[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]
Back when music was expensive and required effort to acquire, people did their research before opting to buy an album or single. That meant turning to the record review section of magazines like Rolling Stone, Spin, Mojo, Q, or dozens of others.
Each had a staff of critics whose job was to pick apart the music and offer opinions on whether a specific release was worth your time and money. Some of these magazines even published the collected works of their critics.
Music fans trusted — depended on — the writings of Robert Christgau (Rolling Stone, Billboard, Village Voice, Playboy), Lisa Robinson (CREEM, The NME, Rock Scene, Vanity Fair), Nick Kent (The NME, The Face), David Fricke (Rolling Stone), Paul Morley (The NME, BLITZ), Greil Marcus (Village Voice, Rolling Stone), and of course, Lester Bangs (CREEM, Rolling Stone), who probably did more to elevate rock criticism to a respected artform than anyone else.
They and others helped fans connect more to the music, taught us about the star-making machinery, and helped us make sense of things.
Old-school record reviews were not only enlightening but also entertaining. Take, for example, this review of Lou Reed’s — ahem — difficult-to-listen-to, get-me-out-of-my-record-contract release, Metal Machine Music. It appeared in CREEM magazine in 1975.