To the editors:
I am writing in response to Dylan Posa’s letter in the August 9 issue, which was in response to my letter in the July 12 issue, which was in response to Bill Wyman’s “Truth or Dare: Madonna’s Big Lie” (June 21).
Dylan, your published letter was as intimate as a personal note, so I feel a personal note in return is appropriate (but I’ll send it to the Reader anyway).
When I read Wyman’s Madonna piece, I felt he was being a killjoy and just plain snide, so I sat down to write. The writing felt therapeutic, but I felt ambivalent afterwards–I guess because the letter wasn’t really about Wyman, or Madonna. It was about me. Music has a place in all our lives, and our lives all have a place in relation to music. I was trying to describe my place, and bitch about it at the same time.
You heard a rocker letting inertia and a bone-deep laziness and creeping confusion and disaffection block his access to what could be a life force: you stepped forward to call my cop-out while suggesting ways to reconnect. That was cool of you. Better still, our very discourse rocks. Sure this is just a letter about a letter about a letter about a critic about a pop star’s movie, but our ideas matter plenty–in fact, they define rock experience as much as the sound from the speakers. Hell, that’s why there’s a Wyman.
I’ll still debate you on pop. I’d agree that artists venturing the boldest risks are generally found on the college airwaves, in the indie bins, at the small clubs. But being “underground” is no guarantee of quality, and as a code of honor it’s dubious. I bristle at the hegemony of the international mediaglomerates, but I don’t foreswear the rich and varied pleasures of pop, nor do I deny the authenticity of these pleasures. If you feel the art at hand is defiled by the touch of the marketing monolith, then you’re cheating yourself in the name of an elusive, and perhaps illusory, purity.
Interestingly, you mention Fugazi–dare I say that Ian MacKaye’s sexy politics (a hardline left revolution-from-within) inform and transform his formally traditional music (hardcore punk) in a manner parallel to Madonna’s? The comparison’s as troubling as it is preposterous, but it makes a point. Underground artists and pop stars press the same buttons inside us, using methods more similar than underground fans would likely admit. I don’t think Fugazi’s marginality elevates their achievement any more than Madonna’s popularity diminishes hers. Why not get off on both Fugazi and Madonna, and furthermore get off on that? Pop sags under the weight of the beverage/cigarette/snack food/fashion agenda it supports, but there’s still some great music to be found. To dismiss it as one big commercial is another kind of cop out. So I accept your challenge, and return it as well. I’ll graze my pinkie along the cutting edge if you’ll dip your little toe into the mainstream. And did you catch Henry Rollins’s Gap ad in Rolling Stone?
But back to my bullshit. The part about “getting free records, getting on the guest list” was pure wannabe jealousy. That’s right, I wannabe a rock critic (that figures–why else would anyone write a letter about a rock critic?). I’m busy sharpening my craft, and if I get good enough, you’ll soon be reading me. Not just in this letters column, though it’s great practice. As hard as I’m working, you’re right that I’m not working nearly hard enough. So thanks.
It’s been almost three months since Truth or Dare, a good two months since Wyman’s piece, and another month since my first letter. But it wasn’t the force of Madonna’s starpower that kicked up all this dust–it was the strength of fans striving to create meaning out of music. Wyman’s getting wailed on by the Readership, but by measure of the barking he’s provoked, he’s doing his job well. And so are we.
Asking you to fill the enclosed blank tape probably isn’t what you had in mind, but it’s as good a place as any for me to start. Don’t worry about my limits–turn me onto what gets you, Dylan Posa, through the week. Maybe I can return the favor. And I’d be honored to check out a good band with you.