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The Rockologist: On Becoming A Rock Critic

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You know that wannabe rock journalist kid modeled after Cameron Crowe in the hit movie Almost Famous? That was me. Seriously, I nearly cried watching that movie because it so directly mirrored my own experience growing up as a teenager who wanted nothing more in life than a career writing about the music that I so dearly loved.

Because as much as I loved growing up listening to the music of Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, and the rest, it’s possible I may have loved reading about it even more.

Growing up as a kid in the counterculture of the sixties, there was of course no shortage of available magazines and newspapers devoted to the subjects of rock and roll and the ongoing cultural revolution it spawned. Rolling Stone, in the original folded-over newsprint version was widely acknowledged as the kingpin of the lot — but there were others. Eye Magazine and Crawdaddy! were two of the first that caught my eye.

But I think the first rock magazine that I truly identified with was Circus. The magazine actually started out in the early sixties as Hullaballo. But, as with so many other things during the sixties, they soon felt the need to change their name in order to distance themselves from the teenybopper bands they once specialized in covering, and cultivate a hipper image. Circus Magazine’s specialty really wasn’t so much the writing as it was the pictures, which were often published in full color two-page spreads on high quality glossy paper.

Still, it was Circus where I first discovered the real art of writing about music. Specifically, they had this writer named Ed Naha who did a column that I want to say was called “Rock-A-Rama.” Naha’s specialty was basically skewering then current records by writing the shortest reviews humanly possible, and making them read funny as hell.

I’m not 100 percent sure on this, but I’m pretty certain that it was Naha who penned the now famous review of prog-rock supergroup GTR that simply read SHT. I’m equally certain that Naha was the inspiration for the scene in the movie This Is Spinal Tap where that band’s album “Shark Sandwich” is reviewed as “Shit Sandwich.” The last I heard, Naha had gone on to some renown as a critic of psychotronic horror movies.

What I soon learned however, was that the real jackpot for funny, irreverent rock criticism was Creem Magazine. Creem covered the big names like Zeppelin, Bowie, and the Stones just like everybody else of course. But they also championed the more fringe elements of rock and roll at the time, giving ample coverage to people like The Stooges, The MC5, The Dictators, and The New York Dolls. Where the feel of Circus could best be described as slick L.A., Creem was more like equal parts greasy Detroit, and seedy New York.

Creem had it all. To fully appreciate this magazine, you also had to read it cover to cover. Sometimes you’d find the best stuff in the magazine in places like the letters section or the photo captions (which to this day remain some of the funniest ever). Creem even used to run these fake liquor ads modeled after the whiskey manufacturer Dewar’s Profiles, where a rock star celebrity would champion their “Boy Howdy” beer. It was just priceless stuff.

Creem also had some great writers like Robot A. Hull and Lisa Robinson. None of these however were better than the late, great Lester Bangs. Bangs was one of those writers who seemed to write best in a sort of gonzo style seemingly born of little sleep, and fueled by what had to be a potent pharmaceutical concoction.

In Bangs prose, absolutely nothing was off-limits, including — and perhaps especially — the sacred cows of rock and roll. He once deemed Mick Jagger a “fake moneybags revolutionary,” praised the “honesty” of then perceived lightweights the Guess Who, and wrote a review on the Troggs with the provocactive title of “James Taylor Marked For Death.” His interviews in Creem with Lou Reed, which were more like aggro-fueled confrontations, are absolutely legendary. As a result, I instantly fell in love with this guy’s writing. Bangs was proof positive that possibly the only thing as cool as actually being a rock star, was writing about them.

Of course, like most people who end up writing about rock and roll, I had to first try my hand at playing it. What they say about most rock critics being frustrated rock stars is unfortunately absolutely true. So I first tried being the singer in a rock and roll band. Although I could carry a tune, what I soon figured out was that all the long hair, crushed velvet jackets, and platform heels in the world, couldn’t mask the fact that I just was not “rock star” material. Okay, so I sucked. You can sue me for it later.

So instead I started writing about it. The first thing I did was practice my ass off in my parents’ basement by writing and drawing my own little rock magazine. From there, I moved on to the high school newspaper, where my column “Rock Talk” became something of a hit at school. There was an undeniable feeling of power walking down the halls at my high school, and getting the acknowledging shouts of “Hey, Rock Talk! When’s the next big concert?,” as I passed by.

It was also during this time that I would hang out in the hotel lobbys where visiting rock stars stayed, hoping to get an interview. I actually got lucky a few times, scoring a sit-down once with T. Rex’s Marc Bolan, and partying with the likes of Uriah Heep and Rod Stewart and The Faces.

I even met Cameron Crowe himself — writing for freaking Rolling Stone at the same eighteen years of age I was — in the elevator at the Hilton when Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were staying there. Like Crowe in the movie, I also got to know all the local scenesters and even the groupies — who had names like Anita Bandita and Stars N Stripes (who was famous for her patriotic taste in bras and panties).

In my mid-twenties, I finally got my first “real gig” as a writer covering the then emerging rap music phenomenon for Seattle’s music rag The Rocket. The pay was great too — ten bucks a review, and all the promotional albums and tickets you could carry home.

By this time, I had adopted a more serious “analytical” style of writing modeled more after people like Griel Marcus and Dave Marsh, then my original hero Lester Bangs. As I was always a bit nerdish in my approach to music, I just wasn’t really quick enough or funny enough to write like Bangs.

Anyway, the rap guys I was covering warmed up to me fairly quickly. This was at least partially I would assume, because of the fact that I was a journalist who took what they did seriously. Soon I was interviewing everybody from Public Enemy to Run-DMC to Ice T. Eventually, I went to work for two record labels promoting Seattle rapper Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

So I guess the first thing I would say to anybody aspiring for a career in music journalism is simply, don’t. That is, unless you like a lot of late hours spent huddled over a computer screen writing for little to no pay. The chances are also good you’ll pick up a few nasty habits along the way much as I did.

If that little bit of advice doesn’t dissuade you though, the second thing I would say is be absolutely passionate about what you do. This means nothing less than total zombie-like immersion into your chosen area of expertise. You should be living, eating, breathing, and excreting it nonstop 24 hours a day, possibly at the risk of alienating your friends, family, and any remaining corpse of a social circle you once may have had.

Know your stuff too. Because every time you wag your willie out there in public view for all the world to see, displaying whatever knowledge you may think you have, there are going to be at least a dozen or so armchair experts ready to call you out on it. Even your favorite Rockologist here has been taken to task on a number of occasions for things I’ve written right here at Blogcritics (and you angry Christine McVie fans can stop with the hate mail anytime now).

It is also a good idea to be as objective as possible when putting your opinion out there on display. At the end of the day of course, it is just your opinion — and you already know the joke about what most of them can be compared to.

But unless you don’t have a particular problem with looking foolish at best, and lacking credibility at worst, it is probably in your best interest that your “opinion” comes from an informed perspective. And that if need be, it can be backed up with fact. It is one thing to say you just don’t quite “get” Jimi Hendrix’s guitar style — it’s quite another to say that the boy couldn’t play.

As a rock critic, you should also always try your best to seperate the professional from the personal. If sombody like Al Stewart once stole your girlfriend (as he did mine), it is probably in your own best interest as a writer to resist the urge to write about him for at least about twenty years. Or at least, until the experience is far back enough in the rear view mirror that you can once again put his music in the proper perspective, or at least be able to laugh about the experience — as I did in a recent article here.

So you wanna be a rock and roll critic? Well, there you have it.

If bad hours, lousy or no pay, the increased potential for years of addictive and self-destructive behaviour, and the allure of becoming a social outcast are what turn your crank, then I suggest you fire up that web browser immediately and start those engines, mister.

You also might want to find some really depressing music to put on so you can start working on the trademark rock critic persona of being a dour old crank.

Lou Reed’s Berlin and Neil Young’s On The Beach have always worked for me.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • JC Mosquito

    A strong essay on the essentials of rock criticism that outlines the basic minimum requirements: try to separate the subjective from the objective, and be informed. Unfortunately, nowadays there’s those out there who think it’s just about your own feelings and opinion. Frankly, people gotta learn – no one gives a rat’s ass about your opinion – does your writing make its point? is the ONLY point in good journalism.

    Creem: I still have a box of back issues dated from about ’75 – ’85 that I dig out periodically – great writing, and funny as all get out – you’ve got to love when the Letters to the Editor column responds to pointless mail from its readership with equally pointless non-sequiturs like, “Go sit on a Sno-cone.”

    (BTW, the GTR review was actually “GTR:SHT”!)

    Sk.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    I don’t agree with Glen’s point nor your support for it, Skeeter. Indeed, I’m actually rather puzzled as to how glen can claim to love the approach of the late great Lester Bangs and then recommend the dull as dishwater “objective” approach.

    For a start, nobody can actually be objective and to claim to be so whilst not even coming close is one of the most brazen acts of bullshit of all time.

    Great cultural writing is ALL about somebody’s opinion and their ability as a writer to raise the personal onto a greater plain of relevance and generality, which is what Bangs and others did so well.

    To deaden the passion of great art by writing about it in the poncey pseudo-nerd speak of a critic is to entirely miss the point of what art is all about

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Skeet,

    I know that the GTR was actually SHT. An editor changed it to SHIT, which I will at some point today go in and correct. What naters most is that you and other people who read this will, you know “get it,” which you obviously do.

    Thanx for the comment.

    -Glen

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Mr. Rose…You are 100% Correct Sir!!

    I have tried to come at writing from the musician’s stand point because I am a drummer(semi singer) first & foremost. So, I think the reason why so many sh!tty bands are eating up the airwaves is due to the fact that not alot of so-called “Journalists” have the balls to point out that they suck without the fear of losing their credibility. I’m a firm believer that if you are going to write about something that stirs up passion in people you might as well throw your f*cking heart & soul into it!!

    AND, if you are going to make some music that may stir up passion then don’t take the easy way out and be prepared for someone to absolutely hate it!! But, then again that critic better have a great f*cking ear for music!!!

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Rock critics hate most of today’s music, and most of yesterday’s music and hardly any of the day before’s music. However, if you just say you hate X.Y, and Z and even if you explain why it doesn’t do you much good.

    And mor eoften than not when you try and gore someone popular just for the sake of being a dick, well it pretty much always comes across that way.

    A rock critics, who makes his or her living being so, must necessarily listen to music they like and don’t like. In one way there is obvious subjectivity and if you’re credible then that matters. Still, at some point there has to be the objective moment where the review says this is the digital rambling of retards, BUT fans of retards rambling will view this as one of the best.

    As a slight aside, if someone always reviews music they love, well it quickly becomes just a quick wankfest, the opposite side of the “I need attention” coin.

    If Lester Bangs believed his shit than he is worthy, otherwise he wasn’t doing his job. I believe he believed most everything he wrote. However, I read none of it in “real time” so never got the full flavor of cultural impact. He’s fostered a lot of pretenders.

  • http://www.wingsforwheels.net Dave Lifton

    Great piece, Glen. It was JD Considine in his Short Takes feature in Musician magazine, not Ed Naha, that gave GTR that review. Another classic of his that I remember was his review of Cher’s Love Hurts album, which was reviewed with, simply, “Not this much.”

  • Dave Kaufman

    I really enjoyed this piece. The writer who wrote SHT was J.D. Considine who wrote a column called Short Takes for Musician magazine. He would brilliantly skewer subpar recordings with very few words. In reviewing a recording by Cher “Love Hurts”, Considine wrote “not this much”. I loved that column except when one of my heroes was a target. In one of their last issues, Musician published a collection of his best slams and it was hilarious.

    I think your experiences resonate with many of us. I would add Trouser Press and Musician to your list, though they appeared later and had more serious pretensions than Cream or Circus.

    FWIW I never did quite get Lester Bangs. I know his work more from the Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung anthology. His best work was clearly brilliant. The review of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks clearly stands out. But I often found him to be too incoherent.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I can also agree with Mr. Shark but unfortunately,nowadays, alot of reviewers don’t really have a face nor history to build credibility with me.Especially if you waste $3-$5 on a magazine that is mainly ads and covers the sh!t that you already know about. Sure, you can review material that you don’t like but where do you begin in reference to the stuff that you know holds up.(Not to be so general)

    I guess, ultimately,I get what this article really points to… Where are the “solid” rock critics? Who are they & what did you do with them, Glen?!

  • daryl d

    Glen, it would be nice if you practiced what you preached. Aren’t professional
    critics supposed to be critics rather than members of a fan club.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    Summers here get hot and humid. We end up with these annoying little bugs–I guess they’re gnats of some sort–that hover in your apartment at the most inopportune time. You don’t even notice them otherwise– they’re usually invisible. But sure enough– You’re having a conversation with a guest, and there the little bugger is, hovering at the edge of your wine glass, maybe sipping from it–I don’t know. and it doesn’t matter.

    The thing is, you just crush it between your fingers as it floats in the air in some sort of lame attempt at flying, and go about your conversation.

    The gnat is forgotten in an instant.

    Funny how life works in such allegorical ways.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *WTF* I hope Daryl’s lame comment doesn’t dumb down my attempt at humor seeing how that that little knock came right after.

    I was just kidding but as for Daryl, he needs to learn how to write before making judgment on others.

  • daryl d

    Well, perhaps we can learn from writers like JD Considine and David Marsh. They were excellent critics who were able to judge music objectively. David Marsh sometimes sounded like a Springsteen fanboy, but criticized him as well at times. We don’t have that anymore. Publicists and managers pay off music critics to write a good review or in some cases, a bad review of a competing artist’s work. Where is Considine these days? I loved when he wrote for Rolling Stone in the late eighties.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    Apparently, the aforementioned gnat has either hustled into that dark place where gnats lie waitng, or I’ve learned much from studying the Tao. Either way, we press on.

    I rather enjoyed the article, Glen. We could share a lot of war stories about the good old days. I won’t drop names, though. Besides, I cant remember those backstage groupies’ names–though the 4AM Denny’s coffee and Grand Slams still hang crystal clear in my terminally hung-over memories.

    Gotta go with Christopher, though, in his assessment of objectivity vs. objectivity.When you get down to it, 99.9% of what we review is going to be remembered two weeks after we write about it.Sure, there will be diehard fans who rake us over the coals for what we said, and there might be a very small group who might actually be influenced by our words of wisdom, but mostly, we’re just pissing in the wind.

    So what do we do? We can get all scholarly and really piss off everybody, or–and here’s the important part–we can put ourselves right in the middle of the action, and talk about how a particular piece impacted us personally, for better or worse.

    I prefer the latter approach. Saleski and the Duke are masters of it.The worst that can happen when you go at it that way is you leave ill-informed readers shaking, or even better, foaming at the mouth. Either way, you had fun, and that means you won.

    After all, it’s only rock and roll (but I like it.)

  • Dave Kaufman

    Considine has become a jazz writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail. He moved there about 5 or 6 years ago.

    I don’t think any critic is able to judge music or anything else (completely objectively) objectively. The important thing is to not let your prejudices and biases completely cloud your judgment as some have done. A good writer balances their enthusiasm for the artist or work with a sense of perspective.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    Assuming all that you say is true, Daryl, I’d say it’s high time you hit the books. Oh, and get a dictionary, too–or at least a thesaurus. You keep using words like “fanboy” when you don’t know what they mean.

  • daryl d

    Ah, Ray, obsessed with me as usual. I can post a bigger picture of me in there if you like. Then, you can study my belt more to see if the cellphone holder is so 90’s. What did ya think about the belt I was wearing? I do have pictures of me in shorts if you like.

  • http://www.myspace.com/x15 Douglas Mays

    You wrote for the Rocket!? I probably have read your works then…

    rock on,
    DM

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    Where in these pages have I ever mentioned your cellphone? But now that you mention it, it is a fashion faux pas.

  • daryl d

    Yeah I agree it is a fashion faux pas but the picture I posted of myself is so small that I was shocked you noticed. I’m not offended at all really. That’s why I’m willing to post a different picture where I’m wearing shorts.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    I don’t believe in scaring dogs for no good reason. Tell me something, though–what audience exactly are you trying to reach?

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’m glad to hear that JD is still kicking, albeit in Toronto. I was sure that it was Naha who wrote that review — shows ya how much I know I guess. But Naha was definiyely the first guy to write reviews in that short, abrupt, and dismissive style.

    Now as to all of this other nonsense, can we just get back to talking about the article. Good grief! LOL…

    -Glen

  • daryl d

    Ah Ray, don’t worry. Plenty of gals find me attractive as do some guys. I have no problem with it. I’m very open minded about stuff like that.

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    I’d love to, Glen. Sadly, it’s becoming screamingly apparent that the inmates have taken over the asylum.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I had a lot of fun writing this as it took me down a few of those side streets along the path towards Memory Lane. And I appreciate all of the responses today, weird as a few of them got.

    To the commenters who mentioned Trouser Press and Musician Magazine, I also have fond memories reading both of them. I’m actually a little surprised at myself that I had forgotten about JD Considine as I used to really enjoy reading his stuff as well. The only reason I didn’t reference those magazines in my article is because they came along much later at a time when I was already a “professional” writer. But I did enjoy them both. Musician could be a little pompous at times, but I’ve been accused of that myself. TP was a great resource for those off the beaten path sort of bands, and Ira Robbins was another guy whose work I loved reading.

    Anyway, thanks to all for the comments. Think I’ll go crank up some Berlin now and try to get inspired…

    -Glen

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    Here’s a major trip down memory lane. Remember when Hit Parader published chord charts and extolled the Lovin’ Spoonful?

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I do remember that Ray. They always had all the charts towards the back of the magazine. Somewhere along the way, they turned into more of a hair-metal sort of magazine which is sort of ironic considering they kept the name Hit Parader.

    -Glen

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    Enjoyed the read, Glen, good stuff.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanx P. Its always gratifying when one of the better music scribes here acknowledges your own stuff. Mucha appreciato!

    -Glen

  • http://www.lookoutforhope.com Tom Johnson

    Great stuff, Glen. I had no idea you had that kind of background.

    I can only see the point of a negative review if it’s the kind that actually talks maturely about why something isn’t very good. The kind of writing like “GTR:SHT” is pretty damned immature, stupid, and useless, just like the modern day version that Pitchfork pulled with the last Jet album (I’m sure we all know what I’m talking about, but just in case: the “review” consisted of a video of a monkey peeing into its own mouth.) If you have to write a review about something you hated, I don’t care how much you disliked it, the readers deserve to see, in a mature manner, why you think that something sucked.

    So I’m glad there are folks like you, Glen, not to mention Pico, Mark, Josh (and others I’m too tired to write out at the moment – sorry, it’s late) here at BC that do exactly this kind of good writing. I think it’s really unfortunate that there exists here the opposite element that thinks provoking readers without backing it up with something substantial is worth anyone’s time. It may garner hits and comments, but in the end it just adds to the pile of rotten music writing that was already pretty big to begin with. Just give me something substantial and meaningful to read, that’s all I ask.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanx Tom. I guess it just falls on guys like us, as well as Saleski, Josh, Pico, and the rest of the “good guys” here to continue to fight the good fight ya know?

    And ya’ see what happens when you try to be a good guy and offer a little free advice?

    All bloody hell breaks loose.

    Thanx for the comment–from one “fanboy” to another.

    -Glen

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    I hope I can trust in the maturity of gentlemen of the stature of Messrs Johnson, Boyd et cetera in tolerating my putting a modest case for the defence of the kind of reviews you decry.

    I certainly don’t think the Pitchfork review of Jet was either fair or an accurate review of the band, who are actually not bad at all. On the other hand, it was funny as fuck, as was the GTR:SHT review.

    I don’t understand why there is such intense pressure from you more mature types to reduce all music appreciation to the tight format of quasi scholarly writing.

    For one thing, it seems out of keeping to write in such a way when reviewing, say, Iggy Pop or the Butthole Surfers or a million other artists that go for raw power and brutal energy over quasi-literary aspiration.

    Surely there is enough room in the broad church of music appreciation for more than one approach and no real need to try and enforce one style or technique over another?

    If you guys are going to keep treading this apparently restrictive line, I can’t help quoting from one of the greatest rock bands of all time, a band that managed to embrace both the energy and intelligence of great rock:- “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” Loosen up guys…

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    So heres the thing Christopher.

    I don’t have a problem with writers here who want to express their opinions, or even their sense of humor. Hell, I have as much apreciation as the next guy for things like that “SHT” review, and I think I made that pretty clear in the piece I wrote. Contrary to what others may think, us old school music scribes are not completely humorless. Far from it, actually. To have lived through some of the shit I have lived through requires nothing if not a sense of humor.

    What I do object to however is how a guy — whose own personal opinions I really couldn’t give two shits about — is allowed to bring his own personal psychological issues — which seem to include a presecution complex — to the site and masquearade them as being credible rock journalism.

    This in my view cheapens us as a whole.

    You saw this today, and I am sure that as sharp as you are that you didn’t miss them. He accused me of things that are — at least in my own personal opinion — completely fucking nuts.

    Again, in my own personal opinion, this really tends to cheapen the rest of us music writers who do care — deeply — about BC as a destination site for people looking to come here to gain information about music, rather than getting a peak into the soul of someone who clearly has fairly profound psychological issues of his own.

    Call it what you will, but even though some of us here take what we do fairly seriously, we are certainly not above having a sense of humor about it. I know that I certainly don’t.

    But the type of shit that went on earlier today borders on lunacy, and dsesrves a much closer look in my view.

    Disagree?

    -Glen

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “He accused me of things that are — at least in my own personal opinion — completely fucking nuts.”

    Dude, I was kidding about you kidnapping all the great Rock Journalists. I know they are not in your closet…I’m Sorry:)

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Glen, I wasn’t defending Daryl, I was just making the general point that I made.

    As to that particular issue, well, there are all kinds of remarks made throughout Blogcritics and when they go against the comments guidelines, they get dealt with appropriately, and that’s what happened in this case. I deleted his obviously unfounded remark within seconds of him making it, it can’t really get any better than that.

    As the comments editor, I probably spend more time on the site than most other people and I am always one of the first to want to defend it against any kind of abuse, whilst maintaining due regard for people’s right to express themselves. Our lords and masters have clearly indicated the desire that the site is pretty much neutral ground where, if the minimal guidelines are taken on board, all are welcome. I like to think of it as something akin to the Star Wars bar.

    It’s not my place or my role to judge the sanity or otherwise of anybody on the site and nor do I much care. None of us know why anybody comes to the site and your idea that people come here to gain information about music is just a theory. Maybe they actually come to have a good argument. Who knows?

    Personally, and it’s just my opinion nothing more, the majority of the music writers here are incredibly mainstream and conservative and, as a direct consequence of that, often rather dull. I certainly wouldn’t be coming here to find out what is going on in music, although I would, and do, come here to find out what people are feeling or thinking about the music they hear, which is far more interesting.

    You as a writer are perfectly entitled to take your work and yourself as seriously as you like, of course. Where I would disagree with you is that you seem to be trying to make it a requirement that people should engage with you on your level. Frankly, why the fuck should they?

    I can’t say whether Daryl is a loon or not but, based on the general balance of his writing, I’d tend to figure not. I don’t agree with 99% of his musical tastes or opinions, in fact I find him rather shallow on that front most of the time. This is a guy who with no trace of embarrassment publicly admitted to liking such schlock as Pat Benetar and Laura Brannigan for fuck’s sake! For that alone he deserves daily humiliation in my book.

    Clearly, he has kind of lost it with you recently and made a fairly ludicrous and insulting statement, which got the treatment it deserved.

    It’s not for me to say if matters should be taken further, though if they were, I’d prefer a kindly word in his ear to any more extreme treatment. We are all human and make mistakes and he’s not the first by a long way to go too far.

    There are many writers and even editors who have had their comments edited and or deleted, some with quite staggering frequency. As the lightning rod for people’s feelings and someone who has strong views of their own, I come in for possibly more than my fair share of attacks from both colleagues and more casual visitors, but I just take it as something that comes with the territory.

    You should try and remember that, even though you’re an editor now, this is neither your site nor mine. We should all strive to make the site the best we can in terms of our personal contribution and just let others do the same. Demanding that people conform to an arbitrary standard of taste, conduct or writing is not what we are about as far as I know and I very much doubt that I would want to be part of a site that was so controlling. Would you?

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Not looking for conforming to someone’s arbitrary standard at all here Christopher. Not yours nor mine nor anybody elses.

    And again, I don’t personaly give two shits for what passes as Mr. D’s “taste” in music or anything else.

    But a simple sense of decorum towards his fellow scribes here would be nice. The charges made against me yesterday were absolutely outrageous. On that much I am sure we could agree. You did your job, and deleted them (as well as my defense of them), and for that sir, you get an A plus in my book.

    But why this guy continues to get the pass he does here continues to just baffle the living be-Jesus outta me.

    It’s called “standards” and I highly suggest that BC look into the concept if we are to be taken anywhere near remotely seriously. As of right now, we simply allow some guy a forum to write whatever drivel he chooses. Which is fine I guess — old fuck that I am, I do understand how the freedom of the internet works, and as a die-hard bleeding heart liberal myself, I will defend that to the death.

    But in whose interest is it when our writers attack one another — and quite frankly, who the fuck cares? and how does it make us look over the long haul? — when the charges have absolutely no basis in fact, and in reality come from a base of apparent delusion?

    Certainly, not ours.

    Are we to be the destination point for all frustrated folk with personal axes to grind and persecution complexes to sing to the world whilst passing it off as fucking “journalism”?

    I certainly hope not.

    But that’s just my personal opinion. And you already know what they say most of those are like.

    Yesterday’s escapades were a blight on this site in my own admitedly “personal” view. And I also happen to know that a lot of regular contributors to the music section share my point of view.

    So when exactly are we going to at least reel this guy in a little?

    You have yourself a nice day Mr. Rose.

    -Glen

  • http://donaldgibson.blogspot.com/ Donald Gibson

    Reading your essay only confirmed aspirations (along with behavior, insomnia, and more interest in music & writing than would be deemed “normal”) that I’ve had since I was 12: I want to write about music for a living.

    I really enjoyed reading this, Glen.

    – Donald

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i’ve brought this up before, but several years ago i wrote something that touches on this topic. it was called The Nasty Review(er).

    …don’t have anything else to say about this here, as i believe i’ve said it all before.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “[T]he first thing I would say to anybody aspiring for a career in music journalism is simply, don’t. … [T]he second thing I would say is be absolutely passionate about what you do.”

    Goes for just about any section BC has — make a hobby out of it, and with a lot of work and dedication maybe one day you’ll have your own Wikipedia page.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    That was a really good piece Mark. I don’t know , sometimes I get a kick out of reading a particularly good skewering — especially if it’s clever or funny as in the case of the infamous “SHT” review.

    I know that I’ve written them from time to time as well (negative reviews, that is), although as with you, I much prefer to write something positive if I can. As my own writing style tends to lean more towards the analytical or “nerdish” (as has been pointed out here), I also like to break down the specific reasons why something might not be up to par if I can, rather than getting nasty about it.

    Still, I do admit that I sometimes enjoy reading the occasional nasty review, especially if it’s funny. Your article puts an interesting spin on it though. And I definitely enjoyed reading it.

    -Glen

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    it’s not like i think that all negative reviews are somehow “invalid”, it’s just that they don’t work for me…it’s just not the way i’m wired.

    and yea, even ole Lester Bangs used to put people through the wringer, but he was funny as hell AND knew what he was talking about.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    You’re just a big softie, Mark! What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding anyway? lol

  • http://www.lookoutforhope.com Tom Johnson

    Let me just toss a name out there for others to think about: Roger Ebert. And this even applies to Christopher’s comment about writing “scholarly” about Iggy Pop. I realize he’s talking movies and we’re talking music, but he’s exactly what I’m talking about with regards to the “positive-writing” critics. He always gives whatever he writes about a fair write-up, whether it’s a big, serious film or the latest college-sex comedy, and whether it be a movie he liked or not. He is one of the few critics whose writing I can read and, regardless of his review, know if the movie he’s talking about is something I would actually like to see. Not only that, but when I disagree with his judgment of a movie, I understand why he felt the way he does. That’s good writing and that’s GREAT reviewing. I would think that, were Ebert a music critic, he could easily review Iggy Pop with the same style as he would any other artist and it would still remain a useful piece of criticism – whether he liked Iggy Pop or not. That’s the kind of caliber of writing that I’m talking about – the reader should be able to get something out of every review, whether the critic liked it or not. Very few people strive to reach for that level of writing anymore, spurred on by crap writing at the Pitchforkmedia, etc. level. Pitchfork wields a lot of power right now and they rarely use that power for good.

    And here’s a great example of Ebert really hating a movie and yet still giving it the time it deserves: Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

  • daryl d

    [Edited]

    Christopher, thanks for being the only “outspoken” blogcritic who is somewhat on my side (although barely). I have talked to other blogcritics who are on my side as well but it’s a mystery why they have to email me in private about it and not post it here is a mystery.

    You have to understand this though. I’m not a music critic; I’m a music FAN. I also write about other things than music, as I am an avid technology fan as well. Some people don’t like my technology reviews because they are not written like a so-called technology “expert.” To me, that’s great and the people who buy stuff are usually fans, not experts. I was really touched by a two page email I received by someone who went out and bought an OQO after my review. He said my review made him feel what it’s like to own an OQO and told me all his experiences with it.

    [Edited]

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Daryl, I’m not on your side at all, it’s just that I’m not on their side either. To quote a lyric from the mighty Pere Ubu, a band you’re probably unfamiliar with,

    I wanna make a deal with you girl
    and get it signed by the heads of state
    I wanna make a deal with you girl
    be recognized round the world
    It’s my nonalignment pact
    Nonalignment pact
    Sign it!
    Nonalignment pact
    At night I can see the stars on fire
    I can see the world in flames
    And it’s all because of you
    or your thousand other names

    Forgive the diss but, to my taste, you’re also only a music fan in the broadest and most generous possible definition of the term and, with a small handful of exceptions, I despise and/or loathe every artist you’ve named as liking.

    On the other hand, I think you have every right to write about music or any other subject in any way you want to and I don’t think it is right that others should be objecting to you wailing on their sacred relics artists, most of whom I don’t like either.

    There is no “correct” way to relate to or write about anything and for every fan of the “Ebert” approach there is another who finds the “gonzo” style of journalism more interesting.

    Me, I walk both sides of the street, partly cos I get bored with the same old same old and partly because I’m a music fan who actually worked in the music industry for over twenty-five years. You didn’t by the way, you worked in the media, just the same as critics. Glen did work in the music industry for a little while and then crossed over to the other side. I blame Darth Vader!

  • JC Mosquito

    Interesting… perhaps we’re talking about two different things here? Glen’s article is about becoming a “rock” critic – maybe it functions on a different set of criteria than a “music” critic, or a music “fan.”

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    It’s hard to get definitive about that. I think there’s room for all kinds of writing.

    Personally as someone who has lived the lifestyle rather than had an academic interest, I tend to find the drier kind of writng various proportions of dull, patronising or just plain irrelevant but, as I said, there’s room enough for all approaches.

    I’d really like to read more about music from people who are living the life currently and can write about the music from the inside but I guess finding literate folk who can do that isn’t so easy.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    And when you have them — “literate folk” that is, Mr. Rose — whether or not you personally like what they have to say — a more careful approach in protecting them, given your most important position, might just be called upon when their integrity is under attack.

    Just a thought.

    -Glen

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Glen, I believe that I am treating everybody the same way, regardless of their writing style. Defending integrity is a much trickier call of course, but one does what one can…

  • JC Mosquito

    CR: “Personally as someone who has lived the lifestyle rather than had an academic interest…”

    Again, I guess I’m looking for a definiton. Is living a “lifestyle” or “working in the music industry” the same as as actually “being a musician” or “being a rock critic”? I would like to think there might be some crossover, but again, I think there needs to be some common basic understanding before true dialogue can occur.

    It really doesn’t further the conversation by citing experience or credentials on the net – it has to be about the written word. I’m not trying to invalidated your life experience, but saying “band A is good, band B is bad” is a valid statement because you worked in the industry is no more valid than me saying “He’s wrong – band B is good, band A is bad” because I got a songwriting royalty check last month (and of course we both assume we’re telling the truth).

    Or another example – I really like Grand Funk – but I have no illusions as to their quality of musicianship, songwriting, or presentation – they’re not really A list material. But if I were to try to argue in their favour that they’re right up there on Mount Olympus in the company of the Rock Gods (whoever you claim them to be), I would likely lose that argument to anyone vvauguely knowledgable asbout music who can put a complete sentence together. They’re just not that good – but that’s just my experience, and people can hoot about GFR all they want, but I still ove ‘em.

    Sorry for the long comment – it maybe didn’t even address the issue. But Blogcritics’ motto is “A sinister cabal of superior writers” – and for the most part that’s true… and hopefully it will continue to live up to that humourous but lofty high standard.

    Skeeter.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    I think we’re talking different languages, Skeeter. To try and answer your questions, no, the lifestyle, the industry, the musician and the critic are all very different experiences.

    Obviously it has to be about the written word, but that writing is informed by the relationship one has with music.

    I kind of lose the track with your observations in your third para because I don’t base my opinions of music on the fact that I worked in the industry.

    If you love Grand Funk so much, then surely it follows that for you, they are A List material and I don’t see that your view is any less valid than anybody else’s. Indeed, the case you make for them as a lover of their music, the passionate intelligence you could bring, would surely be more interesting than some critic following in the rock convention that artist A or B is “better”.

    I would contend that such a piece of writing would indeed conform to the superior writing standard far more than some bloke droning on about whoever.

  • JC Mosquito

    Well, at least we can disagree in a rational, civil manner, which doesn’t always happen in real life. My apologies, but I’ve got to run – I’m on my way out of town for a week or so in three minutes or less. Best to you, Mr. Rose, and to you as well, Mr. Boyd, Mr. Saleski, et. al.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    I don’t know if this will be an affront or not, but I’m currently cooking up an article about how disastrous the influence of Lester Bangs has been for the field of music journalism….

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    That should be another must-read article coming from you, Michael. No one will be more interested in checking that out than Mr. Saleski *grin*

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    sacrilege!!!!!

    ;-)

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    Haha, I knew you’d swoop in like Kenny G’s Asst. This promises to be a lively, informative discussion. Can’t hardly wait.

  • http://www.robot-of-the-week.com Christopher Rose

    Michael, that would be the equivalent of writing that The Stones were a disastrous influence on Rock!