Saturday, April 04, 2015

Robert Christgau's Memoir

The first time I saw a Christgau Consumer Guide was in the early 80's in Creem magazine.  I was just starting to learn about the history of Rock and Roll.  Even though I'd been subscribing to Rolling Stone and Billboard since 1978, I knew mostly about the artists of that time, and little about Rock's past.  Big names were familiar, but deep cuts weren't.  You could get a sense of it all in an issue of Rolling Stone.  And once I started reading it, I also noticed that there were other music magazines out there like Crawdaddy and Creem.  I read them all, in addition to the first Rolling Stone Record Guides (published in 1979 and '83, and edited by Dave Marsh and John Swenson).

All of these played a part in how I learned about the origins of Rock music.  It was also in the early 80's that I noticed Robert Christgau's first Consumer Guide book on albums of the 70's.  I was fascinated by the capsule reviews, but also had to keep checking on artists I liked, to see if Christgau like them as well.  In the end, we probably agreed on half of his grades.  It was refreshing to see Disco get some respect.   But some of my AM Top 40 faves were dismissed, which at the time was frustrating, but today seems like a given with critics of that era.

This is a long intro so I can mention that one of the most anticipated music books in recent memory  (at least for me) has just been released.  Robert Christgau's memoir called Going Into The City.  Notice that I wrote memoir, because that's what it is.  It's not all about music, and if you want to know Christgau's musical tastes visit his website .  Christgau is the self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics", a designation that rubs some wrongly, but he's always put it out there lightly. Christgau says he's reviewed over 14,000 albums.   Prog-Rock and Metal fans should avoid him.  As for the book, once you accept that this is a bio, and not completely about music, then you'll find it a good read.

I still read Christgau's now weekly album reviews at Medium .  It is true that what Christgau has on all the early Rock critics is that he still listens to a wider variety of musical styles than many others. And he keeps up with all of it.  Nope, I don't go along with every one of his picks, but I still want to thank him for getting me started on my own musical journey.  Like Christgau, I don't intend to stop for a long time.

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