Toying with the idea of creating a podcast about The Aesthetics of Rock — a tribute, I suppose you could say, but really, more of an exploration. I have a few ideas in mind, but the likelihood of me pursuing such a thing would increase tenfold if I can find a couple or a few other people to share some of their thoughts with me on the subject (and no, none of this is being done in collusion with the book’s author; for now, I’m primarily interested in talking to readers of the book). I’m leaving this vague on purpose, but If the idea sparks your interest, or you have any questions about what I have in mind, email me. (I suppose you could use the comments box as well, though I may prefer to answer inquiries privately. I’m not saying for sure that this thing will even happen. Though I’d like it to, obviously.)
6 thoughts on “Who Wants to Talk Aesthetics?”
Let me know if you need one person to chime in to say the book is impenetrable because it reads like a really bad philosophy dissertation. And I know. I’m one of the few rockwrite folks that hates the book.
Heh, I doubt you’re “one of the few,” Steven, though maybe one of the few (at least of a certain vintage) to admit as much. On the issue of impenetrability, I don’t think you’d meet much resistance to that idea; the question is, is its impenetrability worth trying to, er, penetrate, and for me it is, well worth it, but it’s not an easy ride and sometimes a run-off sentence with a shitload of parentheticals is just a run-off sentence with a shitload of parentheticals.
>>> it reads like a really bad philosophy dissertation<<<
You know, I've never read, or even looked at, a philosophy dissertation, but my guess is that Aesthetics is as far afield from that as one can get. There's philosophy IN the book, but it doesn't read anything like a "text."
Yeah. Fair enough. There was just no joy in the reading for me. I kinda understand why it was important but the book was not my thing.
Much as I admire Richard Meltzer and love so much of what he’s written, I’ll have to admit that it was tough sledding for me too, when I read “The Aesthetics of Rock” about 20 years ago. It struck me then that it was very much a product of its late-’60s genesis, as a lot of the earliest rock criticism (taking its Ralph J. Gleasonesque cue from the jazz criticism that had just preceded it) was deadly serious and overblown. When I was reading “Aesthetics,” I could never decide whether Meltzer was practicing that pompous style himself or cleverly parodying it — probably a bit of both at the same time. I believe Meltzer has written elsewhere that his concept of what the book should be changed during the writing, making it somewhat disjointed, and that by the time it was actually published, his style of rock criticism had moved on in a completely different direction.
Which in turn produced what remains my favorite Meltzer volume, “Gulcher,” a compendium of brilliant and hilarious
satiric pieces. I haven’t re-read “Gulcher” for years either, but some items from it have stuck in my brain forever. I thought of it again recently when I watched “On the Waterfront” on TCM, and Marlon Brando expressed his famous “I coulda been a contender!” regret to Rod Steiger in the taxi, as Meltzer says somewhere in “Gulcher” that Brando’s character is simply talking about being listed as a ranked fighter in “Ring” magazine, and that’s ALL he means by “contender.” Meltzer’s dry, sarcastic parsing of that famous line cracked me up years ago, and still does.
Hmm — I think I’ve just talked myself into re-reading “Gulcher” before I do “Aesthetics,” so I may not be a prime . . . er, contender for your proposed podcast. Incidentally, Meltzer was a philosophy major at Stony Brook U., so that study probably informed his writing of “Aesthetics,” whether he meant it as a philosophical dissertation or not.
The thing for me with Aesthetics of Rock is that I genuinely do love it, but explaining (and in fact, even beginning to understand) why is extremely challenging, but it’s a challenge that interests me, hence my desire to talk it out with other fans of the book (not that anyone has bitten yet — I’ll be surprised if anyone does, frankly). If forced to summarize the book in a sentence, I might say something like, it’s about experiencing (not “reviewing”) rock and roll, trying to convey that experience with words, while fully cognizant of the fact that words alone are entirely inadequate to capturing the rock experience. Were it not for three much smarter interpreters of the book than myself — Marcus in his introduction to the reissue, Frank Kogan all over the place, and non-rock critic/McLuhan archivist Bob Dobbs in a series of chats I conducted with him years ago — I’d be completely lost at sea with it as well… yet I think I might still dig it, simply because I enjoy wild wordplay and totally-fucking-around-with-language sort of writing.