The Reader‘s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.
There was a time when Reader readers engaged with reporters and editors by sitting down and writing letters to the editor and mailing them in to the newspaper. People had a lot more spare time in those days. Or maybe it’s that they used the time they put into social media now into writing letters to the editor.
Anyway, we got some interesting letters. It’s already been noted that Studs Terkel was a frequent correspondent and that letter writers teamed up to write what turned out to be a fascinating feature story about how the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim tortured his young patients. But there are plenty of others that are directly representative of the time at which they were written. I noticed this one a couple of weeks ago when I was writing about the response to Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville when it first came out 25 years ago. I was drawn to it by the byline, which was Weasel Walter, who Peter Margasak later called “a splinter lodged beneath the fingernail of a generally peaceable and cooperative Chicago music scene for more than a decade.” It was dated February 10, 1994, and it was addressed to Reader music critic Bill Wyman. It began:
I wish you would enlighten us, your readers, with more information on the Harsh, Contrary, and Macho Chicago Underground Music Scene that you always talk about in your column. Who are these bands? They sound neato, except for their naughty propensity for always bitching about those artists more talented and popular than they are! I hear that the Harsh, Contrary, and Macho Chicago Underground Music Scene has weekly meetings where they burn copies of Spin magazine, prank call their enemies’ record labels, and wring their hands while attempting to create new gossip about that cute little Liz girl.
With the advent of all this Coke is It!/Alternative Rock bullshit it is popular for mainstream rock critics to feign knowledge of the Harsh, Contrary, and Macho Underground Music Scenes in order to remain “credible and groovy.” “Please Shit or get off the pot,” I quip blithely.
With all due respect,
Card carrying indie rocker and smartass
P.S. Do I write for the Baffler yet?
There you have it: 1990s Wicker Park encapsulated in a single letter.