'...Like the album itself, Niven's story accupies that 60s fault line where hedonism and optimism turn to failure and melancholy...Niven's beautifu lly tragic mini-novel crawls inside the lonesome core of this one-off album, penning a heart-broken postcard from a past he never knew.'--Andrew Male "Mojo "
."..fans of the Bandshould grab a copy of John Niven's new "Musicfrom Big Pink, "part of Continuum's 33-1/3 series, to see how evocativelyfact and fiction can be married."- "ProvidencePhoenix, "January 2006
"Niven... delivers one of the more ambitious and lengthy books in the series, writing about The Band's extraordinary first album in the form of a novella.... Through his eyes we see a fictionalized but historically-rooted account of what it was like to be in or around The Band in 1968. The novella describes the circumstances of the album's creation and its sound, but is more than an oblique work of criticism. It is itself, like its subject, a grand work of art." -Ukula Magazine, "Spring 2006
Quote from Mark Gould, Sound Waves Magazine, 'This series is an absolutely brilliant idea'
."..fans of the Band should grab a copy of John Niven's new "Music from Big Pink, "part of Continuum's 33-1/3 series, to see how evocatively fact and fiction can be married."- "Providence Phoenix, "January 2006
The Band's 1968 debut album Music From Big Pink is the veritable Ur-text of Rock Snobbery, an artefact so definitive only the brave and deluded would even approach it (and they did). It inspired Greil Marcus - if not the Dean of Rock certainly a man with a wood-panelled office - to write Mystery Train, his first and maybe finest tome. This set of songs, cooked up in a rented house in bucolic Woodstock, New York, during breaks from their regular employer Bob Dylan, landed in the Swinging Sixties like a time capsule unearthed from the previous century. It was taupe in a Technicolor age, organic not synthetic, inhabited by the ghosts of an America which predated sound recording.
It was also fake, a work of smart artifice. Drummer Levon Helm apart, the Band were Canadian lads healthily fixated on songs previously presumed lost, and unearthed by archivists like Harry Smith and Alan Lomax. Although they toyed with names like the Crackers (way off the mark) or the more accurate Honkies, their drab monicker captured perfectly their undeniable precision. Dylan's first movie might have been called Don't Look Back, but his backing musicians started the trend for nostalgia. There's an argument that American rock music has yet to recover from 1968. Its dress sense certainly hasn't.
But writing anything new about this lovable cultural millstone is problematic. So as his contribution to Continuum's well-received 33 1/3 series of little books on big albums, John Niven has penned a novella inspired by the era's events. The narrator, Greg Keltner, a none-too-bright Canadian drug-dealer, moves in high and low places. He scores in the city then services the musicians of Woodstock, as the anonymous town chosen by Dylan as a bolthole rapidly becomes a hippy mecca. The temporarily connected Greg sneers at the rubes and hangs out with a cast of characters that includes an entire line-up of Sixties stars, a few of them still with us.
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Music From Big Pink is a moving book that succeeds not just in vividly evoking its time and place but in distilling one young man's cliched and minor destiny into something approaching tragedy.... This well-written first novel captures not just some of the dreams of that bygone era, but the way those dreams died.--Sanford Lakoff "The New York Times Book Review "
'This identically-titled novella, or smaller novel, part of an imaginative, unique series called "33 3/1," from Continuum Books, is just as solid, thought provoking and interesting as the album that inspired it.' Mark Gould, Sound Waves Magazine--Sanford Lakoff
-Greg Kamiya, The New York Times Book Review
Music From Big Pink is faction: real people like Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Bob Dylan and Albert Grossman rub shoulders with fictional characters and actual, documented events thread their way through text alongside imagined scenarios. Through the eyes of 23-year-old Greg Keltner, drug-dealer and wannabe musician, we witness the gestation and birth of a record that will go on to cast its spell across five decades - bewitching and inspiring artists as disparate as The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Travis, Wilco and Mercury Rev.