Here’s an excerpt from “A Hack Or A Whore,” Chapter Three of the highly entertaining rock memoir, Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars.”
I know which one I’d choose today.
“The runaway train pace of rock writing and editing continued in 1978 with Triad and the Illinois Entertainer, as well as Lively Times in Rockford, Radio Free Rock in Indianapolis, and Prairie Sun, published in downstate Macomb by Bill Knight. Prairie Sun featured the skewed observations of local hero Rick “Reek” Johnson, whose snotty contributions to Creem carried on the “don’t give a fuck” tradition of firebrand rock critic Lester Bangs.
Johnson was in the habit of sending vintage postcards in the mail, usually captioned with a non sequitur, for example, ‘People with those kinds of radios are difficult to tell knock-knock jokes to.’ We invited him to bring a dish to a music-themed potluck and his next card replied, ‘Which favorite recipe? Axis Power Meatballs? Okrahoma? No More Mr. Rice Guys?’
One day this missive arrived: ‘After reading your latest, I still can’t decide if you’re a hack or a whore.’ That stung a bit. In retaliation I savagely reviewed Rick’s Rejects, a low-budget, photocopied fanzine comprised of antagonistic scribbles turned down by other publications.
That’s the way we rolled. Taking liberties, desperately trying to be both serious and droll. Reviewing the film, Grease, I wrote, ‘What was once a raw, emotional portrayal of life in the ‘50s is now a musical comedy; blocked, choreographed, recorded, and meticulously clean. Except for John Travolta. Of course, everyone who says anything about Grease will say Travolta is great. Perhaps because that’s the very hip thing to say. Perhaps because we want to think that the kid we loved in Welcome Back Kotter and Saturday Night Fever can do no wrong. Or, maybe because it’s true. Travolta brings a rare presence to the screen that cannot be readily described. He’s not Brando. He’s not Dean. He’s much closer to John Wayne than either of them, yet there is youth, a natural look and smile that sets him apart.’
That passage illustrates what Johnson meant by his ‘hack or whore’ comment. My writing was rarely criticism in the formal interpretation. Obviously, there are critical observations laced throughout, but for the most part the conversations presented here, in all their naïveté, are reports filed from the frontlines of pop and rock music.”
Those are just some of the 80,000 words you can enjoy on your very own Kindle copy of Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars, cheep at $2.99.