Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Criticism--and the supersensitive/vindictive reaction to it--in rock and roll.

Recently, I read the late Paul Nelson's book of interviews with Clint Eastwood--CONVERSATIONS WITH CLINT.


Some choice tidbits from the book:
Stephen Holden on artists who Jann Wenner considered sacred cows in ROLLING STONE:
"Jann would insist on positive reviews for his personal friends, including Boz Scaggs and Art Garfunkel, in particular, and Jimmy Webb.  They got lots of coverage and they always got positive reviews."

Paul Nelson's personal friendship with Jackson Browne (Browne's album THE PRETENDER was a Nelson favorite) came to an end when Nelson panned J.D. Souther's (Souther is now probably best known for songwriting--with hits for the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt--rather than his singing/recording career) album YOU'RE ONLY LONELY.

From the review:
"These days, J.D. Souther is mostly a parody of the sensitive California singer/songwriter.  He's calendar art, the aural equivalent of a Kodak color slide: leaves turning in the autumn as photographed by Felicia Filigree of Vassar.  He's so lazy that too often his songs have trouble holding even the most cliched poses, because their creator can't be bothered to supply the necessary conviction, much less any at all. 'If you don't want my love/Well, there's nothing I can do.' he mewls, sounding like he's mildly annoyed because his Perrier is getting warm."

Don Henley wrote an angry letter to ROLLING STONE (keep in mind that ROLLING STONE was then considered THE major rock magazine) that began:
"Paul Nelson's blade seems to be getting too big for him to carry.  He's so busy being cute and is such an obviously biased little prick, he invalidates his own reviews."

Then the book goes on to recount a conversation Nelson had with Jackson Browne concerning the Souther album:
Jackson Browne: "It was if he had wasted his time [two years] making this record.  It was as if his first record, which you liked, was made last week, and this week he didn't do so well.  Now, I don't think that's the job of the reviewer--if you don't mind my telling you your job this once.  I think often reviewers are given assignments and they write about something and they might not care for the thing.  They may be actually pissed off that they have to write about it, and that anger gets handed over to the artist."
Paul Nelson: "If I don't like John David's album, I dont see anything wrong with my saying that I don't like it."
Browne: "By the end of the review, I still didn't know why you didn't like it."
Nelson: "Because I thought it was real narcissistic."
"You know," Browne snapped his fingers, "that can be said just like that.  I disagree.  But I think it could be said without cultural references like Perrier and the amount of money one might have made."
"I wanted to shake him up," Paul shot back, "Which I told you in advance when we talked, that I thought--"
Browne: "No, you didn't tell me in advance.  You told me after you'd written it and before I had read it."

The punchline to this SoCal rock story:
Jackson Browne read the review of the Souther album and called Nelson "and demanded to know how he could've written such a thing."

Nelson was planning on writing a Jackson Browne biography before the Souther review blowup and Browne killed the project, saying "Well, I don't see how we can do a book now.  I couldn't go and do a book with the journalist that had savaged my friend."

And that's how people behave when they have money and the stakes are higher than, say, the poetry community (where similar behavior occurs too).

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