Open the Door, Richard

Pitchfork: The first column at The Voice to do this with music was Richard Goldstein’s “Pop Eye”. He wasn’t there for very long, but he developed a unique way to approach music intellectually and enthusiastically at the same time.

DP: Goldstein started writing at The Village Voice in 1966, after finishing his masters in journalism at Columbia. He wanted to write about pop with a capital P: It’s mass culture, it’s democratic, but at the same time, it can be cunning, smart, tongue-in-cheek. At this point, no one else was taking that approach. You can see a juxtaposition with Crawdaddy, which was Paul Williams’ publication. Where Williams really just wanted to be serious, Goldstein wanted to be meta. He was friends with Bob Christgau and Ellen Willis, and they’re starting to figure out, “How do we develop a new language for talking about music?”

Pitchfork: One of the fascinating and, in a way, tragic things about Goldstein’s story is the identity crisis that he developed in public through his writing. At first, he embraced pop. But he quickly started resenting its commercialization and valorizing the underground.

DP: The “underground” is an idea that Goldstein is key in developing. Not to say that there weren’t people covering things out of the limelight before, but he’s central to the use of the word “underground” and this idea that there is a submerged culture happening on its own terms. At first, Richard gets very fired up about the possibilities of pop to radically reinvent society. Remember, it’s the 1960s, so we’re talking about the beliefs of the counterculture for world change. All of this infuses him and his writing. Very quickly, though, he gets jaded, as I think many people in their late 20s can relate to. But also, when we think about rock in the 60s getting completely commercialized, we don’t realize that it happened in the span of 28 months, really. The big money started falling in, which has an ironic relationship to the music. It helps the music to spread but at the same time, especially for somebody who was on the ground observing it, it could be a very depressing change.

Eric Harvey interviews Devon Powers about Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism, which I just ordered this morning. I’m probably looking as forward to the telling of Goldstein’s place in all this as I am to Christgau’s, given that I really know only the most obvious, scant details about RG. (There’s also the recent news to consider that Christgau is releasing a memoir of his own.)


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