This Month In Rock Writing: May

Noise Boys Richard Meltzer ( May 10th, 1945 ) & John Mendelsohn ( May 12th, 1948 ) are born, much to the future delight & scorn of musicians & editors.

On May 30th 1956, Time Magazine, while trying to convey Elvis Presley’s appeal, busts it down to the lowest common denominator saying that, “his movements suggest, in a word, sex.”

Jerry Lee Lewis is booed off the stage and shooed out of England, two days after revealing his marriage to cousin Myra, May 25th 1958, introducing just how scathing the Brit press can be.

In a stunning twist on May 27th, 1962, Mr. Acker Bilk becomes the first British artist to have a number one record in the U.S. when his wistful clarinet instrumental “Stranger On The Shore” topped the charts.

On May 25th, 1966 when Ike & Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ stalls at #88 on the Billboard charts, producer Phil Spector deems it the low point in his career and goes reclusive for two years, that is if you don’t count his speeding over to a deceased Lenny Bruce’s house the following August screaming, “Lenny, why did you do it, Lenny?”

In May of ’74, Nick Kent’s, The Page Memoirs, hit print in Creem Magazine. An obvious contrast to the subsequent attempt by Jaan Uhelszki, Page actually talks at length, but somehow leaves out the part about underage girls in his history.

Bob Dylan, rather uncharacteristically, talks at length about life after conversion with interviewer Karen Hughs for the May 2nd, 1980 issue of the Village Voice, thus continuing another two years of him leaving the stage mid-concert with only the gospel back up chorus singing for 10 minutes. In between it all he confesses that, “Jim Keltner and Tim Drummond are the best rhythm section that God ever invented”.

In May, 1985, Madonna graces the first cover of Spin Magazine, obviously foretelling that nothing can change the shape of things to come.

Chuck Eddy’s Beastie Boys interview hits print in ’87; disclosing how the merry trio helped themselves into his motel room, drenching him with ice water while he laid in bed, sleeping presumably, at 2am.

5 thoughts on “This Month In Rock Writing: May

  1. I believe John Mendels(s)ohn’s birth year is actually 1947. Yeah, here it is in his I, Caramba — “I was born several weeks premature in the middle of May in the same year as David Bowie and Iggy Pop . . . ” They’re all 61 if they’re a day (as is your reporter, for that matter.)

    Good rundown of May r’n’r events, though I’m also quite partial to the 1941 edition of that month, which gifted us with both Eric Burdon (11th) and Robert Zimmerman (24th). Both have regifted us many times over since then, Zimmie with a few forever fruitcakes along the way.

  2. I thought it was interesting that you referred to John Mendel{s}(s)ohn as one of the “Noise Boys.” I guess I can see that in a way — he seemed like one of the way-out-there guys in the early 70s — though he himself does vehemently deny it in his rockcritics interview (

    Steven [Ward]: “The Noise Boys” were a group of rockcrits from the early ‘70s dubbed such by James Wolcott. Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer and Nick Tosches were part of that group, but so were you.

    John: No, I wasn’t! Not for a minute! Different coasts. Different, you know, aesthetics. Different personal habits. Different everything! This Wolcott fellow calls ’em Noise Boys? I call ’em the Bukowski Wannabe School, and I say to hell with ’em. Which isn’t to imply that I wasn’t occasionally awed by the work of the first- and third-named personages.

  3. By the way, I recently re-read Wolcott’s entertaining “Noise Boys” piece. Aside from some interesting things he says about Meltzer in particular, it’s hard not to detect a hint of sour grapes in it, but the biggest flaw of the article is his one-line dismissal of newer writers emerging at the time (he mentions Eddy, Greg Tate, and RJ Smith). It’s like those names provide cover for him: mention them so he can appear to be paying attention, but dismiss them out of hand to bolster his argument that the fun was all over. (It’s like the piece is half-finished. To say that the current state of something is rotten, you need to do more than just point to what was good before — in this case, Meltzer and Bangs — you also need to point out some of what specifically is wrong with NOW.) That’s how I read it, anyway.

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