Paul Nelson: First You Dream Then You Die. Joe Carducci reviews Kevin Avery’s twin Paul Nelson books.
What’s impressive about Avery’s biographic half of [Everything is an Afterthought] is that he’s produced both an intimate personal bio and a comprehensive professional bio as well. He’s talked to virtually everyone who Nelson inspired or mentored in rock criticism starting in the latter half of the sixties and into the Rolling Stone years. These knuckleheads are a who’s who of American rock criticism, God help us. Most were of the baby boom but seemed to have had their rock and roll baptisms in the Thames. Whatever memories they didn’t have of humid, mossy southern rock and roll meant the best music was often wasted on them; they had preferences for style, lyrics and accents. In their birthdate-determined uni-mind it seemed Dylan went electric because of the Beatles perhaps that was Jan Wenner’s contribution to musicological assumption-jumping. The album (or the ten inch) was the preferred format in the folk scene and albums began to define the more pretentious collegiate experience of rock music by 1965. There was great rock and roll made in this period, here naturally, and now in Britain as well, but a kind of class-based misunderstanding of the object of music writers’ alleged expertise was developing and it going to be a problem. Before we knew it, the working class, non-Southern rock and roll of 1958 through 1963 by Eddie Cochran, Richie Valens, Johnny and the Hurricanes, Dick Dale and the Del-tones, the Wailers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Beach Boys, etc., was forgotten and no matter the amount of R&B in their sets the British Invasion given credit for introducing white Americans to black music. It was write there in black and white in the Rolling Stone magazine.