Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Publisher as Fan

People whose fathers buy magazines for them don't usually make very good editors-viz. Peter Knobler at Crawdaddy or Carll Tucker at Saturday Review. But with the possible exception of early Creem, Andy Schwartz's New York Rocker has turned into the best rockmag this country has ever seen, a model of the kind of small-entrepreneur capitalism that's the only way to revitalize America's popular (or semipopular) music.

Back in 1977, Schwartz was living the rock and roll life in Minneapolis-playing in a bar band, writing a music column for a local weekly, and making the rent as a clerk at the best record retailer in town. Schwartz was a fan from afar of New York punk; he even flew to Chicago to see Television once, and he'd make pilgrimages to CBGB and Max's whenever he visited his folks in Westchester. In New York he'd always pick up some Rockers for the shop, and when he finally moved back here after the Minneapolis weekly folded, he asked if he could write for Alan Betrock's vaguely bimonthly chronicle of Manhattan's scene. Betrock had had it with shoestring journalism-he and a partner published the paper out of a six-by-10 office-and ended up selling the paper to Schwartz and his father, a real estate lawyer.

From the start Schwartz has realized that his audience was interested in more than New York. When it was appropriate he covered England heavily, and he's always provided a forum for the new wave scenes that have sprung up in dozens of American cities. But Schwartz doesn't pander. He's staunchly resisted the mindless Anglophilia which is regarded as new wave's economic base, and in the past year he's challenged his steadily expanding readership-his monthly print run is now 40,000-by putting the black faces of Prince, Blood Ulmer, and Grandmaster Flash on the cover. That's more demographic guts than Rolling Stone's shown since Sly Stone got nasty. But Schwartz believes the Rocker is "less a magazine of new wave and more a magazine of just plain good music, especially music that seems to be systematically excluded from the mainstream." I look forward to seeing Ornette Coleman's grizzled visage on the Rocker's new cover stock.

Village Voice, Jan. 5, 1982