To the editors:
The Reader desperately needs to improve its music coverage. A recent loud reminder of this was Bill Wyman’s essay on Michael Jackson [February 7]. Good God. Michael Jackson?! No matter how awkwardly Wyman strains for profundity, the sad fact remains that his long-winded articles tend to analyze vapid music that’s probably of no interest to the Reader audience.
For Christ’s sake get with it. The Reader relies almost exclusively on Wyman for rock music coverage, and his subjects are almost always staggeringly lame: Paul McCartney, Madonna, Disco, Cheap Trick, Michael Jackson. What’s next, George Michael?
Doesn’t it embarrass you, the editors of the supposedly hip, alternative Reader, that the Tribune is stomping all over your ass in rock and roll coverage? (It’s especially ironic, if not enraging, that Wyman regularly takes cheap shots at other rock writers from the comfortable loft of his Reader “staff writer” position. But the worst offense is that Reader editors give him a forum for his pomposity.)
The Reader should be at the vanguard of arts coverage, especially music. It’s hard for me to understand why its editors would accept music essays on such insipid subjects. Turning the page and seeing a Michael Jackson or Cheap Trick essay, I experience a sensation of dread and discouragement. The Reader’s bland, way-out-of-date design style doesn’t help matters any.
I’ll concede that an essay on Madonna might be warranted–given her ubiquitous cultural influence–but when taken in the context of Wyman’s overall list of articles, a Madonna piece appears as little more than an installment in an ongoing bubblegum saga.
The Reader’s reliance on Wyman–and willingness to publish his turgid essays–suggests desperation and resigned hopelessness on the part of its editors. “Well we gotta publish some sorta music writing and I guess this is the best we can do,” I imagine a discouraged editor moaning.
Surely there are other qualified music writers out there who know something of the fresher side of rock and roll. I should state that I think Wyman has talent–and he sometimes sparkles, when he’s not exhuming ostentatiously arcane adjectives and in general clinging closely to a dictionary definition of pretentiousness–but the overwhelming problem is the subjects he chooses. I remember recently he affected a rebellious stance by urging people to hamstring record conglomerates by purchasing used CDs; among the stores he recommended was Reckless Records on Broadway, a haven for alternative rock. A few weeks later he turns around and presents an essay on Michael Jackson–the bread and butter of shopping mall music chains.
A related note: Why does your “Records” feature appear so infrequently, and why is it always exclusively blues?