Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The best rock concert review I won't let you read

Wolfgang dropped a basket of semi-obscure treasures this week, possibly the first list free of any of the stalwarts you hear on classic rock. The best known is Rod Stewart with the Faces from an October 1973 show. I gave the show a listen out of curiosity, not nostalgia, and it's worth a listen. The band was undeniably talented, although not era-defining.

The show also reminded me of a review someone I know wrote on one of Rod's shows in 1977. Now maybe 21-year-olds today can be held accountable all their life for their public writings. They're grown up with the internet, alta vista, and google, and have an innate understanding that words are forever. But can you hold an ambitious 21-year-old accountable forever who was trying to get some attention by inciting an uproar with a review of a mediocre concert?

But thirty years ago no one writing for a college paper would expect their words to come back to haunt them a generation later. Who knew that one day colleges all over the place would scan their morgues and put the contents where google could find them? The article is googleable, and so memorable for me it was easy to find, but I won't quote it directly. If the writer wants to come public with it, let him. Or her. Yeah, right.

Fortunately for the writer, it's hard to find it unless you include his name in the query. The article is packed with gems, slagging Rod and his band for being predictable, and not worth the whopping eight dollars fifty the fans shelled out. But a homophobic rant runs through the first half that rarely lets up. I can't see how it would get published today. Most people would think twice before putting their name on it. Editors would cancel it. And if it did get published, there would be a national outrage in the blogosphere. In 1977, while not as accepting a time as today, straights were still hanging out at the gay bars. David Bowie, the New York Dolls, and Lou Reed had forged a path of androgynous glammy rock that had found mainstream acceptance. Rod was just jumping on yet another bandwagon with his eye shadow, hair highlights, and other metrosexual accessories. Selling tickets and vinyl. Big deal.

Could the writer have written a politically correct review of the show? Sure, but would it have had the same impact? He scored all kinds of hits that year, including interviews with Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, and Patti Smith. I read them, and I don't recall a word of them now. Picking on Rod Stewart was journalistic low-hanging fruit. While I can understand obsessed collectors who have hundreds of Grateful Dead or Phish tapes, or Japanese imports by Dylan or Springsteen, I can't imagine what kind of person would need to own every single album of Rod Stewart's (hi grandma).

I finally read the full article. Guess what -- pull out the homophobia and it's a deveined tepid phoned-in account of an uninspiring show. Which kind of sums up how I remember most rock music of the era.

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