Monday, October 4, 2010

Back to the Garden – The Story of Woodstock and How it Changed a Generation by Pete Fornatale

(Simon and Schuster) Maybe I have just had a limited scope in my music reading, but to me the “oral history” format , an assembly of grouped quotes by various figures making either a cohesive or (as is the case here) Rashomon-esque narrative, has been best used in punk history books. It makes sense. of course, that something underground, under documented, and contained to small spaces can be best tackled by hearing the direct quote reports of those who were there. So it’s a pleasant surprise to see that Fornatale (who doesn’t push the “I was there” aspect too much, though he quotes his college radio DJ improvised plug for Woodstock verbatim) was able to make the most bloated, overly-documented, grand rock music event ever come alive through this format. It’s great to hear that our eyes lied to us in that fine documentary (or that Woodstock was more of a successful documentary than Woodstock was a successful festival), and it’s great to hear vastly differing opinions not only on what actually happened but on what it all meant (that some of the vastly differing opinions come from the same people, like Pete Townshend makes it even better). I used to watch the movie all the time, and I honestly feel like I know 5 times what I knew about Woodstock from reading this!

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