Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Sorry State of Rock & Roll Journalism, circa 2013

From the ages of zero to twelve years old all I cared about was reading and World War II.  When I was 12 The Beatles (and, more importantly, The Dave Clark 5) appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and my little seventh-grade Catholic boy head exploded.  As such, from the age of 12 to earlier this morning all I have cared about is reading and rock & roll.  (And maybe movies and sex, but not until much later on.)

Nowadays that means that I read way too many books about rock & roll that I get out of the library.  It also means that, problematically, I would now often prefer to read about rock & roll than to LISTEN to rock & roll.  But at one time it meant I devoured rock & roll magazines and fanzines for all the latest dope (pun intended) on my favorite bands.  I've come to realize from my catbird perch here in the 21st century that rock & roll magazines are like meteors; they flare, burn really bright for awhile, then fade to black and crash into irrelevance.  Following is a list of the five best magazines EVER about rock & roll, and the periods of their reigns..... 

1) Creem, 1973-1975
2) New York Rocker, 1976-1979
3) Phonograph Record Magazine, 1971-1975
4) Rolling Stone, 1968-1970
5) Mojo, 1994-2000

(Best fanzine ever, hands-down, was L.A.'s Back Door Man, 1976-1979,
which will someday have a Growing Old With Rock & Roll blog entry all its own,
and Who Put The Bomp, which kinda straddled the line between fanzine & magazine.)

It's pretty obvious from that list that I didn't really think much of rock journalism in the 1980's.  (Actually I didn't really think much of rock MUSIC in the 1980's.)  I guess I must have read Musician magazine in those days, but I'm not 100% sure WHY at this point.  Rolling Stone had been useless for 10 years by 1980, Creem for at least five, and everybody else seemed to be chasing their tails down their particular rabbit holes - New Wave, hardcore, heavy metal, prog, what-have-you.

I find us in a roughly analagous state here in 2013, except in the 80's I knew there were bands like The Del Fuegos, The Del-Lords, The Neighborhoods, The True Believers, etc. that weren't getting written about in what passed for The Rock Press, just below the level of The Replacements and REM, who were sometimes grudgingly being chronicled.  Spin, I guess, tried to do its best, but when was that mag readable for more than five issues in a row, ever? 

Now, at the elderly rock & roll age of 60, I find myself wandering the magazine racks at Barnes & Noble like Dusty Springfield, just wishin' & hopin' for something, ANYTHING interesting to read about rock & roll.  Mojo and Uncut, the last clear contenders, are both well past their prime and where in this century is ONE interesting rock writer?  Where is a Lester Bangs, a Greg Shaw, a Robert Christgau, an R. Meltzer, a Lisa Robinson, a Charles Shaar Murray, a Mick Farren?  Christ, at this point I'd almost settle for a Chuck Klosterman, and that ain't sayin' much, my rock & roll friends.

Anybody out there wanna refute this attitude and/or point me in a direction I'm not seeing? 

© 2013 Ricki C.


  1. Paste isn't too bad, but they try to be too across the boards and inclusive. That's what killed it for me ... pick a genre, cover it. You don't need be inclusive.

  2. Hmmmm, Paste. A coupla years ago Paste named that band The National as its Band Of The Year, and since then I haven't been able to bring myself to pick up the magazine to look at it again. I hate to badmouth fellow Ohio boys, but I really can't abide The National. But Eric, thanks for the input. (Also Paste, back when I did read it showed absolutely ZERO sense of humor, something I find implicit in great rock & roll writing.) (i.e. Lester Bangs, Mark Shipper, Ken Barnes, Don Waller, R. Meltzer.)