Boston Phoenix R.I.P.

I’m immeasurably sad that the Phoenix ended with no warning (and no severance for its staff). What did it mean to me to be a part of its history? Everything. I was about 10 years too young to have participated directly in the cultural tidal wave that was the ’60s and early ’70s; I had to watch from the sidelines and wish I was an adult already. But when I got to the Phoenix in ’81, I found a tattered flag of idealism still stubbornly flying. I found a tribe, and we shared a language and we tried to share it with our readers in the most readable and elegant way we knew how. We were in a dying profession, but we acted like it was going to last forever. The Phoenix was my Summer of Love.

– Joyce Millman mourns the just-announced death of the Boston Phoenix (and provides a valuable mini-history of the paper in the process).

Pre-internet, and especially during the ’80s, the decade during which I was most actively engaged in reading every spark of intelligent music criticism I could find, the Phoenix was a rumour more than an actual thing. I’d come across references to the paper often, through various writers, and there was always the sense (at least from my perspective) that it was second only to the Voice in terms of alt-weekly music coverage. But living in London, On., and even a little later in Toronto, I never saw a copy to purchase (getting the Voice was hit and miss in London, but never a problem in Toronto). I eventually got my hands on one issue, and one issue only, of the Phoenix — incidentally enough, the 1986 issue with Millman’s great (from what I recall) cover story on Elvis Costello (which she references in her obit). Where I came across this, I don’t even remember–a cross-border day trip to Buffalo, perhaps? More likely something my brother picked up for me somewhere.

The Phoenix was also cited frequently during the original run of Former editor Milo Miles was one of our subjects (I’ll be re-posting that here sometime soon), and I’m pretty sure the paper was mentioned by a number of people we ran interviews with. It’s a shame that it was always something I only heard about but saw very little of. A much bigger shame, of course, for those who continued to write for it, and who have a greater stake in its legacy.

And the hits just keep on coming.

2 thoughts on “Boston Phoenix R.I.P.

  1. Thank you. I’m touched by your story about being unable to find the Phoenix in Ont. and thinking of it as “a rumour more than an actual thing”. Funny that you picked up that one issue … I’m biased of course, but I think that the Phoenix in the ’70s-80s was second to none on music coverage. Cheers!

  2. I would totally love to see more Phoenixes from the 70s-80s (one of the things that sucks about the demise — literal and figurative — of all these publications in the last few years is that so few of them have been archived for public consumption). Reading some of the other obits online, it’s startling to be reminded of how many great writers went through there (you mentioned a number of them in your piece).

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