“And now, alive for a half-century, somehow weathering an increasingly bleak and unlikely to recover rock-writing doldrums wherein fewer and fewer paying publications have any interest in publishing criticism that isn’t phoned in, I can honestly say that I’m as excited about listening to music as I’ve ever been. Austin is an amazing mythical land of awesome $1 vinyl bins and garage sales and record conventions, and now that CDs are speedily approaching their historical end zone and college students who’ve only ever downloaded MP3s are suddenly all buying used turntables again, piling up on old vinyl somehow doesn’t feel so anachronistic anymore. So between falling for new music by Collin Raye, Us Jswe Doma, Traband, Scooter, Ke$ha, Jace Everett, Flynnville Train, Luther Lackey, Bigg Robb, and This Moment in Black History, I’m falling for old music by Benny, D.C. Larue, Good Rats, Christ Child, Charlie Rich, Hank Thompson, the Delmore Brothers, the Mystics, the Headboys, Head East, Millie Jackson, Pebbles, Joe Tex, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, the Fatback Band, Steve Gibbons Band, Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, Kevin Coyne, Chris Rea, Tonio K, Yesterday & Today, Riot, Pat Travers, and Axe. Few of whom you’ll find mentioned anywhere in this book. Though if any generous publisher out there needs a record guide to awesome dollar-bin LPs nobody’s ever heard of, please give me a call.”
– Chuck Eddy, introduction to Rock and Roll Always Forgets
I’m just making my way through Eddy’s book now. Barely even read a quarter of it yet, and I’m sort of jumping around all over the place (the introductions to the various sections are superb, particularly the hip-hop/r&b intro, which I hope to say more about eventually). But what a contrast to jump from the Ellen Willis and Paul Nelson books to this. Willis and Nelson, as I’ve already noted, emerged in an era where it was not uncommon for a rock critic to obsessively track the work of a few key artists (in Willis’s case, Reed, Dylan, Jagger, and Joplin; in Nelson’s case, Jackson Browne, Neil, Dylan, and Zevon). Even Greil Marcus sometimes gets flack from younger fans of rock writing for his obsessive interest in the work of Dylan, the Mekons, Costello, et al. Eddy certainly has his fave raves — Def Leppard and Teena Marie come to mind, sort of — but I don’t think he devotes more than a single chapter to anyone here; he definitely has always struck me much more as a guy who keeps closer tabs on genres than on artists. (I’m not saying anything remotely surprising; it’s kind of one of the themes of his second book, The Accidental Evolution of Rock ‘n Roll). Again, it just struck me: this is as far in approach as you can get, I think, from Ellen Willis and Paul Nelson (and Marcus… though not Christgau, at least not totally).
I’m also thinking of Chuck’s words above and wondering how they might or might not relate to what Simon Reynolds, in Retromania, is describing as a “malaise,” resulting, presumably, from the over-glut of everything (we’ve got the whole world in our hands; now what do we do?). I’m also thinking that I wouldn’t mind having back the ten minutes it just took me to transcribe all those bands Chuck mentions, 90% of whom I’ve never even heard of (.03% of whom I may conceivably hear something by some day).