Friday, March 12, 2010


Reelin' In the Years

by Wayne Robins

I stumbled upon a valuable blog for connoisseurs of rock criticism,
Beat Patrol. What led me there was its posting of a long-forgotten review I did for Creem in 1974 of Todd Rundgren's
"Todd" album. The review was quite favorable, yet peppered with the back-handed compliments that were part of the irreverent Creem treatment. I think in this review I'm starting to create a little distance from my monthly effort to pay homage to my editor at Creem, a fellow of whom you may have heard named Lester Bangs. I'm kind of finding my own voice, though you might hear the attempted imitation of Lester's voice at times resonating. Of course, some Creem writers during my era (1971-1975) wanted to be Lester. What was important to me about Lester's writing and editing was the liberation he represented: Just start typing and let yourself go, see where the muse, and the music, takes you. In that way, he was one of the best editors I ever had, possibly second only to Robert Christgau. In 1974 I was living in New York and also writing for Christgau at the Village Voice; his due diligence and intellectual rigor inhabited a different place on the spectrum entirely from Bangs'. Instinctively forming a synthesis between those two "mentors" gave me the knowledge and the confidence that maybe I could write for a living.

The back pages of "Beat Patrol" also have audio links to the two sides of Steely Dan's obscure first single: "Dallas"/"Still the Waterway" (1972), a release that apparently preceded "Do It Again." It was Christgau who turned me on to Steely Dan back then: He was the rock critic at Newsday (a mantle I would inherit in 1975 for a nearly 20 year run.) Soon after meeting Christgau in the fall of 1972, he took me to see Steely Dan play at Westbury Music Fair on Long Island. "Do It Again" had just broken; I'd heard the songs on the radio, but hadn't connected with who the artist was. When I saw them, I really connected, since just a few years earlier, I had gone to Bard College for a year, where Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were also students. We didn't hang out—they already kept largely to themselves—but it was hard not to run into them, since in those days there were only about 600 students at Bard.
One more thing about this Steely Dan concert, one of the last they would perform for many years: They were the opening act for Cheech & Chong.

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