenceworth on “an unengaging and soulless read”…

THE BAND’S STORY continues to beguile: how did a group so rich in talent and promise implode so hopelessly, only to pull the rabbit out of the hat with such a spectacular leaving do?

Almost a quarter century after the late Levon Helm published his own autobiography, de facto Band leader/guitarist/songwriter Robertson finally has his own say in the solemnly-titled Testimony. (Did he, one wonders, wait for Levon to go before committing pen to paper?)

The sad truth is that Testimony makes for an unengaging and soulless read. While there’s much to learn and many gaps filled in for the curious, the book is written in a clichéd style of numbing if self-regarding banality. However much sympathy one has with Robertson’s desperate attempts to herd The Band’s cats, there’s rarely the sense here of a flesh-and-blood human being behind the rote recollections.

Helm’s book may have been written by Stephen Davis, but the drummer’s irresistible voice was audible in its every phrase.

Robbie and Levon

Robbie Robertson comes in for a bit of a pasting in a Harper’s review of his autobiography Testimony (or at least on page 1 of it, the only one available to non-subscribers)… and I get a namecheck too. I’m about halfway thru’ the aforementioned tome and finding it fairly soulless, frankly.

Meanwhile here’s the (slightly sad) flipside of the Band story:


End of the Road gallery

In the Wiltshire drizzle for End of the Road: small-town-talking with Julian Mash; in the big top with Dumbo; listening to Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker with a seated Geoff Travis, book-signing with Travis Elborough; getting (two-toed) slothful with my darling wife Natalie… and harping on about the always exceptional Joanna Newsom.