Nobody comes across any sweeter than Jimi Hendrix in Back To The Garden, an insightful, backstage look at the 1969 Woodstock music festival.
Longtime New York radio broadcaster Pete Fornatale was there, and he combined his own recollections of that three-day music festival with those of the organizers, filmmakers, crew, and most of the artists on the bill. Garden was published last year but is now available in paperback.
I’m no Woodstock fanatic so much of this behind the scenes fodder was new to me, but this book probably offers a few fresh nuggets to even the most ardent pop scholars.
Hendrix’s name gets brought up often: hip, laid back, enthusiastic, sharing a bottle of whiskey with an unknown artist here, going out of his way to jam with another nobody there.
Of course, it wasn’t all peace, love, and Hendrix hipness. The backstage scene was a clusterfuck, with artists sometimes waiting hours or even days to perform. Some weren’t happy about waiting, others were so drugged out they begged to delay their appearances. Throw in testy band managers, alcohol, stress, nerves, and hunger, and the three days of peace and love sounded like three days of muddy cockfights at times.
“It was much better in the audience than it was backstage,” said Ten Years After frontman Alvin Lee, who partied with fans in front of the stage while waiting to play.
Fornatale writes Back To The Garden in an easy-to-read, chatty style that’s perfect for quick perusals during lunch breaks, potty breaks, or, for some folks, while driving down I-20 at 70 mph and applying makeup simultaneously.
The book’s attention to small details – all the big details have been thoroughly covered – gives a real sense of the anxiety and chaos happening during all the hippy-dippiness, even more so than the documentary.
You can almost feel the mud oozing between your toes and the LSD coursing through your frontal lobes. Then again, I might have been standing in mud and tripping on acid while I was reading the book. I can’t recall. But I do recommend Back To The Garden for a nostalgic, easy afternoon escape.
Back To The Garden: The Story Of Woodstock And How It Changed A Generation