Richard Meltzer in Magnet

A nicely detailed profile of Meltzer by Mitch Meyers (originally from Magnet — circa 2000?), with lots of dish re: Christgau, Marsh, Marcus, et al. Note: you’ll be asked to “agree” to enter the blog because of possible adult material, but it’s Relatively Safe for Work, far as I can tell (there are a couple semi-nudes on the sidebar).


6 thoughts on “Richard Meltzer in Magnet

  1. Thanks for posting this article, Scott. The weird thing is that even though I “agreed” and entered the blogsite with no hassle, there’s a big black bar down the right side of the page, blocking out the last word or two of each line. Maybe the self-appointed sex wardens in Cincinnati’s “Citizens for Community Values” [sic, sic] hacked in somehow to keep me from viewing Meltzer’s profile in its entirety. Oh well, I can always re-read my copy of “A Whore Just Like the Rest” to fill in some of the gaps.

    The photos of Meltzer, several of which I’ve never seen before, look pretty good despite the black bar. I especialy like the one of leather-jacketed Meltz standing in front of a used-car lot. I thought he might be re-enacting a scene from “Taxi Driver”, since Robert De Niro is his celeb lookalike the way Andy Warhol is this Richard’s.

  2. I found this quote from Meltzer in the piece both odd and interesting: “I would like to get some feedback from them [Christgau and Marcus], just to get a sense of the ongoingness of the damn thing.” Meltzer’s entire career, it seems to me, has been a balancing act between being in the thing and being completely divorced from the thing. It’s like the line in “Vinyl Reckoning,” which I always considered the key part of the whole essay: “Why do I care? I CARE.”

  3. that quote reminds me of a section in Ann Powers’ “Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America,” discussing the relationship between bohemia and bourgeois culture, specifically with regard to the formative influence of that relationship on identity for bohemian individuals: “Bohemians have always waffled between repulsion and attraction to the bourgeoisie that shares their space like a noisy next-door neighbor… as the unofficial conscioence of the bourgeoisie, they can never exists entirely apart, even rebellion demands involvement, with its threat of absorption. As the Clash’s Joe Strummer once so eloquently put it, ‘He who fucks nuns will later join the Church.'” (Powers, 238)

  4. I sort of see the parallel, though I would need to better understand the context of Powers’s quote. It sounds like a more generalized, organic relationship/dialectic she’s referring to (and what — if anything — does she cite as proof that such a relationship exists?). Meltzer would certainly qualify as “repulsed” by the “bourgeoisie” (though who would that actually BE in this parallel example? Christgau/Marcus? they’re something closer to sub-bohemian, no?) but I’ve never gotten much sense from him that he is *attracted* to the greener grass, more that he can’t escape its shadow (can’t actually do his work *without* it, to some extent) and that he believes he was denied his fair share of its rewards — which is not the same thing as wanting to be in the centre of it. Anyway, it’s an intriguing suggestion. (Though I have to say, that Clash quote — great song — always makes me bristle some when people quote it, not sure why. It seems a bit too convenient and blunt in its message, or something, and the truth is, I don’t see it fitting all that well with the point Powers is making — I don’t read her point as being about selling out — but again, I can’t refer to her context.)

  5. Certainly a different cultural context between the two (Meltzer in the 60s/70s, Powers in the mid-80s I believe, though writing closer to the present), and I think she brings this up, describing her experience as “2nd generation bohemian” or something to that effect, characterized by awareness of the then-recent events of the previous generation of American ‘bohemians’ (a definition used somewhat loosely) represented by 1960s idealism and its more or less failure to replace established cultural norms(possibly a figure/ground dynamic)? Would you see Meltzer then as recognizing the inappropriateness of even trying to bring what he does to the centre of the cultural mainstream, even though what he does is usually more culturally relevant or successful as art at that moment in history? (he doesnt want to reform the church, but he wants them to know he wrote a lot of the good scripture, also god is dead) Powers goes on to talk about “upper bohemia” as a sort of contradictory inclusion, and those that seem to have the contradictions resolved (Christgau, Marcus?) seem to lose an essential element disqualifying the validity of their position as bohemian (that position being defined by contradiction), though the rock-write cultural ‘thing’ to which Meltzer is juxtaposed is further influenced and interactive with the more general cultural consciousness, the far point on the bourgeois spectrum. I think Powers still has somewhat of a parallel in her own acceptance of an offer to write for the NY Times (possibly for the Village Voice immediately prior, prompting her move to NYC and the “selling out” questions), but I believe she comes out more optimistic than Meltzer regarding her ability to be ‘in it’ and ‘bohemian’ to an acceptable degree, whether or not this resolves anything. Id actually never heard that song quoted before and had to look it up to place it (Spanish Bombs, Brixton, and Lost are my more played tracks from London Calling)

  6. You mention McLuhan’s figure/ground dynamic in regards to “60s idealism” and the “failure to replace established cultural norms.” Meaning the failure of the hippies/yippies to recognize that the “ground” was the satellite environment, and not the institutional “figures” and political/media structures they directed their energies against? Or the failure to recognize that the true new nature was the electric environment (“where have all the flowers gone?”). Interested to know what you had in mind there.

    “Would you see Meltzer then as recognizing the inappropriateness of even trying to bring what he does to the centre of the cultural mainstream, even though what he does is usually more culturally relevant or successful as art at that moment in history?”

    I might replace “inappropriateness” with “futility” (the difference isn’t essential, probably, more just a matter of striking a more Meltzerian tone?), but it’s a great question. I don’t think this quote from *Aesthetics* is entirely relevant to this (I don’t think he’s addressing centre/margin here at all, which is what you’re suggesting), but they might semi-apply, at least in regards to “culturally relevant or successful as art.” To wit: “The whole analysis-of-music bit sort of calls for the use of a pack of words to tack onto a pack of sounds juxtaposed with another pack of words. Every creep who has ever bothered with that has to groove on how silly, in the good sense, the whole operation has to be. How do you talk about music, anyway, particularly when…” Rock itself is an environment, written words in such an environment are inadequate, or let’s say can only have minimal effect at best ON that environment — words are but one response to the rapid shifts taking place on all levels (why “dancing about architecture” is in fact entirely valid). Maybe? I’m grasping towards something here, not sure it all makes sense. (Sorry to not address the Powers stuff. Your comments have reminded me that I need to get a copy of her book.)

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