In 1995 Bill Wyman’s writings generated more letters to the editor than any other regularly featured writer. These letters weren’t from readers informed or appreciative of his work; they were usually enraged or disgusted.

It’s puzzling why the Reader, with the best pop music coverage in Chicago, would continually give a front-page column to someone who elicits consistently negative replies. Or is that better than none at all?

Readers get annoyed when this writer dismisses an artist’s efforts without the need to explain much or offer thoughtful analysis to justify his opinion. His most irritating and smart-assed comments are too often aimed at older, established artists/performers: Lou Reed, Neil Young, Chrissie Hynde, and the Rolling Stones, ad nauseam. They’re easy targets, and Wyman never brings anything interesting or new to light, so why bother? He also very rarely feels the need to answer his many detractors’ letters as any substantive critic (see Carson, Christgau, or Willis in the Village Voice) would.

This is a writer at his best, and most influential, with gossip–celebrity surgeries, who’s making which commercials, and what high-profiled artist isn’t generating enough sales–a Rock ‘n’ Roll Sneed, if you will. Or when he keeps his focus local–decent pieces on Syd Straw [February 10] and the Chicago-Austin connection [January 27] were worth reading.

The trouble starts when Wyman attempts more than he can handle, and this is every time he desperately wants to be seen as a serious critic–someone whose opinions stir interesting discussion or help guide and change readers’ tastes, or who articulates general responses to musical trends and cultural phenomena. . . . Did anyone really care about Wyman’s “top-ten” list for ’95?

So, Bill, keep it light as a lightweight should.

Marc Antal

W. Warner