Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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I always end these things with her, so let's get this party started quickly: Carola Dibbell, Carola Dibbell, Carola Dibbell. She's my wife, my lover, my domestic partner. She's a great critic who writes better fiction. Her love of music is exceeded only by her tolerance for it. And on this book she did the dirty work, brainstorming structure and overseeing details of organization and manuscript prep as well as editing the newly written stuff, some 15 percent of the text.

Many others have also critiqued this material, of course, most prominently six Voice music editors: Doug Simmons, Joe Levy, Ann Powers, Evelyn McDonnell, Eric Weisbard, and Chuck Eddy. Some of it has been cribbed piecemeal from freelance work that originally appeared elsewhere: Playboy (Barbara Nellis, Helen Frangoulis), Rolling Stone (Nathan Brackett), Spin (Eric Weisbard, Charles Aaron, Craig Marks), and Details (James Truman).

Obtaining old records is always a pain with CG books, so I'm grateful I could call upon Vince Aletti, Nina Christgau, Chuck Eddy, Jason Gross, Tom Hull, Mark Jacobson, Joe Levy, Evelyn McDonnell, Ann Powers, Tom Smucker, and Eric Weisbard for personal loans. Rob Sheffield, who mailed me a bunch early, deserves special tribute, as does Will Hermes, who burned me five late. Together with the great Milo Miles, some of these guys also constituted my e-mail council on deletions. Levy, Powers, Weisbard, Tom Carson, Greil Marcus, Kit Rachlis, and John Rockwell weighed in on title variations. And in a time when many labels have made back catalogue virtually off limits to journalists, I'd like to thank Ken Braun, Alan Brown, Charlie Burton, Cindy Byram, Dan Cohen, Tom Cording, Stacey Earley, Kira Florita, Bobbie Gale, Michelle Gutenstein, Jessica Hopper, Jodi Levy, Sonia Muckle, Liz Rosenberg, Heidi Schuessler, Rick Steiger, Amy Wan, Karen Weissen, and Sandy Zolotka for raiding vaults in my behalf.

We've been overrun with record guides and rock encyclopedias since 1990, and I've consulted every one I got free. Rarely did this make me wonder whether I should quit while I was ahead, because most of them are aggressively mediocre. Three major and useful exceptions are Eric Weisbard and Rob Sheffield's Spin Alternative Record Guide (sharpest writing), Ira Robbins's Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock (highest accuracy), Martin C. Strong's Great Rock Discography (maddest completism), and Patricia Romanowski's and Holly George-Warren's New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (broadest authority). And though its facts cry out for double-checking (change that Will to Power date, guys), the online All-Music Guide ( is a resource no music journalist does without anymore. The same has gone for Joel Whitburn's always reliable Billboard books since the early '70s.

My agent, Sarah Lazin, gladly took on the burden of peddling this book in a midlist-hostile time, and has provided needed support throughout its preparation. It's a good thing for us that the editor she found was Elizabeth Beier, whose enthusiasm, appreciativeness, flexibility, and all-around good judgment have minimized every potential difficulty. I thank them both for being pleasures to work with as a matter of principle.

Joe Yanosik, who for reasons best known to himself catalogues my every published opinion in his computer, provided an invaluable fail-safe for Carola and me. He also scrutinized the A lists we prepared, and, wouldn't you know, found a dozen or so titles we'd missed despite all our triple-checking.

Last but not least (or truly last) is my daughter, Nina Christgau, who just last night heard Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat" for the first time and, after inventing a dance for it, immediately discerned what I'd never noticed--it was the source of Ini Kamoze's greatest bassline. Nina knows music through and through, and more than makes up for playing Z-100 too loud with endless insight and info. Also, she turned me on to the Backstreet Boys (although not, so far, Mariah Carey or 'N Sync).

The reason Nina's not last is that I wanted to end where I began and always begin, with her mom. Carola Dibbell, Carola Dibbell, Carola Dibbell. Thanks, darling. This year I promise we'll fix up the alcove.

Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s, 2000

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