Sunday, August 26, 2007

On Rock Is Dead - Long Live Rock

"The key moment in my life came when I realized that a hockey stick can be used to play air bass."

I wrote this cryptic self-description on a whim. But in twenty-one words, it says a lot. Until I was thirteen, my obsession was sports, especially hockey. I played hockey four times a week (goalie for the Downsview Beavers). I watched every game the Toronto Maple Leafs played (in 1993, when the team was eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in Stanley Cup Playoff conference finals, I cried). I read the sports section of the Toronto Star daily. I liked music, sure, but until I reached my teens, songs and records never meant much to me. Music was mere entertainment. Hockey was where it was at.

When my dad brought home a record called Who's Missing, everything changed.

I became addicted to everything to do with rock music. I bought CDs by the handful. I took up drums. I started collecting band discographies - first The Who, then Led Zeppelin, then Pink Floyd. I read rock and roll history books. Rock music soon infiltrated my hockey world - I developed the superstition of listening to Live at Leeds before every game. The time and energy I'd once spent on Doug Gilmour, Damien Cox, and developing my butterfly technique was now being spent on David Gilmour, Dave Marsh, and developing my drum roll.

A hockey stick morphing into a bass guitar seemed like the perfect metaphor for the shift in consciousness I experienced around the time my voice started cracking and hair started appearing in odd places. But it's not entirely true. We'll call it bloggerary license. Most air bassing, and air guitaring was done on a tennis racket. But boy, did I do a lot of imaginary bassing and guitaring then. (As my girlfriend will attest to, I haven't entirely given up the habit.)

Then the Internet happened. The first website I started was dedicated to wrestling. I honestly don't remember what it was called. I basically wrote an infrequent column about wrestling. We're not going to get into that today. I actually spent most of my web time reading three websites: Mark's Record Reviews, George Starostin’s Music Reviews, and CosmicBen's Record Reviews. As their titles would suggest, these websites were one-man operations, dedicated to reviewing albums both past and present. Prindle, who still keeps at it, had the wackiest style of writing I'd ever seen - off-the-cuff, stream-of-consciousness reviews that somehow always seemed to pick out the soul of an album. Starostin, a Russian writing in English who recently retired from the Web Reviewing Community (WRC), was amazing for his productivity. At one point, the guy seemed to be churning out multiple 1,000-plus word reviews daily. And CosmicBen, who also seems to have retired from the reviewing game, was insightful and intelligent with none of the pretentious, holier-than-thou attitude that still occasionally plagues more widely read music sites (though it should be said that these guys all had huge readerships).

I soon discovered more sites through links (Disclaimer, Wilson & Alroy, Music Junkies Annonymous, Creative Noise), and others soon popped up (John McFerrin, Steve and Abe, Adrian, Cole, etc.). These idiosyncratic and passionate writers gave me an education in rock music and music writing that I couldn't get anywhere else.

So I decided to be one of them. Sometime late in 1998, when I was seventeen, I launched my own personal music review site: Rock Is Dead - Long Live Rock. At the time, I owned about 100 CDs. (Today, my hard copy collection sits at about 500 - my digital collection, about 2000.) Over the next five years, I published over 120 album reviews, sixteen concert reviews, five shorts stories, six short essays, and a series of fast food restaurant reviews. I updated inconsistently, my prose was riddled with typos and grammatical errors, and some of the opinions I spouted were just plain stupid. Some of the stuff I wrote then is painful for me to read now. Some, but not all.

I took Rock Is Dead - Long Live Rock down last week. I have a new, relatively high-profile job and my name is bound to be Googled on occasion. I decided it would be best that those who do look me up not get their first impression from music reviews I wrote in my late teens. But as I mentioned, it wasn't all bad - some of it was actually DECENT. So over the next five days, I will re-publish five of my favourite pieces from Rock Is Dead - Long Live Rock, the second great writing project of my life. Enjoy.

Rock is Dead - Long Live Rock is dead. Long live Rock is Dead - Long Live Rock.


Blogger Adrian Denning said...

Hi Marco,

I'm saddened by every 'WRC' site that ceases to update, or even worse, vanishes never to be seen again. Glad that you're picking out your favourite moments to be preserved here. Just read your comments on Wilco 'Sky Blue Sky' and you present your case persuasively and intelligently. Great stuff, good blog. Keep it going!

10:32 AM  
Blogger CosmicTips said...

Marco the Man,

Sorry to hear that you're taking down your site, although the last line of your blog entry almost makes the whole thing worth it.

George S. was just in New York, and over dinner the other night, we spent a long time discussing web reviewing and the WRC.

Neither of us are sure if the WRC still exists, but at least for me, it will always mean the "golden years" of Prindle, George, W&A, Brian Burks, Will, you, John, Adrian, Steve and Abe, and even Bryan B. if anyone remembers him. Plus people like Ben G. and Amanda K., who might not have had sites but were essential to the community.

You sum up really well what made it great at the time. I really learned so much about music and writing from everybody in the community. And all of the reviews were just fun to read - you were especially good at that.

Thanks for the kind words about my site. I guess I've retired, although I'm still writing plenty on my Livejournal and my blog (which will probably get linked here). But who knows, the future is always open.

Good luck in your semi-famous position, whatever it is. Hopefully it's in the writing field, or possibly the air and bass industry. Say hi anytime at ben.marlin at gmail dot com. Take care.

Ben Marlin

3:39 PM  

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