Greil Marcus (born June 19, 1945) is an American author, music journalist and cultural critic. He is notable for producing scholarly and literary essays that place rock music in a broader framework of culture and politics.
|Born||June 19, 1945|
|Occupation||Author, rock critic, journalist|
|Known for||Rock critic for Rolling Stone, Creem, the Village Voice, and Pitchfork|
|Spouse(s)||Jenny Marcus (1966–)|
Marcus was born Greil Gerstley, in San Francisco, the only son of Greil Gerstley and Eleanor Gerstley, née Hyman. His father, a naval officer, died in December 1944, in the Philippine typhoon that sank the USS Hull, on which he was serving as second-in-command. Admiral William Halsey had ordered the U.S. Third Fleet to sail into Typhoon Cobra "to see what they were made of," and, despite the crew's urging, Gerstley refused to disobey the order, arguing that there had never been a mutiny in the history of the U.S. Navy. The incident inspired the novel The Caine Mutiny. Eleanor Gerstley was three months pregnant when her husband died. She married Gerald Marcus in 1948, and her son was adopted and took his stepfather's surname. Greil Marcus has several half-siblings.
Marcus earned an undergraduate degree in American studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where he also undertook graduate studies in political science. He often cited as a major influence a Berkeley political science professor, Michael Rogin, of whom he said: "That course had more to do with putting me on the path I've followed ever since, for good or ill, than anything else."
He has been a rock critic and columnist for Rolling Stone (where he was the first reviews editor) and other publications, including Creem, the Village Voice, Artforum, and Pitchfork. From 1983 to 1989, he was on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle. Since 1966 he has been married to Jenny Marcus, with whom he has children. His book Mystery Train (published in 1975 and in its sixth revised and updated edition in 2015) is notable for placing rock and roll in the context of American cultural archetypes, from Moby-Dick to The Great Gatsby to Stagger Lee. Marcus's "recognition of the unities in the American imagination that already exist" inspired countless rock journalists. On August 30, 2011, Time magazine published a list of its selection of the 100 best nonfiction books since 1923, when the magazine was first published; Mystery Train was on the list, one of only five books dealing with culture and the only one on the subject of American music. Writing for the New York Times, Dwight Garner said, "Mystery Train is among the few works of criticism that can move me to something close to tears. It reverberated in my young mind like the E major chord that ends the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
His next book, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (1989), stretched his trademark riffing across a century of Western civilization. Positing punk rock as a transhistorical cultural phenomenon, Marcus examined philosophical connections between subjects as diverse as medieval heretics, Dada, the Situationists, and the Sex Pistols.
Marcus published Dead Elvis, a collection of writings about Elvis Presley, in 1991, and Ranters and Crowd Pleasers (reissued as In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk in Pop Music), an examination of post-punk political pop, in 1993.
He writes the column "Elephant Dancing" for Interview and "Real Life Rock Top Ten" for The Believer. He occasionally teaches graduate courses in American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and teaches a lecture class, "The Old Weird America: Music as Democratic Speech – From the Commonplace Song to Bob Dylan", at the New School. During the fall of 2008, he held the Winton Chair in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, where he taught and lectured on the history of American pop culture.
His book When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison was published in March 2010. It focuses on "Marcus's quest to understand Van Morrison's particular genius through the extraordinary and unclassifiable moments in his long career". The title is derived from Morrison's 1997 song "Rough God Goes Riding".
He subsequently published Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968–2010 (2010) and The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years (2011).
The Los Angeles Review of Books in 2012 published a 20,000-word interview with Marcus about his life. A collection of his interviews, edited by Joe Bonomo, was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2012.
A New Literary History of America is a collection of essays edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors. Its roughly 200 essays span a range of topics that the editors selected as a sample of the different voices and perspectives on North America since the genesis of the European concept of a New World.Antoni Pizà
Antoni Pizà (Felanitx, 1962), musicologist. He is the Director of the Foundation for Iberian Music and a member of the doctoral faculty in music at City University of New York's Graduate Center. He has curated events with some of the major musical figures of the 21st century including Charles Rosen, Philip Glass, Claire Chase, Kronos Quartet's David Harrington, Roger Scruton, Greil Marcus, Richard Taruskin, Paul Griffiths, and others.Dead Elvis (book)
Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of a Cultural Obsession (1991) is a non-fiction book by American rock-music critic Greil Marcus in which he examines the influence of Elvis Presley on United States culture in the latter half of the 1970s.
Marcus focuses primarily on the years immediately following the singer's death in 1977, in a series of essays (both new and previously published) exploring the Presley-related symbolism and iconography then manifesting in American culture, with a particular focus on punk rock.Every Picture Tells a Story (song)
"Every Picture Tells a Story" is a song written by Rod Stewart and Ron Wood and initially released as the title track of Stewart's 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story. It has since been released on numerous Stewart compilation and live albums, including The Best of Rod Stewart, Storyteller – The Complete Anthology: 1964–1990 and Unplugged...and Seated. It was released as a single in Spain, backed with "Reason to Believe." It has also been covered by The Georgia Satellites on their 1986 album Georgia Satellites and by Robin McAuley on Forever Mod: A Tribute to Rod Stewart. In the Rolling Stone Album Guide, critic Paul Evans described "Every Picture Tells a Story" and "Maggie May," another song off the Every Picture Tells a Story album, as Rod Stewart's and Ron Wood's "finest hour—happy lads wearing their hearts on their sleeves." Music critic Greil Marcus regards the song as "Rod Stewart's greatest performance."The lyrics of "Every Picture Tells a Story" from a first person narrative of the singer finding adventures with women all over the world but eventually returning home after having learned some moral lessons. Locations of his adventures include Paris, Rome and Peking. Allmusic critic Denise Sullivan commented that lyrics are racist and sexist (e.g., describing an Asian woman as a "slit-eyed lady"), and that the song "is a real nugget from a brief period in time when rock singers didn't worry about what it meant to be rude -- in fact, the ruder and cruder, the better."However, a live version of the song performed by Stewart in 1992, 21 years after the original album version was released, skips a complete verse containing some particularly unkind and crude references to women, as well as a self-deprecating reference: "I firmly believed that I/Didn't need anyone but me/I sincerely felt I was so complete/Look how wrong you can be/The women I've known I wouldn't let tie my shoe/They wouldn't give you the time of day/But the slit-eyed lady knocked me off my feet/God I was so glad I found her".Allmusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised the song as "devilishly witty." The lyrics begin with a reference to the theme of self-discovery:
Spent some time feeling inferior
Standing in front of my mirror
Combed my hair in a thousand ways
But I came out looking just the sameThe song's lyrics are entirely free-form in that they do not follow any consistent rhythmic meter and read almost like prose. Rhyming only appears occasionally and randomly, some within individual lines as opposed to between them ("On the Peking ferry I was feeling merry", "Shanghai Lil never used the pill"). There are somewhat more near-rhymes between lines (inferior/mirror, ways/same, stampede/tea, funk/luck, attraction/sanction), but these too are random and occasional. The lyrics even exhibit occasional elements of subtle vowel alliteration ("I firmly believed that I didn't need anyone but me"). Stewart's confident performance, however, renders these shortcomings of rhyme and rhythm unnoticeable to the listener; the song sounds like it does have lyrical rhyme and rhythm.
The song's music incorporates many elements. Toby Creswell describes the opening guitar theme as reflective and melancholy. As the guitar opening fades, the drums played by Micky Waller crash primitively before Stewart begins to sing. In his review of the album in Rolling Stone, John Mendelsohn noted that this song "does rock with ferocity via a simple but effective seven-note ascension/five-note descension riff that Waller cleverly punctuates with a halved-time bass-drum-against-snare lick." The rhythm is loose throughout most of the song, although it tightens in the coda. Stewart biographers Tim Ewbank and Stafford Hildred describe the music as "a mess - unbalanced and shoddily thrown together," although the "vocals pull the song out of trouble." Despite being a hard rock song, the song primarily uses acoustic instruments, although guitarist Ron Wood does use an electric guitar occasionally. Pete Sears played the acoustic piano. Greil Marcus also praises the acoustic guitar parts that are played after each verse and the drum roll after the first verse. According to Stewart, he found the mandolin and violin players for this song and for "Maggie May" in a restaurant in London. Maggie Bell and Long John Baldry provide energetic harmony vocals, including the line "She claimed that it just ain't natural" in response to Stewart's line "Shanghai Lil never used the pill." Allmusic's Sullivan describes the song as "just plain visceral -- so much so that [it is] better heard than described" and that it represents six minutes of "defining rock & roll.""Every Picture Tells a Story" was used in the Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous in a scene where main characters William and Penny walk through the halls of a hotel. It was also included on the soundtrack of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned. The song was also referenced in Jayne Anne Phillips' short story "What It Takes to Keep a Young Girl Alive." While the story's character Sue is lying in bed in the dark "Rod Stewart, scratchy and loud, combed his hair in a thousand different ways and came out looking just the same." Greil Marcus uses the reference to the song in "What It Takes to Keep a Young Girl Alive" to muse on what makes a good record and why "Every Picture Tells a Story" is a good record, i.e., a good record is one that "entering a person's life, can enable that person to live more intensely—as, whatever else it does, 'Every Picture Tells a Story' does for Jayne Anne Phillips' Sue."Invisible Republic
Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes (1997) is a book by music critic Greil Marcus (born 1945) about the creation and cultural importance of The Basement Tapes, a series of recordings made by Bob Dylan in 1967 in collaboration with the Hawks, who would subsequently become known as the Band. (ISBN 0-8050-5842-7)
The updated paperback edition (2011, Picador) is retitled The Old, Weird America, a term coined by Marcus to describe the often eerie country, blues, and folk music featured on the Anthology of American Folk Music (1927-1932; released 1952). In his opinion, the sensibility of Anthology is reflected by the Basement Tapes recordings. The term has been revived via the musical genre called New Weird America.King Harvest (Has Surely Come)
"King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" is a song by The Band, which originally appeared as the final track on their second album, The Band.
The song is credited solely to guitarist Robbie Robertson, although drummer/singer Levon Helm claimed that "King Harvest" was a group effort. It is sung in the first person from the point of view of a poverty-stricken farmer who, with increasing desperation, details the misfortune which has befallen him: there was no rain and his crops died, his barn burned down, he has ended up on skid row. A labor union organizer appears, promising to improve things, and the narrator tells his new associates, "I'm a union man, now, all the way", but, perhaps ashamed of his station, begs them to "just don't judge me by my shoes." The events depicted in the song are most likely a reference to the organizing drives of the Trade Union Unity League, which created share-cropper unions from 1928 to 1935, throughout the U.S. South.
The rock critic Greil Marcus called it "The Band's song of blasted country hopes" and suggested that "King Harvest" might be Robertson's finest song and the best example of the group's approach to songwriting and performing. Author Neil Minturn praised its "dark, eerie earnestness."The song's structure is unusual: the verses, sung by pianist Richard Manuel, are energetic, while the choruses (sung by Manuel and Levon Helm) are more subdued, in contrast to typical song structure. This change possibly reflects the desperate if unsure hope the protagonist holds in the union.Los Angeles Review of Books
The Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) is a literary review journal covering the national and international book scenes. A preview version launched on Tumblr in April 2011, and the official website followed one year later in April 2012. A print edition premiered in May 2013. Founded by Tom Lutz, Chair of the Creative Writing Department at the University of California, Riverside, the Review seeks to redress the decline in Sunday book supplements by creating an online “encyclopedia of contemporary literary discussion.”The LARB features reviews of new fiction, poetry, and nonfiction; original reviews of classic texts; essays on contemporary art, politics, and culture; and literary news from abroad, including Mexico City, London, and St. Petersburg.The site also proposes looking seriously at detective fiction, thrillers, comics, graphic novels, and other writing “often dismissed as genre fiction,” and printing reviews of books published by university presses. Of these plans Lutz has said, “What's considered worthy of study in the literary world has shifted radically over the past 50 years, and it reflects the natural evolution of academic thought, which is constantly raising questions about what matters.”The site also features input from over 200 contributing editors, including Reza Aslan, Aimee Bender, T. C. Boyle, Antonio Damasio, Jonathan Kirsch, Chris Kraus, Jonathan Lethem, Jeffrey Eugenides, Mike Davis, Jane Smiley, David Shields, Carolyn See, Barbara Ehrenreich, Greil Marcus, Jaron Lanier and Jerry Stahl.
In addition to Lutz, the current editorial staff includes Boris Dralyuk (Executive Editor) and Medaya Ocher (Managing Editor). Section editors include Merve Emre (Humanities), Evan Kindley (Humanities), Rob Latham, Robin Coste Lewis, Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, Lisa Teasley (Fiction), Ellie Duke (blog), Laurie Winer, Kate Wolf, Sarah Mesle, Jonathan Alexander (professor) (Young Adult Fiction), Callie Siskell (Poetry), Feliz Luiz Molina (Poetry), Stefanie Sobelle (Fiction), Michele Pridmore-Brown (Science), Anna Shechtman (Film), Michelle Chihara (Economics and Finance), Eric Newman (Gender and Sexuality), Robert Zaretsky (History), Brad Evans (History of Violence), Lee Konstantinou (Humanities), Don Franzen (Law), Sarah Fuss Kessler (Memoir and Essay), Orly Minazad (Memoir and Essay), Steph Cha (Noir), Arne De Boever (Philosophy and Theory), Costica Bradatan (Religion and Comparative Studies), Jeffrey Wasserstrom (China), Andrew Hoberek (Comics/Graphic Novel)s, and Tom Zoellner (Politics).Mystery Train (book)
Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'N' Roll Music is a non-fiction book written in 1975 by Greil Marcus. It features critical essays centered around artists such as Elvis Presley, Sly Stone, Robert Johnson, and Randy Newman.Richard Davis (bassist)
Richard Davis (born April 15, 1930) is an American jazz bassist. Among his most famous contributions to the albums of others are Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch!, Andrew Hill's Point of Departure, and Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, of which critic Greil Marcus wrote (in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll), "Richard Davis provided the greatest bass ever heard on a rock album."Roadrunner (Jonathan Richman song)
"Roadrunner" is a song written by Jonathan Richman and recorded in various versions by Richman and his band, in most cases credited as the Modern Lovers.
Critic Greil Marcus described it as "the most obvious song in the world, and the strangest". Rolling Stone ranked it #274 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.Self Portrait (Bob Dylan album)
Self Portrait is the 10th studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on June 8, 1970, by Columbia Records.
Self Portrait was Dylan's second double album (after Blonde on Blonde), and features many cover versions of well-known pop and folk songs. Also included are a handful of instrumentals and original compositions. Most of the album is sung in the affected country crooning voice that Dylan had introduced a year earlier on Nashville Skyline. Seen by some as intentionally surreal and even satirical at times, Self Portrait received extremely poor reviews upon release; Greil Marcus' opening sentence in his Rolling Stone review was: "What is this shit?"Dylan has claimed in interviews that Self Portrait was something of a joke, far below the standards he set in the 1960s, and was made to get people off his back and end the "spokesman of a generation" tags.
Despite the negative reception, the album quickly went gold in the US, where it hit No. 4, and was also a UK No. 1 hit. The album has since built a cult following and saw a retrospective positive re-evaluation with the release of The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969–1971) in 2013.Stones in My Passway
"Stones in My Passway" is a Delta blues song written by American blues musician Robert Johnson. He recorded it in Dallas, Texas, during his second to last session for producer Don Law on June 19, 1937.
Music writer Greil Marcus describes it as a "song of a man who once asked for power over other souls, but who now testifies that he has lost power over his own body, and who might well see that disaster as a fitting symbol of the loss of his soul."
Music journalist Charles Shaar Murray considers "Stones in My Passway" as "one of Johnson's towering masterpieces" and notes "He [Johnson] can desire his woman only when she rejects him [and] his potency deserts him when he is with her". However, AllMusic critic Thomas Ward describes the song as "lacking] the emotional subtlety and precision of language [that] characterises his masterpieces" and therefore not among Johnson's best work. However, he notes "the guitar playing is incandescent and inspired", which makes it an important piece.Stranger than Fiction (compilation album)
Stranger Than Fiction is an album by various performers, most of whom are professional writers and amateur singers, released in 1998 on Kathi Kamen Goldmark's "Don't Quit Your Day Job" Records. This album is an offshoot of the Rock Bottom Remainders, aka the Wrockers ("writer" + "rocker").
The artists on Stranger Than Fiction include not only many of the Remainders, such as bestselling authors Stephen King, Amy Tan and Dave Barry, but also rock critics Dave Marsh, Ben Fong-Torres and Greil Marcus, film critic Leonard Maltin and such literary heavyweights as Norman Mailer and Maya Angelou. Warren Zevon contributed liner notes and a variety of famous musicians played on the tracks, including Zevon, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of the Doobie Brothers, and Jerry Jeff Walker.
Proceeds from this project were contributed to a variety of charities promoting literature and literacy.That's the Way Boys Are
"That's the Way Boys Are" is a song written by Mark Barkan and Ben Raleigh and initially sung by Lesley Gore and released in 1964 as a single and on Gore's 3rd album Boys, Boys, Boys. The single reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100, being kept out of the top 10 by songs by British Invasion bands The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five. The song was produced by Quincy Jones and arranged by Claus Ogerman.Music critic William Ruhlmann called the song "a well-crafted reflection from a sympathetic and understanding female perspective on the obtuse mating habits of boys." Author Richard Aquila noted that the lyrics "voice the era's acceptance of sexual double standards," in contrast with the theme of Gore's previous single, "You Don't Own Me". Aquila regards "That's the Way Boys Are" as one of several examples of Lesley Gore songs that regard women as dependents or passive objects, along with earlier singles "It's My Party" and "Judy's Turn to Cry." Musicologist Walter Everett described the song as one of the many 1960s sexist songs that "perpetuated a boys will be boys tolerance for male but not female infidelity." Music critic Greil Marcus also remarked on the way "That's the Way Boys Are" backs off from the "proto-feminist manifesto" of "You Don't Own Me" to a message of "he may treat you like garbage, but they're all like that, and we love 'em for it!" Rulmann described the music as "a bouncy, contemporary sound that compared favorably to the Phil Spector Wall of Sound style without being as ornamented."Subsequent to its initial release, "That's the Way Boys Are" has been released on compilation albums including The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore in 1965, It's My Party: The Mercury Anthology in 1996, Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows: The Best of Lesley Gore in 1998, 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection in 2000 and The Ultimate Collection 1963-1968: Start the Party Again in 2005. It has also been included on multi-artist compilation albums such as Growin' Up Too Fast: The Girl Group Anthology in 1996 and Mad Men: A Musical Companion (1960-1965) in 2011."That's the Way Boys Are" was covered by Y Pants. Greil Marcus commented that the Y Pants version has more tension than Lesley Gore's version, and that the Y Pants version starts with a sad, sweet a cappella vocal but progresses to horrible screaming.The Crust Brothers
The Crust Brothers, a band formed by Stephen Malkmus and members of Silkworm (Michael Dahlquist, Tim Midgett, and Andy Cohen), released one album, Marquee Mark, a live recording of their December 5, 1997, show at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle, Washington. MTV reporter Tayloe Emery wrote an article for MTV Music News and reported that the show was a benefit for the Washington Wilderness Coalition organized by Trevor FitzGibbon to protect roadless areas. "One of the goals of the coalition is to pressure government officials to push forward laws that would serve to protect the wilderness area, Fitzgibbon said at a pre-show press conference. "We want an executive order from the White House to get these areas protected. We want clean water, wild salmon and the last areas of wilderness our generation has left."  The band stuck exclusively to covers (Malkmus sang lead on Silkworm's "Never met a man I didn't like"), refusing to play any Pavement songs—notably the requested "Summer Babe." Of the 12 covers on Marquee Mark, seven are from Bob Dylan & The Band's The Basement Tapes.
Music critic Greil Marcus devoted a January 1999 Interview article to the show. Marcus wrote of "Heard it through the grapevine," "while the Crust Brothers are inside it, [it] can sound like the best version of the song ever played."
Additional shows took place on December 30, 1998, at The Breakroom in Seattle, and on January 1, 1999, at the Starfish Room in Vancouver, British Columbia. The band returned to the Crocodile Cafe on December 31, 2000. A song from that set, a cover of Dylan's "Spanish Harlem Incident" sung by Dahlquist, is the sixth track on Silkworm's final EP, Chokes!The Way Young Lovers Do
"The Way Young Lovers Do" is one of the songs included on Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison's second solo album Astral Weeks that was recorded in 1968 in New York City. The song is in triple metre, and the distinctive feel of the original recording of the song emerges from the non-rock style of double-bass phrasing by veteran jazzman Richard Davis and additional jazz musician session players, which combined with Morrison's soulful vocals, creates a relatively unusual combination of stylistic elements.
Brian Hinton believes that "The song is about growing up, an adolescent first kiss, and still conveys the same sweet mystery as 'Astral Weeks' but more upfront."In Ritchie Yorke's biography on Van Morrison he comments that Van Morrison told him, "On the second side 'Young Lovers Do' is just basically a song about young love" and that Morrison then laughed mysteriously.In a 1969 issue of Rolling Stone about Astral Weeks Greil Marcus remarks: "It is pointless to discuss this album in terms of each particular track; with the exception of 'Young Lovers Do', a poor jazz-flavored cut that, is uncomfortably out of place on this record, it's all one song, very much 'A Day in the Life.'"In his review, Scott Thomas writes:
"The Way Young Lovers Do" is an interesting one. On its surface, with its images of tranquil lovers walking through fields and kissing on front stoops, it seems to deliver the romantic bliss anticipated so fervently in "Sweet Thing". The music, however, betrays some disturbing undercurrents.Watching the Dark
Watching the Dark is an album by Richard Thompson released in 1993.
The three-CD retrospective set was compiled with Thompson's co-operation and consent. Thompson has often been reluctant to look backwards at his career and dig through the archives, but he took the pragmatic view that if somebody wants to assemble a set of this nature they'll do it anyway and so he might as well collaborate with them if possible. He had right of veto over the selections and recorded one track ("Poor Wee Jockey Clark") especially for the project.
About a third of the selections are live, and five had never been released on any official Thompson release. Some of the material was donated by collectors of Thompson recordings.
The set extends chronologically from 1969, when Thompson was a member of Fairport Convention, through to 1992. However, it is not sequenced in chronological order.
Notable inclusions are
A live version of "Can't Win" with an extended guitar solo
"From Galway to Graceland", a Thompson song that had never made it onto a commercial Thompson release
A live version of "A Heart Needs A Home" from 1975
Solo, live versions of "Jennie" and "Devonside"
An unreleased recording, thought to have been lost, of "A Sailor's Life" by Fairport Convention
Three tracks from the unreleased, Gerry Rafferty-produced version of the Shoot Out the Lights albumThe set includes a booklet with details of each recording, some rare photographs and essays by Greil Marcus and Leslie Berman.