Music Journalism A-Z – Paul Nelson

Music journalism is an arduous task. I have gained a better insight into what it takes to acquire journalism success in researching this A-Z series. Let’s review the dramatic effects that can befall a writer by examining the life and legend of Paul Nelson.

In the ’60s, Paul Nelson pioneered rock & roll criticism with a first-person style of writing that would later be popularized by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer as “New Journalism.”

Paul Nelson and a college buddy, John Pankake started their own Minnesota-based folk-music criticism magazine in 1961–Little Sandy Review. While Nelson stood in the audience and watched fellow University of Minnesota student Bob Dylan turn his acoustic-strumming folk music into an electric guitar thunderstorm, others in the audiences booed and threw various objects at Dylan. Paul Nelson however was quite mesmerized and wrote about Dylan’s new music stating rock would never be the same. Damned if he wasn’t right about Dylan way before others figured him out.

Mr. Nelson moved to New York City in 1963 where he became the managing editor of the folk music revival’s most important magazine, Sing Out! Two years later, when Mr. Dylan played his first electric concerts and was being booed by folk die-hard fans, Mr. Nelson wrote in defense of that musical change, and then quit Sing Out!

He was a pathfinder on to something profound in his 20s during the early ’60s. Paul Nelson crystallized the assertive nature of  the rapidly maturing rock scene producing an honest and direct criticism. The passionate yet literate pop-music writing he developed helped elevate the idiom to a respectable level.

In 1970, he took a job at the publicity department of Mercury Records and then became an A. & R. man there. He signed the New York Dolls, the anarchic glam-rock band later recognized as a major influence on punk. When the Dolls failed to sell, he was fired. He returned to Rolling Stone, where he wrote features and edited the record reviews section until 1983.

Reviewing Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps” for Rolling Stone in 1979, he wrote: “For anyone still passionately in love with rock & roll, Neil Young has made a record that defines the territory. Defines it, expands it, explodes it. Burns it to the ground.”

Mr. Nelson left Rolling Stone when a new format drastically shortened the reviews. He later lost interest in writing about music. He took a job working in a video store in Greenwich Village. He was found dead in his apartment of malnutrition and a heart attack in 2006. A tragic end to an innovative writer for arts and entertainment.

A posthumous work, Everything Is An Afterthought, The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson was assembled by ardent admirer Kevin Avery. The book collects 29 criticism essays and long articles of various kinds that Nelson wrote for Rolling Stone, The Village Voice and other publications, mostly during his prime years as a writer, from the mid-70s to 1990.


Johnny Winter – Roots

Johnny Winter_3553
Image by Dutch Simba via Flickr

Loading image ...You forget how good Johnny Winter is until you spin up his music. Then it hits you like a full force Texas tornado.

I had written awhile back that Johnny Winter was working on a new album in Stamford, Ct. Roots is the name of the Johnny Winter CD that was released on September 27th, 2011.  I picked it up today on Apple iTunes and brought it down from iCloud to my iPhone sound system in the car.

It celebrates the blues icons who led the way for Winter. Plenty of great guest stars to appreciate as listed on the poster below.

Johnny Winter’s vocals are strong throughout especially when they are accented by his trademark growl. His guitarmanship is as phenomenal as ever. My early favorite tracks are “Bright Lights,  Big City” which is a duet with Susan Tedeschi and “Dust My Broom” with her husband Derek Trucks.

My hat’s off to producer Paul Nelson who is doing great things for Johnny Winter’s career and for his long time fans.

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Johnny Winter Working on New Studio Album

I was very pleased to learn of Johnny Winter‘s moral victory of becoming drug free. It is a testament to the caring friendship of his manager and band mate Paul Nelson who helped Johnny get clean. The silver lining in all of this is that at age 67, Johnny Winter guitarist and bluesman is performing and recording some of the best music of his life.

The first recording I want to draw your attention to is Johnny Winter’s Live Bootleg Series Vol. 7. The liner notes were composed by Johnny’s good friend, Warren Haynes.

The tracks include:

1. Introduction
2. Don’t Take Advantage Of Me
3. Mean Mistreater
4. Blues Jam
5. Shame, Shame, Shame
6. Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
7. Leland, Mississippi Blues

Johnny Winter is also recording his first studio album in seven years here in Connecticut where he resides. The recording is being done at Carriage House Studios in Stamford, Ct. They plan to finish the studio recording, entitled Roots in March. You can read more about Johnny Winter, Paul Nelson, the band and special guest stars in the Stamford Advocate article here. We’re rooting for you Johnny!

Courtesy of The Connecticut Post

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