What happened to Paul Nelson? In the '60s, he pioneered rock & roll criticism with a first-person style of writing that would later be popularized by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer as "New Journalism." As co-founding editor of The Little Sandy Review and managing editor of Sing Out!, he'd already established himself, to use his friend Bob Dylan's words, as "a folk-music scholar"; but when Dylan went electric in 1965, Nelson went with him.
During a five-year detour at Mercury Records in the early 1970s, Nelson signed the New York Dolls to their first recording contract, then settled back down to writing criticism at Rolling Stone as the last in a great tradition of record-review editors that included Jon Landau, Dave Marsh, and Greil Marcus. Famously championing the early careers of artists like Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon, Nelson not only wrote about them but often befriended them. Never one to be pigeonholed, he was also one of punk rock's first stateside mainstream proponents, embracing The Sex Pistols and The Ramones.
But in 1982, he walked away from it all – Rolling Stone, his friends, and rock & roll. By the time he died in his New York City apartment in 2006 at the age of seventy – a week passing before anybody discovered his body – almost everything he'd written had been relegated to back issues of old music magazines.
How could a man whose writing had been so highly regarded have fallen so quickly from our collective memory?
With Paul Nelson's posthumous blessing, Kevin Avery spent four years researching and writing Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writing of Paul Nelson. This unique anthology-biography compiles Nelson's best works (some of it previously unpublished) while also providing a vivid account of his private and public lives. Avery interviewed almost 100 of Paul Nelson's friends, family, and colleagues, including several of the artists about whom he'd written.
Bruce Springsteen says, "He is somebody who played a very essential part in that creative moment when I was there trying to establish what I was doing and what I wanted our band to be about."
This is a landmark work of cultural revival, a tribute to and collection by one of the unsung critical champions of popular art.
Download and read a 51-page PDF excerpt (3.7 MB) which includes the Table of Contents, Kevin Avery's Introduction, and excerpts from the biography and Paul Nelson's writings.
Gary Panter's psychedelic-rock combo is hitting the streets of Brooklyn this weekend! Catch Devin, Gary & Ross at Union Pool [ 484 Union Ave ] on Saturday, September 24th. Don't miss the merch table — Gary usually brings some customized one-of-a-kind collage-style CDs!
Russ informs us that punk legend Exene Cervenka of X fame dropped by Fantagraphics Bookstore on Monday evening with Phil Alvin of the Blasters to do some record and comix shopping. Visiting Seattle to perform at Neumos with X bandmate John Doe, Exene was reportedly pleased to find a copy of Talk to Her, a collection of interviews conducted by Krisitne McKenna. Exene is interviewed, along with counterculture celebrities like Lou Reed, Joey Ramone, Allen Ginsberg, Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer, Chrissie Hynde, Joe Sacco, Elvis Costello, Walter Hopps, and Richard Hell, among others. The book includes portraits of interview subjects by Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Tony Millionaire and more. Pick one up. You won't be able to put it down.
Ajax and I actually met their awesome drummer Lucy at the San Diego Comic-Con late last month, and she had mentioned that her band was gonna be playing The Funhouse in Seattle for Pizza Fest 2011! [Full disclosure: Ajax works the door at The Funhouse when not workin' the warehouse at Fantagraphics.] But I totally suck, and I missed the show and the ensuing pizza-eating contest! Dammit.
Don't suck like I did: the band are still on tour, heading back home to San Diego over the next couple of weeks. If you dig that lo-fi garage-pop thing, go see 'em, and chat with Lucy at the merch table about VHS horror films and Johnny Ryan comics!
8/8: The Tube - Portland (w/Grrrl Friend) 8/10: The Knockout - San Francisco (w/Personal and the Pizzas) 8/11: The Blue Lagoon - Santa Cruz (w/ The Groggs) 8/12: Thee Davis Big TV House - Davis 8/13: Total Trash Fest - Oakland 8/15: Burger Records - Fullerton 8/16: Studio Danza - Whittier 8/17: Tower Bar - San Diego (w/ Bear Slim)
And, if you're in a band coming through Seattle, why not visit us at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery? We've got your perfect tour van/backstage-reading material in store.
• Review: "Fantagraphics, always a publisher you can count on to rescue classic comic material from oblivion, has published a gorgeous 288 page hardcover archive edition of Mickey [Mouse]'s earliest serialized comic strip adventures and he's quite a different character than we know today...a little rambunctious, a little mischievous, and a whole lot of fun. This book takes readers on a glorious ride through depression-era adventures as Mickey battles villains, becomes a fireman, visits a circus, and meets his faithful pup Pluto for the first time. Besides the many great comic strips, Fantagraphics has filled the book with a ton of supplemental material... This is an absolute must-have for any Mickey Mouse fan. Grade A" – Tim Janson, Mania
Burgas: "McKean’s art is astounding, as it always is. He moves from his very rough pencil work that he used on Cages and moves quickly into a multimedia extravaganza, with photographs interspersed with film reels (more photographs, of course, but used in a different way) and paintings and more detailed pencil work. The colors are magnificent, too... It’s an astonishing work of art, to be sure..."
Thompson: "I agree that the success of this book is in that it is beautiful from cover to cover. As a rule I tend to prefer McKean’s very rough pencil work, though I very much appreciate the layering mixed media styles he uses, and I found all of it very beautiful and successful in that way. I was impressed with the color choices and the really wonderful cubist look he achieved for some of the work, and some of the mixed media he used toward the end was some of my favorite in the book period.... After discussing it, I feel more pleased with the book as a whole because I’ve been forced to admit that I don’t recall seeing many more effective executions of erotic subject matter as a legitimate work of art in this way..."
Burgas: "What is compelling about Celluloid is that McKean tackles a difficult subject and elevates it beyond a simple porn comic. I think the very fact that Celluloid makes you wonder about sex in many of its iterations is impressive. As you can see, both Kelly and I had our issues with it, but it’s a gorgeous comic nevertheless. It’s definitely something that you don’t see every day!"
• Review: "I have the impression that Lewis Trondheim is the most important European artist of his generation. Such is the creativity and productivity and so the breadth of his work that, for me at least, wins the title deservedly. Approximate Continuum Comics... is the first part of Trondheim's autobiographical adventures.... The brilliant humour of Trondheim, his sharp-tongued reason, the way with which it shows the mix of imagination with reality. Equally impressive is the effortless way in which the most espressive artwork works serving the story." – Aristides Kotsis, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Bell does the best job of any attempt I've ever seen to bring together everything we know about Ditko's life and work. The result [Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko] is fascinating, frustrating and eventually presents a sad portrait of an immense talent that withdrew from the world and denied it of his work and himself of the audience, acclaim and success that was easily within his grasp." – Tom McLean, Bags and Boards
• Preview: At Flavorwire, Emily Temple shares some glimpses of the cartoons to be included in Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, saying "Her style is distinctive — the charmingly brusque drawings are cut from linoleum and then essentially stamped when she applied ink to the ridges, and while the content is largely related to her experience as a student, you can still feel the slightly skewed, individualistic perspective that appears in O’Connor’s short stories.... Lovers of her work will doubtless find joy and meaning in her cartoons, and other people will probably like them too."
• Preview: Jamie Frevele of The Mary Sue picks up on the preview of Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons, saying "...while not as demented as some of her writing, the dark humor is still there, even in the short span of a single panel."
• Plug: "Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons is the first compilation of her graphic work in pen-and-ink and linoleum cuts. Before her writing career the young student aspired to be a cartoonist, and she developed a visually bold and eye-catching style. The results are witty and acid comments on campus life and American culture that show O'Connor developing her own acerbic point-of-view." – M. Bromberg, BellemeadeBooks
• Interview (Audio): Kevin Avery, author/editor of Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson, is a guest on the Rockcritics Podcast. Host Scott Woods says "I’ve mentioned a few times here already Kevin Avery’s wonderful book, Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson. Half a personal biography of Nelson, half a compilation of select Nelson reviews and essays, it’s one of the finest books I’ve ever read about a writer — and, needless to say, about rock criticism."
• Profile: "[Basil] Wolverton was one of the pioneers who made today’s highbrow comics scene what it is; his twisted abstract portraiture, all sweatbeads and pleading eyes, floated like a buoy in a sea of banal comic art, influencing kindred spirits like Robert Williams and Big Daddy Roth. Though best known for his nightmare caricatures in the vein of Lena Hyena, his sf and horror work — jewels like the 'Brain Bats of Venus' — is equally disturbing (or invigorating). God knows what brain bat attached itself to Wolverton’s fertile grey matter, but it certainly wasn’t of this atmosphere." – Joe Alterio, HighLobrow
One of the most "unusual" references to Roberto Clemente can be found on the cover of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual LP. The Pittsburgh Pirates legend's name appears prominently above the doorway behind the twisting pop diva in the photograph by Annie Liebovitz. Go figure. This 1983 recording sold over 9 million copies, yet won only a single Grammy award for album packaging. Apropos of little, other than a reminder to read Wilfred Santiago's wonderful graphic novel biography 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente.
You can hear for yourself: their debut EP, Four Corners Bounce, is out now on the Arbitrary Signs label, and to celebrate, they're having a Record Release Party this Friday, June 24th at Desert Island in Brooklyn!
You wouldn't think it to be possible, but it gets even better as Gary will have TWO new books in tow: The Wrong Box and The Land Unknown, both of which were recently published in France, and have been tricky to get in the states... until now!
The psychedelic sonic bliss blasts off at 8:00 PM at Desert Island [540 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY]. Do not miss it.