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R 'n' R heaven (on earth)

By Mitch Myers

JUNE 5, 2000:  To quote the wisdom of the immortal sage Tommy James, from his classic foray into psychedelic bubblegum, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" (NOT "Crimson and Clover"). "Look over yonder./ What do you see?/ A new day is coming./ Most definitely."

Well, I've looked over yonder, and the new day has finally come. Yes, the future is now. Telltale signs are popping up everywhere, and I'm here to tell you about it just in case you haven't noticed the trend. Really, it's as plain as the nose on Ringo Starr's face.

I ask you, why else would Da Capo Press be publishing "The Nick Tosches Reader" and "A Whore Just Like The Rest: The Music Writings of Richard Meltzer"? Aren't these guys just middle-aged writers who first made their names scribbling down record reviews for magazines like Creem and Rolling Stone in the late sixties and early seventies? Is there really that much value in thirty-plus years of collected works from dudes that didn't even listen to half of the records they were supposed to be reviewing? Are the irreverent and sexualized musings of Meltzer and the hardboiled rock journalism/fiction of Tosches really the stuff of legend? The answer to that last question is Yes.

And what about Chicago's own music journo, Jim DeRogatis, choosing to write "Let It Blurt," the first published biography of a rock critic in the entire history of mankind? His subject, of course, is the late, great Lester Bangs. Bangs was a highly influential music scribe who came up through the rock 'n' roll ranks at the same time as Meltzer and Tosches. As a matter of fact, the three were drinking buddies of the highest order, and both Meltzer and Tosches devote plenty of space to Saint Lester in their current anthologies. Of course, Richard and Nick get plenty of mentions in the Bangs bio. While Lester died at the age of 33 in 1982, he left an indelible mark on rock journalism and continues to inspire a legion of music critics to this very day.

In my mind, the final piece of this puzzle is the movie "High Fidelity," an adaptation of Nick Hornby's rock novel of the same name that was filmed (and takes place) right here in our fair city and stars none other than John Cusack in the leading role. In "High Fidelity" Cusack plays the owner of a small record shop who has trouble making commitments in relationships, but knows more rock trivia than all of the disc jockeys on WXRT put together.

But what exactly am I getting at with all this rock 'n' roll nonsense, you ask? I'll spell it out for you. ROCK GEEKS ARE FINALLY COOL! Yes, all of you hepcats who know who played bass with the third edition of King Crimson can rejoice, your time has come. Of course, Richard Meltzer and Nick Tosches are cool because they turned their backs on music writing years ago. Lester Bangs is cool nowadays for one main reason: He's dead. All we really have to remember him by is Jimmy D's new book and one posthumous Bangs collection, the ever essential "Psychotic Reactions And Carburetor Dung." Our hero in "High Fidelity" is cool because he's being played by that famous movie star, John Cusack. Certainly, actor Jack Black stole the show by being an even cooler geek than Cusak, but Black's character transcended his status as a rock geek in "High Fidelity" by becoming a rock performer. And that's what every rock geek really wants deep down inside anyway (which is why rock geeks have always been so UNCOOL in the first place).

But really, I gotta admit that all these old rock writer guys have influenced me greatly, and I'm willing to bet that they influenced Jim DeRogatis too. Not to mention Jim's partner on the "Sound Opinions" radio show, Tribune critic Greg Kot. Once a week you can hear two white guys sitting around playing records and talking about rockstuff. Cool, right? Honestly, I believe all geek-speak should be conducted in the privacy of one's own home, and only with consenting adults present. Otherwise it's like going out on a double date and spending the whole night talking to your buddy about sports trivia (sorry...not cool).

Maybe all this is just wishful thinking on my part. I've been waiting for the day to come when my rock-geek mind would help me get laid, and I'm not going to pass up this opportunity no matter how bleak my chances may be. (Hey, any of you gals want to come on over and see my record collection?) But one thing, please don't compare me to Cusack's character in "High Fidelity" just because I'm a Chicago boy with an apartment filled with records and CDs. That guy wasted all of his time organizing his records in some kind of chronological order--everybody knows that you should file your records by genre.

Are we cool?


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