To the editors:
With his expansive essay on R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, Bill Wyman demonstrates once again that he is among the most insightful pop music writers in the country [Hitsville, March 5]. But a few comments are in order.
Wyman seems disconcerted by the fact that Automatic–a brilliant album length work on death and dying–is destined to be merely double platinum while R.E.M.’s previous and happier Out of Time sold over four million. Wyman should not need to be reminded that music fans enjoy music for an infinite number of reasons, and to learn more about death is not a compelling hook for most listeners.
His backhanded slap at Clapton’s Unplugged is similarly misdirected. Wyman seems uncomfortable with this multiple Grammy winner simply because the album is so user friendly. He ignores the fact that Unplugged’s blues overview resonates against Clapton’s nearly 30-year career of interpreting this pain-drenched music; contains Clapton’s most compelling and instinctive vocal performance; and is so musically assured that its pleasures stand up to repeated listening.
Wyman’s misplaced Grammy-bashing continues with his item about 1976’s Best New Artist winner–Starland Vocal Band, while he failed to even mention this year’s winner–the gifted Arrested Development. Arrested Development not only won the Grammy and performed on the Grammy Awards in front of a worldwide audience of well over 100 million, but ironically they were the subject of Wyman’s brilliant essay on rap aesthetics last winter and won the prestigious Village Voice’s critic’s poll with the year’s top album, announced a week after the Grammys.
When Wyman writes on music he loves there is no one better, but his potshots are most unbecoming.