April 8, 2008 by A.C. Rhodes
reader, editorial or publisher scorn? Examples, of course, could include band/artist and show critiques that incur the wrath of all three.
Category: Question of the Week
You kidding me? You got a few hours?
I could start with the 1987-92 period when I was the music editor at Creative Loafing in Charlotte: each week I compiled the “Music Menu” (roughly fifteen 50-75 word preview blurbs of incoming shows), and after a couple years of playing local cheerleader I got tired of the hack work and started saying what I REALLY thought, which meant in addition to highlighting the really great shows (frequently underground) I was also occasionally calling out shitty bands and scummy club owners alike and telling folks what a waste of time this or that show was. This in turn meant the paper received frequent complaints from band supporters and advertisers (read: clubs) who wanted my head. I was called on the carpet by our head ad exec on numerous occasions. And it put my editor in the somewhat awkward position of having to ask me to take it easy on the clubs while at the same time defending me to the ad execs and the club owners on grounds of editorial freedom. Ya gotta love living in a free Amerika!
In one particular hubris-filled (or maybe alcohol-fueled, take your pick) moment, I noticed that April 1 was looming. So I penned a fake Music Menu Zappa-Beefheart preview of a concert coming to Ovens Auditorium. Despite sprinkling in enough plausible factoids, the tone of the blurb, and dare I say it, the actual date of the “show” (April 1, duh), had to be a clear tipoff. But a lot of folks swallowed it hook, line and ashtray heart: both the box office and the newspaper office were besieged by phone calls wanting to know the dope on the show. The venue manager was none to pleased and he let the paper’s publisher know. So I’d like to think of that particular stroke of adolescent behavior on my part as a roccrit grand slam: I was able to summon the wrath and scorn of readers, my editor, the ad department AND the venue. It don’t get any better than that.
Sadly, I’m rarely one to learn from my own personal history. So over the years I have grilled up some faux Beef twice more. The second time was an “interview” I conducted with the good Captain using existing quotes from old interviews upon which I grafted my own fresh questions; this was for an April issue of an Arizona monthly (I ran into Beefheart at a truck stop in the desert, natch), although I don’t know if it drew anyone’s scorn or not. Most likely they just thought it was dumb. That said, RocksBackPages.com liked it enough to put it up on their site.
The third time was a year ago for the Harp site. You can read it here:
While most folks got the joke (check the date at the top and the photog credit at bottom — the tour dates were for the White Stripes if memory serves) and others who were initially fooled got a good laugh at their own wanna-believe-it’s-true gullibility, a number of folks were extremely — MAJORLY — pissed off. Angry emails followed, like how I was making fun of a very sick man, blah blah blah. After a couple of days of this the publisher got kinda nervous, as publishers are wont to do whenever there’s a loose cannon on the staff firing off volleys, so I took the news item down for a few months. Amazingly, though, at some point in the middle of all this somebody posted the info provided in the fake news item to the Wikipedia Beefheart entry. It remained up there for about a day until some, presumably sane and sober, Wiki staffer spotted it and realized that it was all bogus.
So yeah, I’ve been scorned. Assaulted, even. Feels good, too. Remind me to tell you sometime about the BoDeans record burning party I hosted…
my worst experience on this score was generated by a review I didn’t even write but rather edited (and assigned). the critic didn’t like the album and poked fun at the performer’s earnest and humorless stance. turned out her manager — a famous ex-rock critic also employed by a BIG NAME ROCK LEGEND — didn’t have a sense of humor either. he made a show of coming to the magazine’s offices and complaining to the publisher about the review. a few months later, after I’d been shitcanned from the gig, he bragged to a reporter, on record, that he got me fired from the job. actually I got fired for other reasons but so what. water under the bridge etc. I got over it and am much happier writing book reviews now.
but you’ve gotta wonder: what kind of person would try to do something like that? eliminate somebody’s livelihood over a couple sentences in a record review? and then boast about it. what’s odd and telling is that he went after the editor, not the critic. what this was about was my refusal to play games w/people in the music biz, suck up to and conspire with record companies & managers etc. silly me, I thought my responsibility was to the readers.
of course this all happened more than a decade ago, I seriously doubt many music-biz types throw their weight around quite so arrogantly these days.
An editor once convinced me to do an interview with Aerosmith. I figured I’d at least get a chance to asked Joe Perry about his gtrs or Steven Tyler about what he learned from the NYDolls. But the day before the interview I am told that I will be talking to (drum roll please) Joey Kramer. Pretty quick it was obvious he shouldn’t have been the band’s number one mouthpiece.
A-smith had used big name hack co-writers to get back on the charts. I asked Joey if this was selling out and he pretty much threatened to beat me up on playground after school. Needless to say, the interview was a short one and I never got to ask him how he started on fire at the gas station – which was actaully mentioned in the press kit.
As far as pissing off local bands and club owners go, guilty as charged.
Not the best political strategy when you have a band of yr own but that’s life.
Ha! The more things change, the more they etc.. Back in the spring of 1974, when Aerosmith played Cincinnati, the Columbia promo guy arranged an “audience” with the band for Brad Balfour and me, rock crits for local free weekly “The Jester”. So after the show, BB and RR repair to the lobby of a fancy downtown hotel, and pretty soon Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer come down to talk to us.
I figured Steve Tyler and Joe Perry were up in their rooms having their privates attended to by platform-shod groupies, while we got the rhythm method … er section. Whitford and Kramer were nice guys, and I didn’t have any burning questions for ’em anyway, so I was satisfied. (But I did make fun of Rajah Tyler in the LP review I wrote for CREEM later, and Lester was glad to print it.)
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