History of Rock Written By The Losers
September 17, 2003
BOSTON—Fifty years after its inception, rock 'n' roll music remains popular due to the ardor of its fans and the hard work of musicians, producers, and concert promoters. But in the vast universe of popular music, there exists an oft-overlooked group of dedicated individuals who devote their ample free time to collecting, debating, and publishing the minutiae of the rock genre. They are the losers who write rock's rich and storied history.
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Yes, plenty of people who have written some of the most comprehensive books on the on-going story of rock 'n' roll have earmarks of loserdom. However, seeing what I've seen with some writers I've talked to and read about, we're not the losers. Like how we were in high school and college, we're the invisible people. You know, the ones that have friends, but not many. We're known but not too known. We're not picked on as much as others. In other words, we're there but don't immediately stick out in a crowd.
I think about my own life as I continue working on a book that chronicles a part of music history that really means a lot to me. I don't go out that much and tend to spend a lot of my personal time by myself. I love being around friends, but I definitely need personal "me time." While it would be nice to hang out with friends a little more often for longer periods of time, I figure that my friends are too busy to hang out/talk for too long. We're busy people, but I still have all this free time on my hands. To be honest, too much "me time" is not as great as you'd think.
Feeling like I should utilize this free time as much as I can doing something that makes me feel good, I write. I could spend this same time screaming at TV shows I don't really care for or I could do something that I really want to do. This kind of space is where so many bands are formed and I've applied the same idea to writing.
Is this way of life pure loserdom? I don't think so, but I think I understand those that think it is. I'm not the most gregarious, outgoing kind of person compared to people I know and have known. When I go to bars to see a band play, I'm there squarely for the music. If I run into people I know, I talk to them and we have a great time. The way I see it, the appeal of seeing a band play brought me out there and whatever comes with it is cool, but not a mandate.
Common characteristics I've seen with my favorite writers (like Greg Kot, Jim DeRogatis, Chuck Klosterman and Michael Azerrad) involve them being really active with music and its culture. Whether it's playing in a band or bopping their heads while a band plays, they aren't pedestrians. They have this desire to get to the root core of where the music they love comes from. The search can be long and laborious for others, but if you're that interested in something, you keep digging and digging and it never gets old.
A major issue I've had to unlearn is reading too much into matters. Traditional film school criticism can make you read way too much into stuff and well, that carried over into music criticism for me. I've found that more people, whether they make films, paint or play music, live in the moment and aren't thinking about the future historical context of what they're doing. However, put a band's story in the hands of someone coming strictly from a hindsight perspective and coincidences sound intentional. Things become really cut and dry. Well, I can't settle on telling stuff in black and white. Life's too gray to cheapen it into black and white matters. Since we tend to remember things from the past in how they matter over time versus what actually happened, I try to set the record as straight as possible.