November 10, 2020

An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue

Charlie Daniels was, in one very real sense, hippie to the core. The Charlie Daniels Band’s first hit was a novelty song called “Long Haired Country Boy,” the opening stanza of which went like this: “People say I’m no good and crazy as a loon / ’Cause I get stoned in the morning / And get drunk in the afternoon.”

May 30, 2019

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

What it all represented to me was a way of living and thinking that seemed astoundingly unconstrained by convention or expectation. Each of these scenes and bands was highly specific, daring, and individual. Most had no chance to reach a mass audience, and hardly fell over themselves trying to amend that state of affairs. For a small, shy, quiet girl with some roiling ideas about art and politics, their examples were a relief and a revelation.

September 12, 2019

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

What is it about this malignancy that pulls me like the moon pulls on the tides? Why does he live in my head? Maybe I am a soft touch. Maybe I’m a mark. Like so many women, I can’t resist a half-handsome smart guy with a ready and witty remark. That’s on me. I got hooked on a single song: “I Was in the House When the House Burned Down.” But that was years after 1982.

October 31, 2019

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

This is the most Marvin Gaye sentiment ever. There is no such thing as a fun, cheap fling in the Marvin Gaye universe. There is no hedonistic misbehavior of a random sort that doesn’t yield an awful psychic consequence. There is only this: wheels within wheels, complications, betrayals, and toxic jealousies. And then getting back together. He heard it through the grapevine. But since we’re still friends. This is his foreplay.

July 25, 2019

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

They had announced in August of that year that it would be their final outing and Toronto was the final stop on it. I must consider what or who it was they felt they were really saying farewell to on that frigid evening thirty-seven years ago.

April 09, 2019

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

Understand my irreverence was never situated in disrespect or unkindness. First he was a man and then he was a star and then he was a legend and then he was a caricature and finally an abstraction. This is the life cycle of commodification. By the time I first heard the name we were well into the weeds.

February 21, 2019

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

As for the movie I’m watching, I came to adore it more than I ever expected to. It sent me down a Lou Reed rabbit hole. Transformer and Mick Ronson led to Bolan and Mott and then to glam writ large. For a theater kid with a nascent interest in songwriting, the serotonin fireworks are nearly impossible to describe.

August 14, 2018

In a 2017 interview with Bill Flanagan, Bob Dylan held forth on his views regarding Don McLean’s “American Pie,” a song that I have loathed with an almost inchoate malice since first encountering it as a young child. Dylan didn’t seem like a fan either, and in particular addressed the long-standing conjecture that he himself was the so-called “jester” referred to in McLean’s bloviating marathon.