C’mon in, crank it up!
We’ve talked about music in the Gazette, my hometown paper, since Aerosmith, Pink Floyd and Elton John released their first albums and Dr. John warned we were in the “Right Place Wrong Time,” since Elvis sang Aloha from Hawaii on world-wide TV, since the Grateful Dead, The Band and the Allman Brothers drew a Woodstock-topping crowd of 600,000 to Watkins Glen.
My columns – first Electric Music, then Jukebox – have appeared since before Pharrell Williams, Nas, Nick Lachey, Akon, Faith Evans, Trick Daddy, Mos Def, and Josh Homme were born.
Before starting at the Gazette, for Peg Wright, I wrote for Kite and Don Wilcock, my first editor. Along the way, I wrote for Metroland, Vermont Vanguard and Nippertown.
Talking about music on paper has been a great ride, reviewing 100-plus live shows a year, previewing many more, listening to records, discussing popular culture from 10,000-foot trend-talk down to bar-room levels. Along the way, I was honored as Music Maven of the Year at Music Haven, and as Music Journalist of the Year at the first-ever Eddy Awards – both in my hometown.
Readers tell me previewing shows is the most valuable part of this conversation. I love when somebody comes up to me at a show and says, “I came out to this because you recommended it.” This keeps me honest and focused, to be clear in my judgments and language.
Previewing shows doesn’t always work, of course. When Webb Wilder played QE2 (now the Fuze Box) around 1990, his band outnumbered the crowd: four of us, all music writers. Nobody else showed.
But I digress, and it’s moot anyway, here in the wasteland of no shows. Now, as the Gazette presents pandemic news to prevent panic and protect us with facts, its arts coverage goes on the shelf.
So, here’s my new place to talk about music – and life.
Self-appointed Dean of American Rock Critics Robert Christgau once complained that Esquire only gave him 10,000 words a year to write about half his life. My own life has been loud with music; but I’ll talk of music here in the wider context of a life I’m trying to understand, to see and hear clearly. Like dropping the needle on an album or shuffling a CD or playlist, you can jump around; – ignore real-life stuff to read only about music, for example, or do the opposite.
As live shows go virtual or archival, not much needs previewing. But we’ll look down the calendar at what music might come to all our towns (couches, bedrooms, phones) at once; and look at new (and older…) recordings. One extra-productive mail delivery brought 28 vinyl albums in a single day, but I digress.
We’ll mostly look back, at least to start.
What veteran soul star answered my impulse-driven phone call after signing his first record deal in years?
What hard-rock singer asked about the size of my unit?
What pre-show bet with my wife Ellie – who once fell asleep, head on my shoulder, in the sixth row of a Springsteen show and who turned bright red on meeting Ray Davies of the Kinks – turned into a backstage mini-concert for her alone? Surprise encounters can happen when you blunder around with an All Access pass.
So, stay tuned, pour or roll another one, and let’s talk.
I’m about as new to writing this as you are to reading it, but let’s get this conversation up and running.