Music journalism and I have had a rocky relationship. If you have read any of my reviews, such as the one about Mr. Rogers' album, you will see that I am not writing about music in a conventional way. My writing style probably drives some readers and editors crazy but you know what, I don’t care.
I read hundreds of music articles and reviews a month and, as with regular journalism, it is the unconventional reviews which break the usual rules that I find the most interesting. It is what I do here. If an album reminds me of something I want to say that is semi-related I’ll take it there faster than another rap artist gets his ass capped.
Well, it’s partially because I think music reviews that go beyond just telling the nuts and bolts are more entertaining to write and to read. I will take a review by rock critics Greil Marcus or Lester Bangs over a typical music reviewer any day and because I am insecure when it comes to writing about music.
I entered California Polytechnic University in Pomona, Cal in 1991. The school was well known for its architectural, electrical engineering programs as well as other fields. What it was not known for was its journalism program, which is the field I switched to within six months of my start there.
The bad news? The program was so small there were less than 30 students taking the newspaper part of the program, which meant everyone worked for the twice-weekly newspaper, The Poly Post.
The good news? The program was so small everyone had to work for the newspapers. I mention this not to brag – far from it – but to admit something I don’t usually share. You see, after graduation I went on to work for newspapers for about 15 years, writing an average of 10 stories a week. I wrote mostly news stories but also columns, book reviews, etc. I wrote about everything from how to build a meth lab – during a murder trial involving a fire – to serial killers, to many school board and budget controversies. There was, however, one area of journalism I steered clear of: Music journalism.
My first assignment as a newspaper reporter was to cover a fusion jazz concert. I had no idea what fusion jazz was and rather than do the smart thing - research it - I just went to the show. I listened, I took notes, and then went up to interview the lead singer. My first question: What is fusion jazz? Having shown my ignorance the interview went downhill from there. My Editor said it was barely publishable but he printed it.