From the Archives: Richard Meltzer (2000)

My August 2000 chat with Richard Meltzer. I don’t think I got much out of Meltzer here that he hadn’t already written about or conveyed to other interviewers, but I’m glad I gave it a shot anyway. I mean, truthfully, if I’d accomplished nothing else with other than the chance to talk to the author of The Aesthetics of Rock for a couple hours, I’d have been okay with that. Whether that tells you more about the scale of my ambitions here or the size and scope of Meltzer’s influence — I’ll leave that for you to figure out.

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Kicks just keep getting harder to find: Interview with Richard Meltzer 

By Scott Woods (2000)

Technically, Richard Meltzer may not have invented rock criticism–he wasn’t necessarily “there first”–but with The Aesthetics of Rock (published in ’70, written a few years before that), he took music writing on a wild philosophical goose chase (“Vast generalizations, lots of empirical meat”) that 30 years later no one’s really caught up to (or fully understood–least of all myself). The four consecutive pages (199 to 202) Meltzer devotes to Herman’s Hermits alone (a probe into the “contextually evil” “I’m Into Something Good”; citing “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” as “an analogue to Oedipus”; etc.) constitute the sort of thought processes that any curious and critical mind would be thrilled to stumble upon, and probably a little scared if they did so. I’m pretty sure I’d rather be stranded on a desert island with The Aesthetics of Rock than just about any piece of music I can think of; I know for sure I’d never get to the bottom of it regardless.

Meltzer’s new book, A Whore Just Like the Rest, is a superb, 600-page anthology of his music writing, from an early, wigged-out piece on Jimi Hendrix in 1967, to 1998’s monumental-in-every-way “Vinyl Reckoning,” a huge up-yours to some former colleagues, and a passionate where-the-hell-am-I personal statement: “A tougher question than Am I a rockwriter? Was I ever a rockwriter? (Do I even really qualify?) (Am I ‘overqualified’?).” Um, probably?

Wednesday, July 12, two thousand zero-zero, I talked to Richard Meltzer on the phone, he in Portland, me in Toronto, 11:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. (Aside from the cheaper Bell charge after 11:00, it only seemed right to talk to Meltzer at night.) My prepared questions weren’t that interesting, but he was gracious and kind (dare I say, surprisingly so?) and put up with me anyway.

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Scott:   I wanted to start by asking you what you were like in high school?
Richard:    What I was like in high school? Uh, I was a four-eyed shorty with a flat-top…

Scott:   Talk about it in terms of social groups –did you fit in? Did you have many friends?
Richard:    Uh, I didn’t fit in, but I wouldn’t say that anybody — uh, there was probably a small elite that had what you would call a successful social life, but they were clearly a minority. I mean, I would say that most people I knew were thoroughly miserable. But there was no bonding in that — everybody was sort of un-AFFILIATEDLY miserable.

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Would-be English Kings

These would-be English Kings of Heavy Metal are eternally foiled by their stupidity and intractability. In the early Seventies their murky drone was all the more appealing for its cynicism — the philosophy that everything is shit, and a flirtation with pre-Exorcist demonic possession. Time has passed them by: their recent stuff is a quaint bore. – Ken Tucker on Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stone … Continue reading Would-be English Kings

Bubblegum Satanism

What Black Sabbath fan hasn’t plotted revenge on that scumbag Nick Tosches, whose infamous Rolling Stone review of Paranoid railed about Black Sabbath’s ‘bubblegum Satanism,’ and then went on to attack lead singer (in reality of Black Widow) Kip Treavor??? – Wayne Davis, “Further Thoughts on Those Marvelous Loud Heavies,” photocopied pages from unknown fanzine, 1972 [Tosches’ review] Continue reading Bubblegum Satanism

My Bloody Pre-Valentine: Q&A with Ned Raggett

If you missed the story last weekend about how My Bloody Valentine finally released mbv, their 22-years-in-the-works follow-up to 1991’s Loveless, via a surprise announcement on their website, it’s probably because you were too distracted by Beyoncé and/or the Superbowl, or maybe you have better things to do on your weekends than to sit around following Twitter and Facebook feeds (or maybe you could care less about My Bloody Valentine altogether, and that’s perfectly okay, too). Whatever the case, I’m not going to rehash the entire story here; rather, I’m going to ask critic Ned Raggett to do it for me!

Raggett, who currently writes for Pitchfork and The Quietus, is an unabashed My Bloody Valentine fan. He’s written and chatted extensively over the years about Loveless, which, incidentally, was his desert island pick in the 2007 anthology, Marooned. Not surprisingly, Ned was all over social media last weekend, providing a play-by-play as well as a running colour commentary on the what-is and where-how of the mbv announcement (not in any official capacity; he’s a fan and a critic, not a press agent), and he wrote one of the earliest reviews of the album, too — an on-second-listen track-by-track account at The Quietus.

I asked Ned if he would elaborate on how the events played out on the weekend, as well as to flesh out his own thoughts on the album itself, and he was kind enough to oblige.

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How did the news of the actual release of mbv, on Saturday night (or Sunday morning, I suppose, depending on what time zone you were in) reach you?
News of the actual release would have come through on Saturday afternoon via Facebook as a number of friends began sharing out the FB announcement from the band or their reps. Given the recent off-on chatter and rumors in the previous week, I initially didn’t think TOO much of it, even with what turned out to be perfectly accurate descriptions of what was about to happen. It was only when I visited MBV’s Facebook page a couple more times right when the artwork went up that I realized things were probably about to get serious — though even then, as mentioned in The Quietus review, part of me was still, “Well…”  I’d just been burned too many times before! In retrospect, of course, offering NO announcement whatsoever of it all actually happening until a couple of hours prior was a stroke of genius.


Describe some of the reactions you encountered about this breaking news, from other quarters. Was it all over social media (Twitter, Facebook, et al.)?
Initial reactions to it were limited to what I could see being on Facebook and ILX, though Twitter posts were starting to come along — and while I’m not entirely sure now if it was the case, the fact that #MBV as a hashtag started trending like mad after Pitchfork picked up on the news sure seems related. I wasn’t tracking Tumblr much, just posting on it as I was everywhere else, but it certainly seemed like there was some notice there also. Certainly by the time of the midnight release everything felt pretty jacked up from within my music-centered sphere of the internet.


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