Babies and Punks | San Diego Reader:As a few of you are doubtless tired of hearing, I wrote music reviews and features for the San Diego Reader in their early days, a moment in time when a young man was revealing some signs of genuine wordslingerness who was, as well, an uneasy admixture of self-consciousness, hubris and occasional moments of insight and random kindness. Barely into my twenties, I desired a public intellectual of some rank, a critic, a provoker of greater, deeper considerations of the arts in readers and the various beer-drinking academies I found myself keeping company with. I found the Reader, a then-new alternative weekly started by the enterprising James Holman, who was kind enough to print my first submission, an energetic if scuff-kneed recounting of my second trip to Los Angeles for the required examination for the draft. It actually wasn't that bad a tale as I wrote it, given that I was still seeking my own voice, my own cadence while I was borrowing the rhythms of other writers. That comes with time, of course.
But it seems to me that a lot of what the Reader was kind enough to publish by me was tone deaf. Bad writing, in short. The editors, bless them, acknowledge the writers who've written for them over the decades and will reprint old stories by them as examples of the prose flavors they brought to that unique publication. This set of two record reviews, of Alice Cooper's wearisome teen angst factory Billion Dollar Babies and Humble Pie's double- record castrati fest Eat It. Such were my tastes at that moment in time, a white male lover of Post-Cream guitar heroes , trying to make an argument that guitar pounding in 4/4 time was an art form for which there were standards that must be adhered to, and that the titles here were violating a social contract, of a sort, with the audience. I wanted to maintain that this mattered, but my attempts to subtly make the case and seduce disbelievers into buying hard rock albums rather than Blue Note jazz reissues at the Sports Arena Tower records were all but so much vapor vanishing into the night air. Ironically, I was trying to give reviews to what I thought were bad records with writing as awful and full of obvious phrases, dated buzz words and herd-thinking as the records I thought substandard. I wish it had been Mailer or Vidal or Bangs in quality.
It was, though, something less, the yearning of a man wanting to sit at the adult table. Well, let it not be said that my bad deeds against writing haven't gone unpunished. Along with the fabled Steve Esmedina, I came to the Reader in the 70s from Mesa College with it in mind to set the world straight as to what constituted good rock and roll and did so in terms that were, in retrospect, presumptive, pretentious and awkwardly worded. The writing was bad, and my only plausible defense was that I was learning how to write, seeking a bit of the quipping panache my various writing heroes had. That said, 44 years later it's safe to say I've learned how to put a couple of cogent sentences in sequence. This is a not-so-grim reminder that my beginnings as an art critic were little more than another ill-phrased rant from the peanut gallery.