Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pazz and Jop, Part Cinqo: My First Time

“So what about Pazz and Jop?!?”

That’s Nutboy, getting impatient. He’s right. For the last few weeks I’ve been writing around Pazz and Jop rather than about it. But that’s me. I’ll tell you about the history of watches when all you asked for was the right time.

My first Pazz and Jop was for 1978. Entitled “Triumph of the New Wave”, it confirmed what I was beginning to suspect - that this punk stuff was not about to go away.

It was the year of The Clash’s US breakthrough Give ‘Em Enough Rope, Blondie’s pop breakthrough Parallel Lines, Elvis Costello’s spite breakthrough This Year’s Model, Talking Heads Jaybee-life-changing More Songs About Buildings and Food, and the Ramones best-commericial- breakthrough-they-could-hope-for Road to Ruin. Plus Nick Lowe and Brian Eno, with their hands in everything.

It was not half bad for those thirty-ish oldfolks either. The Stones resurgent Some Girls, Neil Young’s beautiful Comes a Time and Springsteen’s not-great-but-after-a-three-year-wait- we’ll-take-it Darkness On the Edge of Town.

And many, many more.

After my wandering the desert for a long time, here was an oasis of music, and a treasure trove of information all summed up in one handy place. I was immediately addicted to it, and would look forward to it every year after.

And then, at the end of 1979, Robert Christgau gave a great summation of the decade, that only whetted my appetite for more.

The List:

So I had a lot to work with to catch up on what I missed in the 70s. But going forward I’d be keeping an eye out for other handy sources of music info.

In 1981 I got the “Rolling Stone Album Guide” and “Christgau’s Records of the Seventies” - the former a compendium of miscellaneous critical voices, and the latter one person’s voice, prejudices and blind spots and all. “Rolling Stone” had their star system – five for a masterpiece, four for excellent etc. Christgau had his grade system - A+ masterpiece, A for great, etc.

I pored through the two books looking for treasure, and there was plenty. If anything the problem was where to start.

And there were the disagreements, too. I’d long ago come to terms with critical disagreements. But even so, I couldn’t help but notice that there was some consensus.

So one night, while my friends were doing fun things like watching porn on the VCR, I was comparing these two books, looking for records that rated both five stars in Rolling Stone and an A or better in Christgau. I ended up with a list of about fifty records, and still think I had a better time. But that’s what a nerd would say, isn’t it?

I had officially become “that weird guy in the record store”. But it sure beat trying to carry that stuff around in my head.

And I’d spent the better part of the 80s using that list - and subsequent Pazz and Jop results - to find new music.

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