Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The number of friends, acquaintances, publicists, and editors who have made a tangible contribution to the Consumer Guide must total over five hundred. For eleven years I've asked people what they're listening to, played records for strangers in the hope of garnering new shreds of insight, and stolen ideas, facts, and wisecracks shamelessly. Even to name only those who've helped get the material into book form would be impossible, and I apologize to anyone I've left out.

One of my biggest hassles was obtaining out-of-print albums. Essential to this task was my upstairs neighbor Vince Aletti, whose vast black-music collection saved me many hours of searching; I should add that I've been picking his brain since 1970. John Morthland, Tom Hull, Joe McEwen, Stephen Holden, and my sister Georgia Christgau perused my outline and suggested additions from their own shelves. Boston's incomparable Jeep Holland, whom I've never laid eyes on, generously opened his hoard of rarities to me. Tom Smucker, also an upstairs neighbor, offered jokes, advice, and emotional support as well as pieces of plastic. Others who lent me records--sometimes dozens, sometimes just one--include Billy Altman, Michael Beinhorn, Karin Berg, Alan Betrock, Barry Cooper, Karen Durbin, Ken Emerson, Gary Giddins, Eliot Hubbard, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Steve McAvoy, John Milward, Richard Mortifoglio, Paul Nelson, Jon Pareles, John Piccarella, Kit Rachlis, John Rockwell, Don Shewey, Davitt Sigerson, Danny Stanger, Chip Stern, and Roger Trilling.

As diligent consumers soon discover, records that are still in the Schwann catalogue can be even harder to find than out-of-print items, and here company publicists prove invaluable. Special thanks must go to Eliot Hubbard of Epic, whose heroic interactions with CBS's New Jersey warehouse kept me working in the worst days of August. Barbara Pepe at RCA, Liz Rosenberg and Stacy Greene Mizrahi at Warners, Paul Batson at Columbia, Suzanne Scivoletti and Sherrie Levy at Phonogram, Bill Schubert at Philo, Caroline Prutzman at ABC and EMI/UA, Andy McKaie at Arista, and Joanne Toker and Pat Cox at Atlantic did discographical research as well as obtaining records for me. Kathy Schenker at A&M, Maureen O'Connor and Doreen D'Agostino at Capitol, and Lynn Kellerman at MCA tolerated many more phone calls than were necessary. My appreciation also to Irene Simmons at Island, Terry Hinte at Fantasy, and Bruce Iglauer at Alligator.

Needless to say, I employed many secondary sources in my search for dates and other facts, of which the most useful were the monthly Schwann Record & Tape Guide and Joel Whitburn's annual Record Research breakdowns of the Billboard charts. Special thanks are due Brock Helander, who allowed me to refer to his unpublished Rock 'n' Roll to Rock: A Discography, and to Paul Crapo of Schwann for lending me a copy. Also of value were Ed Naha's revision of Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopedia, The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Norm N. Nite's Rock On, NME's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, and Phil Hardy and Dave Laing's Encyclopedia of Rock.

I've also benefited from extensive editorial assistance. At The Village Voice, M. Mark taught me that my most gnomic conceits could be sharpened and clarified, while David Schneiderman was generous with the time off it took me to complete what I'd started and regain my sanity. Bob Cornfield talked me through numerous crises of confidence as well as taking care of business with the kind of honesty and taste I've always dreamed of in an agent. M. Mark, David Schneiderman, Kit Rachlis, and Laura Tillem offered comments on a sample chapter. Greil Marcus did the same, and then--incredibly--proceeded to offer comments on all the other chapters as well, reading through the entire manuscript and catching too many howlers in the process. Georgia Christgau organized the original Consumer Guides from The Voice and Creem into a workable draft, and proofread galleys along with John Morthland. Roger Trilling handled permissions with a savvy I could only expect to find in a manager I wish did more journalism. Parke Puterbaugh was a sharp-eyed and sensitive copy editor. And James Raimes brought the project to Ticknor & Fields, watched with alarm as it ballooned past its estimated proportions, and then cut with a tact and forebearance I ordinarily encounter only in other writers. I don't think he got what he bargained for, but I do think he likes what he got, and I'm flattered.

Finally we come to the spot customarily reserved for spouses--the without-whom-I-could-not-have paragraph. Well, this one's for real. Carola Dibbell has heard thousands of records she doesn't much like since 1972, and if that sounds easy, try it for a week. Thousands of times I've asked her, "How does this sound to you?," and thousands of times she's told me something I needed to know--often that the record is a nonentity, always one of the hardest things to get a bead on. Her ideas--especially her amazing ability to find words that evoke voices--can be found in hundreds of entries; phrases and more from her own published criticism can be found (unattributed) in a few. In addition, she's edited the rough draft of virtually every review in this book, applying her jargon detector and her slapstick wit to writing that would be several quantums drearier without her. It's her encouragement and her literary conscience that have made the Consumer Guide something I've gotten prouder to look back on over the years.

How does this look to you, Carola?

Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s, 1980

'70s and 1980 Credits