Going Into The City By Robert Christgau

NYU's Tisch School of the Arts
NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two years ago I attended the Experience Music Pop Conference 2013 New York at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. My major goal that day was to attend a session, Rock and Roll Was Here to Stay with Robert Christgau.


It turned out ideally to be an intimate conference room setting.  I sat to the adjacent left of Robert Christgau. I was jazzed to be in the company of the Dean of American Rock Critics. I have appreciated and respected Mr. Christgau’s album/book reviews for four decades. I loved his energy level coupled with his feisty, articulate nature. Robert Christgau read to us from his memoir-in-progress, Going Into the City. I couldn’t wait to learn more about Robert Christgau’s past and New York City.


I noticed when I went to follow Robert Christgau on Twitter that he was promoting that book as being available next month.

If you happen to be going into the city, Robert Christgau will be interviewed by Rolling Stone Magazine‘s Rob Sheffield at The Strand Bookstore on Wednesday, February 25th from 7-8 p.m. The event will be located in the Strand’s 3rd floor Rare Book Room at 828 Broadway and 12th Street in Manhattan(NYC).

I can’t attend due to a conflict but I did the next best thing I pre-ordered a signed copy to add to my music library.





Jack White On The Cover of the Rolling Stone

Jack White continues to receive strong publicity for his next album, Lazaretto which drops on June 10th. He appears on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine which will be available on newsstands and as a digital magazine for the iPad on Friday May 23rd.

I am interested in gaining an insider’s glimpse into the private world and psyche of one our best innovative, creative music minds. I complement Rolling Stone Magazine’s contributing editor Jonah Weiner for orchestrating what portends to be an illuminating view of Jack White and his world.

For those of you who feel similar I encourage you to read the RS Web article, “Jack White’s Private World: Inside Rolling Stone’s New Issue”.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/jack-whites-private-world-inside-rolling-stones-new-issue-20140521#ixzz32PH0A5BO
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Music Journalism – A-Z – Nick Tosches

Nick Tosches

Writing in a lineage that includes Dante, William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Hubert Selby, Jr., and Hunter S. Thompson, Nick Tosches may be America’s last real literary outlaw. 

nick tosches

Nick Tosches is an American journalist, novelist, biographer, and poet. Tosches began his writing with poetry and rock-‘n’-roll magazines. He wrote for CREEMFusion, and Rolling Stone. Like many of the music journalists featured in this series he started on very common publication grounds.


Nick Tosches first book was released in 1977 under the title Country: The Biggest Music in America The book is arranged like a fan’s scrapbook, leaping across time and subject

Nick Tosches’s next book, Hellfire a biography about Jerry Lee Lewis considered by many his music book masterpiece.

The number one greatest music book ever ‘Observer’

Quite simply the best rock and roll biography ever written ‘Rolling Stone’

A collection drawn from 30 years of his writings, The Nick Tosches Reader, published in 2000 by Da Capo Press.

Nick Tosches joined Vanity Fair as a contributing editor in 1996.

Nick Tosches

Music Journalism A-Z – Robert Palmer

Robert Palmer

There are several music journalists considered the “dean” of music critics. The music journalist community looked favorably upon Robert Palmer in that leadership role.

There was a period of my life where I voraciously read the New York Times along with Rolling Stone Magazine. It was during that time I became captivated by the knowledge imparted by Robert Palmer.

Robert Palmer had an incredible knack in adding jet fuel to my interests. I read his writings with a desired relish that made me very learned in the process. I believe this had to  do with his transferable music interpretive skills.

In the early 1970s, Palmer became a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He became the first full-time rock writer for The New York Times a few years later in 1976, serving as chief pop music critic at the newspaper from 1981 to 1988.

Blues Musicologist

Fat Possum Records
Fat Possum Records (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The part of Robert Palmer’s career that interests me the most was when he began teaching ethnomusicology and American music courses at colleges, including at the University of Mississippi. He made tremendous strides as a blues musicologist.  He produced blues albums for Fat Possum Records with artists like R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.

The book he wrote Deep Blues is a standout publication in the study of the blues. Robert Palmer had a rich analytic side strongly complemented by an ability to synthesize information into discernible form.  His definitive style compels the reader to immerse themselves in the delta and south side blues experiences.

Deep Blues became a living documentary. This is perhaps the best blues documentary.It was filmed in the Northern Mississippi hill country, where Fred McDowell is the figurehead of local tradition.

Deep Blues (1992) Poster


Robert Palmer was a practitioner of music, which set him apart from many music journalists who wrote about music but lacked that  intricate  detail of performing it with scope and precision.  He and fellow musicians Nancy Jeffries, Bill Barth, and Luke Faust formed a psychedelic music group blending jazz, folk, and blues with rock and roll, called The Insect Trust. The band recorded its first, self-titled album on Capitol Records in 1968. He played alto sax and clarinet.

The Insect Trust and album Hoboken Saturday Night


Robert Palmer’s daughter Augusta from the first of his four wives put together a film of discovery and connection with her estranged father entitled, The Hand of Fatima.

An excellent first anthology of Robert Palmer’s writing curated by Anthony DeCurtis who was Robert Palmer’s editor at Rolling Stone in the 90s. Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer


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.


Music Journalism A-Z – Greil Marcus

File:Mystery Train single cover.jpgTrain I ride, sixteen coaches long

Train I ride, sixteen coaches long

Well that long black train got my baby and gone

Mystery Train , Written By Junior Parker, 1953

I have greatly admired Greil Marcus‘s writings for 45 plus years. He has stamped an indelible impression on my musical taste and interpretation. I thank him from the bottom of the music of our heart for all he has shared and communicated.

I first discovered Greil Marcus in the record review section of Rolling Stone in the folded newspaper days (1968). His reviews contained an innate sensibility of the artist’s musical intent. He immediately understood what the music was accomplishing and communicated that knowledge directly to the reader. He transitioned the audio experience to the printed word effortlessly which has never been easy to articulate.

I bought his first book, Rock and Roll Will Stand in the summer of 69. He initiated my rock music book collection. I found his writing frank, honest and compelling. He cultivated my interest in the live concert idiom. I have been to 400+ concerts since that time. You might say he was a strong early influence for me.

The Greil Marcus book I treasure the most is Mystery Train. The first edition was published in 1975.  I continue to marvel even after the fifth edition (2008) how well the author informs the reader with its focused range of subjects from Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, The Band, Randy Newman, and Sly Stone.

I wrote about Greil Marcus in December of 2011 when he published The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years (2011) . Here is that earlier blog post.

The Doors


Music Journalism A-Z – Will Hermes

Will Hermes

Will Hermes is a senior critic for Rolling Stone. He is also a longtime contributor to NPR’sAll Things Considered“.

He shares several common identities established by other music journalists in this series. Those personas  include his status with Rolling Stone Magazine, appearing in the New York Times Music section and being twice published in the Da Capo Press Best Music Writing Series (2006 and 2007). Oh and let me not forget he signed his book (see below) for me at the Pop Conference 2012 at NYU last year.

I am especially enamored with what he has accomplished with the music book he wrote that was published in 2011. It has a special place in the music of our heart because my son who lives in New York City gave it to me as a 60th birthday present.

Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever was selected as the top music book of 2011 by NPR,[4] and it was an Editor’s Choice title in The New York Times Book Review, which called it a “prodigious work of contemporary music history.”[5]

Will Hermes maintains a blog that serves as a multimedia extension of  this popular hardcover/softcopy title. I’ve  always want more content in association with the original work so this publishing solution solves that dilemma. 😉

Writing this blog post about Will Hermes has given me the opportunity to study what he has written about of late.

There were two discoveries that I made that are taking me along the path of further listening and meaningful interpretation. That is what I really like when I read Will Hermes. he opens avenues of understanding as he increases my musical consciousness.

The first revelation is what Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) is up to lately. I learned that he has a new band Chelsea Light Moving with an LP/CD digital full length recording and tour planned for March/April, 2013.

The second revelation is on the world music scale. Will Hermes wrote an album review of Brazilian artist Marcos Valle‘s recording Previsão Do Tempo (RS). He compliments that with a column on NPR’s All Things Considered that goes into more depth about Marcos Valle’s four album reissue series.

Cover of "Previsao Do Tempo"
Cover of Previsao Do Tempo

So very quickly I have two new vibrant music inputs. Gotta love what Will Hermes hears and shares with us.

Music Journalism A-Z – Lester Bangs

Music journalist Lester Bangs forged a lasting impression on my music psyche.

Lester Bangs

Lester Bangs was widely considered to be the most influential critic of rock and roll. He wrote for CREEM, the Village Voice, and Rolling Stone. He lived fast and died young like the rock and roll he wrote so passionately about. I believe his formula of self-destructive genius was why he commanded such a command of the subject.

I got the chance to meet Lester Bangs in 1978. I was walking through the Rock and Roll Memorabilia Expo at the Hotel McAlpine in New York City. I literally stumbled upon Lester Bangs. I did not recognize him at all, but then I didn’t know what he looked like. I just knew him from his byline in Rolling Stone and CREEM. He was sitting at a card table selling his collection of Rolling Stone magazines. As I poured over his pile of Rolling Stone issues I saw the mailing label with his name Lester Bangs typed on it. I don’t recall his physical street address but I think he resided in the East Village section of New York City.

I remember that he was witty and sarcastic as hell. This matched the writing persona I had come to relish from Lester Bangs. We discussed music and bands. He was very articulate. He was also very direct. “Hey kid”, he said to me, “Are you going to buy some of my magazines or not?” I had every intention of purchasing his back issues as they were rare and from him. He had no love lost for Rolling Stone or Jann Wenner let me tell you.

I forgot about that past interaction until I saw the movie, Almost Famous in 2000. The memory of my 15 minutes with Lester Bangs surged within me as I watched Phillip Seymour Hoffman portray Lester Bangs in the film. Having met Lester Bangs I can attest to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s ability to capture and represent Lester’s dynamic/caustic personality.

I love what Lester Bangs tells young Cameron Crowe about becoming a rock journalist, “You have to make your reputation being honest and unmerciful.”

Its difficult for me to pinpoint my favorite Lester Bangs music article. Thankfully several music journalists have captured his work for us to savor today.

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock ‘n’ Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock ‘n’ Roll a collection of essays written by Lester Bangs.  It was edited by Greil Marcus and released in 1987.

Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic by Jim Derogatis is a definitive biography of Lester Bangs’s wild enigma.

Pono Lets You “Feel the Soul of the Music

The InterWeb buzz for Neil Young’s PONO increased markedly this past week. The Music of Our Heart sifts through the various tea leaves to gather a  PONO brew for you as we enter the Christmas and New Year 2012 Holiday weeks. The number #1 PONO FAQ was, When Can I Have It?. Quite the act of faith considering PONO is unheard by the masses and very little is known, technically about this much-anticipated high-resolution audio solution. Neil Young tweeted earlier this month that Pono will roll out the service’s cloud-based music-library component and portable digital-to-analog players by summer. Patrick Flanary free-lance writer for Rolling Stone continues to keep us well-informed about PONO. Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/neil-youngs-pono-plans-take-shape-with-new-trademarks-20121219#ixzz2FmqsCD4v Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

“It’s actually a little early for us to give any information,” Elliot Roberts (Neil Young’s Business Manager), the head of Lookout Management in Santa Monica, said in a brief telephone interview. “When we can comment, we’ll be an open spigot.”

Neil Young’s Ivanhoe, Inc. published “the” InterWeb home page for PONO where you can stay informed via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook 😉 MyPono From the About page…

Hi Friend, There’s an awfully good chance you heard about a revolution we’re working on. Something that will significantly improve the way you get to hear and feel your favorite music. Shocking you say? That perhaps the promise of “Perfect Sound Forever” propagated by the inventors of the Compact Disc was a bust? And that“CD Quality” promoted by the likes of iTunes and the creators of the MP3 was only an inkling of the flawed format they were hoping to emulate? We’re here to say it’s incredibly true! Miraculously, there’s a wealth of music & soul (or if you must, “data”) trapped on millions of recordings made over the last half century, that we’re hoping to unleash for the very first time. Can you imagine? Your own personal time machine, to take you back to the place and time of the original musical event, and let you feel music in ways you’ve only felt seeing it live? We here at Pono are listening to it now and assure you, IT’S AMAZING!!!! We ask dear music lover that you root for Pono bringing this very real technology to the world. We’re still toiling away on making this happen (yes, there are record labels, artists, publishers and more to finalize with), but we wanted to share our excitement with you. In the meantime, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates. Rescuing an art form, The Pono Team

Twitter:  @RealPono Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NeilYoungPono

Neil Young Says Pono is Hawaiian for “Righteous”

I have loved Neil Young‘s book, Waging Heavy Peace where he writes extensively about what was then called “Puretone” his solution to save audio,  “Puretone”, has now become Pono, pronounced “Pohknow”, which is Hawaiian for “Righteous”. Neil Young has a home in Hawaii where much of Waging Heavy Peace was authored. Last night on David Letterman he showed a prototype of the Pono cloud music device. Imagine holding and hearing studio quality sound finally. I must have one!!!

When I finish Neil Young’s audio book I will offer a more extensive write-up on Neil Young’s “Righteous” solution. I was psyched to learn that Neil Young was working with the Sony Bob Dylan master tapes of Highway 61 Revisited and Freewheelin (with Bob Dylan’s full blessing) to make them Pono based. This is how Pono will succeed as the music artists want 100% high-resolution audio representation of their music heard not the 5% sound we get scrunched and distributed to us by MP3.

The most comprehensive article I have read yet about Pono from an industry analysis point of view was published yesterday by Rolling Stone Magazine. I urge you to read and process Patrick Flanary’s column entitled “Neil Young Expands Pono Digital-to-Analog Music Service”. Mr. Flanary wrote a thorough study of how much Neil Young and his Pono team are positively influencing RHCP‘s Flea/Anthony Kiedis, producer Rick Rubin, along with the Big Three record labels, Warner Music, Sony and Universal Music Group.

Neil Young is getting a lot of traction with Pono, deservedly so. I don’t agree with the perception that it is an Apple iTunes “Killer” as naive members of the press are reporting. That’s being written to get you to read content. After all Neil Young met and corresponded with Steve Jobs to discuss Pono and the audio music dilemma. I see a future partnership in the offering with Pono and Apple very much along the lines of cooperation Pono is achieving with the major labels. Can you say industry standard, I knew that you could 😉

It is pure speculation on my part coupled with intelligent guessing that Pono and Apple come together at some future music technology juncture. If I look at the throw down Apple needs to leap-frog or better HTC, HP and Beats by Dr. Dre, Pono could be that secret sauce for Apple. I found the one technology advancement that was missing from the iPhone 5, iTunes announcement was an improved music audio experience to match or better HTC/HP/Beats. Pono needs a device manufacturer, Apple distributes via iTunes the music of the industry. As Pono becomes the definitive, next level standard for music data files Apple must follow suit with a Pono story as will HTC for that matter. We could see iPono in the next generation iPhone/iPod, say it ain’t so Ed, hehehe (sorry Neil and Apple) couldn’t resist…

Now that’s what I call waging heavy peace alright ; Neil this note and more’s for you!

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