Music from Big Pink, Paperback Book

Music from Big Pink Paperback

Part of the 33 1/3 series

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


"Music From Big Pink" is a factional novella: a place where fictional characters rub shoulders with real people, and where actual documented events thread their way through the text alongside imagined scenarios.

Through the eyes of twenty-three-year-old Greg Keltner, drug dealer, wannabe musician, and hanger-on, we witness the gestation and birth of an album that will go on to cast its spell across forty years.

John Niven brings these characters to life with remarkable skill, and the result is an exhilarating, vivid, and powerfully moving book about the highs - and lows - of creating musical history.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Rock & Pop music
  • ISBN: 9780826417718

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This is part of the 33 1/3 series--each a novella of creative nonfiction that looks into the creation of a pivotal and memorable album. This particular book looks at The Band's first album, "Music From Big Pink". If you're going by number, this is number 28.This was vivid, fun, and a memorable read. It draws you into the scene of characters around The Band giving you humor and incredible moments of touching emotion. It brings back the music so that you'll want nothing more than to slip the album into your stereo, but I have a feeling that this would be a fun read even for someone who isn't familiar with the music it's based off of. The characters are memorable, and it feels as if you've wandered up to the window of a life you probably won't know yourself, but can certainly look into. And for anyone who's had those crazy musician friends, or has a year or so in their background when they had a bit too much fun--this will bring back some crazy memories I'm sure. It's not for everyone, but if this sounds entertaining, or if for that matter you're a fan of [Jesus' Son] or strains of pop culture, this is a fascinating read.

Review by

I didn't think I would enjoy this book as much as I did. 33 1/3 is a music criticism series that's been getting good reviews, but "Music From Big Pink" dispensed with the criticism and uses an album and a band as a jumping-off point for a novella about drug addiction and the seedier side of the sixties. Focusing on two Canadians: Greg Keltner, a drug dealer who finds himself well-placed for the Woodstock music scene; and Richard Manuel, singer & pianist for The Band, and the dealer's entrance to the larger scene in Woodstock. Greg's drug dealing run-ins with musicians are sometimes a bit of a stretch, such as the off-handedness of Lou Reed's cameos, and suffer the same repetitive "oh yeah, I know [insert musician's name here]. He's a bit of an asshole" approach. What's worthwhile are Greg's interactions with the scene in Woodstock which make up the first part of the book: the parties, the languid days, the music, the scene. Then, as the rest of the country takes note of what's going on in Woodstock and starts to congregate there, the seedier side begins to take its toll and you see the eventual slide of the hippie movement as an inevitability. While this isn't on the level of Greil Marcus's madcap criticisms, its an effort well worthwhile reading if only for the joy of listening to The Band's opus while imagining what it was like to be a hanger-on at that time.

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