Monday, July 25, 2022

Putzes I Have Known Professionally

So as attentive readers are aware, for the longest time -- twenty or thirty years, beginning in 1973 -- I scribbled off and on about music and pop culture for a magazine best known as Stereo Review. Let's just say that a cooler post-collegiate gig was pretty much unthinkable -- the money was great, I was living in an affordable rent-controlled one bed-room apartment in lower Manhattan, and I got to see A-list rock bands and movies pretty much five nights a week. For free. Plus I got to write about them, which people seemed to enjoy.

I should add that a book version of my literary greatest hits is coming out some time at the end of the year...

...and you might find it amusing.

In any case, there's a back story, which I will make as short as I can. The bottom line is I had read said magazine religiously -- by which I mean with a yarmulke on my head (heh) -- for most of my adolescence; it had been published under a variety of names since approximately 1958, and over the years I learned a great deal about all sorts of music from some of its writer/contributors, including jazz critic Nat Hentoff, opera buff George Jellinek, and classical polymath and PBS host Martin Bookspan.

Be that as it may, some time around the fabled Summer of Love, Stereo Review -- like many other magazines of its type -- was starting to hire younger scribes to give themselves a patina of hip, regardless of how undeserved. And so they hired a guy named Rex Reed, who at the time was sort of a celebrity -- he'd had cameos (usually as himself) iin a number of major Hollywood flicks, he'd produced a few books on movies, he reviewed for a couple of prestigious newspapers (including the NY Times), and he was considered a sort of happening New Journalist in a class with Tom Wolfe. Which he manifestly wasn't. And I found his writing, shall we say, cutesy. and the work of somebody who was trying way too hard. But what the hey -- I was a kid, what did I know?

In any case, Reed was responsible for this review of The Beatles early middle masterpiece Revolver in SR, and I remember thinking at the time that it made me ill. Please take a moment and read it now, to enjoy its full bullshit quotient and level of bad writing and ignorance that characterizes it.

I mean, seriously, that sucks. Big time.

So like I said, early in 1973, I wound up with a gig as pop music editor at SR -- how that happened will be explained in that book I mentioned -- and for a brief period (perhaps a month or two) I was Rex's editor. And one month into my tenure as his sort of boss, he was late with his copy. So I called him up and said -- "Rex, dude, we need your reviews immediately -- I've got a messenger standing by, so let me know when I can send him."

And Rex said -- swear to god, this is a true story -- "give me half an hour; as soon as I plug in the adjectives I'll be done."

Reed went on to a very lucrative career as a TV film critic and contributor to that little pisher Jared Kushner's pink-tinted New York newspaper/cat litter box filler The Observer, and he's apparently still alive and well. What he's doing otherwise, I have no idea.

More Stereo Review anecdotes will be forthcoming as the mood strikes me.

[h/t SteveS]


neal t said...

bet know more of RR's whereabouts from folks
in this comment box:) said...

wereGR/R's editor ?'morning Steve - verty familiar with
R/R - thanks for the S/R review.
Correct me if I am wrong -
Rex seems to be a bit
conflicted. He seems to love the
Beatles but as a "hip " reviewer needs to give them a " back handed" review.
You were actually R/Rs editor?
Would have liked to bea a friend on the wall for your "suggestions "
rob said...


Gummo said...

So he was bored BECAUSE the album was "brilliant and witty" and well produced?

Reed was just too hip for the room, wasn't he? said...

Gumno - " to hip for the room" lol

daudder said...

well, that was a take...of the nose-in-the-air, I'm a serious critic because I'm contrarian. Rex was always a puffed up, snark of a reviewer. said...

Rex was a wanna be Capote.
He made the interview / talk show circuit in the 70s.
As Ray Davies wrote-
Rex " was a dedicated follower
of Fashion" ;-)

Alzo said...

Then again, maybe ol' Rex was right... perhaps the Fabs had peaked and that their subsequent output would be of such diminishing quality to the point that they would be an arcane, forgotten obscurity not even worthy of oldies radio...


SteveS said...

"Reed was just too hip for the room, wasn't he?"

To paraphrase George Harrison in "Help":

He was a hack.
A well-known hack.

Allan Rosenberg said...

I can't say what I've always thought of Rex Reed. My code of conduct won't allow it.

Doctored Captain Al

BG said...

I’d bet my last dollar he never listened to the record and can’t name a single song on it. But aren’t you impressed with how prescient he was!

Allan Weissman said...

Rex tried to sound above it all, somewhat like William F. Buckley. The Beatles are part of our musical DNA. We are still interested in their music and in them as individuals. Joseph Green wrote a scathing review of Shakespeare before reading the Bard's work. Green later recanted, and Shakespeare became Shakespeare. Who reads Reed today? Thanks, Steve, for reminding us why.

JB said...

Rex Reed, the original contrarian, meh. Looking forward to your book.

M_Sharp said...

Rex is right- "Good Day Sunshine" and "Got To Get You Into My Life" are very sluggish......

...said no one ever. What an idiot. I found Jackie & Roy's cover of "The Word", and it's horrible:

Fortunately, I don't remember reading his reviews. I remember yours, which is why I'm here, and I'll be buying your book.

GLLinMo said...

I had SR given to me for it’s equipment perspective. But, living in the great but musically boring great midwest, it provided me with and entry way into the musical world. Rolling Stone, a great read but musically never a source a musical education.