Showing posts with label Music writing.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music writing.. Show all posts

Friday, April 28, 2023


Honestly, I love critics who are smart and love the sound of their prose so much that they soak their subject in overripe, purplish grandiloquence, which makes getting to their usually inane insights a fun adventure in well-managed if excessively mannered evaluations of popular culture. The present example is the photograph accompanying his piece, a review of an Elvis Presley album by a G.C. Burke, no relation, in the May 1957 issue of High-Fidelity magazine. (My thanks to music writer Mark Miller, who posted this intriguing specimen in a Facebook group dedicated to music journalism.)

Perhaps not so oddly, I feel some kinship with Mr. Burke and wonder if he’s a distant and likely belated relation. I read John Simon for years in New York Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and The National Review, and often marveled at how a man of such obvious erudition and flawless prose ability could be so magnificently elegant in expressing amazingly pedestrian opinions of books, plays, films, and movies. His vitriol couldn’t elevate his sour takes on the arts from the routinely knee-jerk reaction. I wager that Simon’s vocabulary and acerbic virtuosity buffaloed his readers and editors with the flashy pyrotechnics of his word-slinging; what I thought of as Simon’s conspicuous ineptitude as a critic of cultural expression was summarily overlooked.

Burke obviously wants to consider himself a public intellectual, a mission much greater than being a mere record reviewer, and here attempts to pigeonhole the ill-making cultural habits of the times that are spoiling the rest of us. Sophistry itself, this amateur sociology and such, but what fun it is to read a smart person use every weapon in his arsenal to swat a fly. But again, honestly, quite honestly, quite vainly, G.C. Burke’s makes me think that those of us sharing the last Irish-borne surname share a genetic fascination for padded hyperbole. (Forgive me my indulgence if I’ve elevated myself to the likes of Edmund and Kenneth Burke, genius scribblers both.) Obviously, it would seem, that I’m inspired to indulge my verbal excesses after reading G.C. Burke’s energized dalliance with the philosophical broadside. Perhaps I can find a collection of his further thrashings of pop musicians of his time and become insufferable myself.