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The Smith Tapes Ezra Bookstein

The Smith Tapes

Ezra Bookstein

Details: Paperback
Pages: 416
Color: 48 B/W
Publication Date: 10/20/2015
Rights: World
ISBN: 9781616893835

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Between 1969 and 1972, Village Voice "Scenes" columnist, WPLJ FM radio host, and cult figure Howard Smith got to the heart of the counterculture through personal conversations and hard-hitting interviews with Mick Jagger, Frank Zappa, Andy Warhol, R. Buckminster Fuller, leaders of the feminist movement and the Gay Liberation Front, a narc agent, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and scores of other iconic and influential personalities, including musicians, artists, filmmakers, actors, writers, politicians, and social activists, from countercultural luminaries to everyday revolutionaries and everyone in between.
The Smith Tapes transcribes, for the first time, sixty-one of those recorded sessions, from an archive of more than 150 reels unearthed after more than forty years. Edited by documentary film writer and director/producer Ezra Bookstein, this book reveals the time capsule that Smith ingeniously captured, and contains raw and unscripted talks that take you right into the midst of a transformative cultural and musical explosion.

  • Includes candid photographs from Smith's personal archives
  • Sixty-one interviews with legends of the counterculture, transcribed for the first time
  • Pivotal interviews include John Lennon and Yoko Ono discussing the Beatles shortly before the break'p and Janis Joplin's last ever interview
  • Smith has been hailed as the preeminent reporter on the counterculture by Vanity Fair

Editorial Reviews

Anthony DeCurtis, Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone

It's rare that an interviewer helps to shape his era as much as his best-known subjects, but that is the case with Howard Smith. Smith reported from inside the counterculture, which built trust with his subjects, but his intelligence, curiosity and tenacity take these conversations to places to places no one could have predicted -- even Smith himself. These interviews -- with writers, rock stars, filmmakers, politicians--have lost none of their immediacy. Decades later, they remain gripping, essential reading.

David Browne, author, Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY and the Lost Story of 1970

Whether it's John Lennon wrestling with the future of the Beatles, Norman Mailer explaining why he wants to enter politics or James Taylor pondering oncoming fame, Howard Smith's interviews are vivid, candid snapshots of major cultural and political figures during a tumultuous era in our country. Each conversation in The Smith Tapes is a micro-history of our times.


The Smith Tapes overflows with important thoughts and ideas, genuine wisdom, contradictions, and the absurd, which is what we always inherit from the past. We could read it and think, Well, that was then and this is now. That would only perpetuate the problem, however. So maybe today is the day we really start thinking about what we heard yesterday and how it might just help us save tomorrow.

Record Collector magazine

A priceless chronicle of last century's most pivotal era. Between 1969 and '72, Village Voice mainstay Howard Smith's WPLJ radio show was a voice from the front line through intimate encounters with rock stars, movie new- bloods, cultural figureheads and political prime movers. The 61 interviews gathered here sat in Smith's loft for decades until excavated and restored by Ezra Bookstein, who does an immaculate job presenting highlights. Many interviewees were at crucial times in their career and sound unusually relaxed in their interviewer's company.

New York Times

As a columnist at The Village Voice and a radio host, Howard Smith, who died in 2014 at 77, chronicled and helped to shape the counterculture. The Smith Tapes collects his interviews with Jerry Garcia, Andy Warhol and dozens of other stars from 1969 to 1972. They're full of candid admissions. But the collection is perhaps most notable for how it captures in amber the blissed-out, peace-seeking tone of those years.