Oral histories and punk r0ck go hand in hand. No scene lends itself better to this anti-hierarchical literary form than my little town of San Pedro, whose music scene has had a steadfastly populist vibe since before the Minutemen. Local artist Craig Ibarra documents Pedro punk of the ’70s and ’80s masterfully in A Wailing of a Town, a — you guessed it — oral history I reviewed for the Los Angeles Times.
It was an honor and pleasure to catch up recently with Richard Goldstein, whose Pop Eye column for The Village Voice in the 1960s helped invent the field of rock criticism, and who was Arts Editor at the Voice when I worked there in the 1980s and ’90s. We talked about music, politics, writing, Paris, the Voice, feminism, and more in this interview for the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Since it’s quoted in today’s New York Times review of Jessica Hopper’s book, for today’s Throw-Back Thursday, I’m posting “The Feminine Critique,” the 1992 Village Voice article that became the launching pad for Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop and Rap, the collection Ann Powers and I coedited 20 years ago. Back then, the Times paid it no attention whatsoever. Today, Dwight Garner highlights it as “an excellent anthology.” Ah, the life of a pioneer. At least this work is being honored while Ann and I are still alive. Sometimes, survival is the best strategy. I’m posting the slightly rewritten version that was the intro to the book.
In my own version of Throw-Back Thursday, I’m going to start posting articles from my publishing past. In 1991 I wrote a feature story for The Village Voice about the literary renaissance that was unfolding largely in Downtown venues, particularly the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. I called it guerrilla poetry. This was the first in-depth article on this scene, long before New York magazine put Edwin Torres on its cover. I still consider many of the poets and novelists I wrote about — Miguel Algarin, Tracie Morris, Mike Tyler, Paul Skiff, etc. — to be some of the most talented people I’ve had the honor to meet, let alone write about. Nuyorican Article
The John Lautner-designed Chemosphere rises out of the Hollywood Hills like a redwood and glass mushroom. The architect built the house for an aerospace engineer who had recently graduated from Loyola University, Leonard Malin. Malin raised his young family there, among the owls and squirrels. I interviewed him and his daughter Judith, also a LMU graduate, for the award-winning LMU Magazine.
Marissa Paternoster has a great rock’n’roll voice. The lead singer of New Jersey garage rock trio Screaming Females (ie the screaming female of the Screaming Females) stretches vowels like they’re taffy, pinching and shaking them with a piercing vibrato. In their cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” for the AV Club Undercover, “off” becomes a bellow and a solo. It’s the opposite of Tay-Tay’s thin reed, though the energy of this version owes a lot to that song’s compositional pop perfection. Plus there’s the way Paternoster holds off on playing her electric guitar until after the silly spoken break — and then rips into it, peeling off a lead as loud and unapologetic as her vocal burrs and the bangs covering half her voice. Yes, she screams with her guitar too. Think Chrissie Hynde, PJ Harvey, Corin Tucker, Johnny Rotten, Mick Jagger, David Johansen.