Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Because I've never abandoned the unethical practice of soliciting musical opinions from friends and acquaintances and then incorporating the niftier ones into my work, more than the usual countless number of people contributed to this book. And the publicists who have sent me background material and answered factual questions about albums reviewed in this book number in the hundreds. But M. Mark, Kit Rachlis, and Doug Simmons, my editors at The Village Voice, have all improved my reviewing in more specific ways. And for continuing conversational stimulation I must single out my friends and colleagues Greil Marcus, Roger Trilling, Georgia Christgau, Steve Levi, John Piccarella, John Rockwell, Nelson George, Vince Aletti, Simon Frith, Greg Tate, John Morthland, Poobah Emeritus Tom Carson, Steve Anderson, Stanley Crouch, Deborah Frost, Barry Michael Cooper, Joe Levy, Robert Sietsema, and Marshall Berman. In the '80s I was affluent enough to leave my filing and schlepping to underemployed smart people who ended up contributing to my intellectual weal as well: Robert Baskett, David Mikics, Steve Anderson, Holly Fairbank, the great Jeff Salamon, Julian Dibbell (who we'll meet again), yeoman collater and fact-checker David Schweitzer, Emily Marcus, and Margaret Logan. Robert Cohen of Manhattan's Finyl Vinyl (East Coast source for classic American music; in California try Alameda's Downhome) provided invaluable advice on the rock library. And lots of folks lent me records (many of which I have now home-taped, heh-heh): Vince Aletti, Brian Chin, Georgia Christgau, Sebastian Dangerfield, Randall Grass, Tom Hull and His Amazing Database, Ben Mapp, Greil Marcus, Jon Pareles, John Piccarella, Kit Rachlis, Ira Robbins (professional courtesy beyond the call of professional responsibility), John Rockwell, Doug Simmons, and Tom Smucker. Finally, Geoffrey Stokes lent me records and advice last time and got left out of that book, so here he is now.

I consulted hundreds of books in a decade's writing, but a few deserve special mention. Joel Whitburn's Billboard guides--especially Top Pop Albums and The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits--are invaluable sources for anybody who still thinks pop music ought to be popular. Ronnie Graham's Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music is every Afropop fan's bible. And Ira Robbins's New Trouser Press Record Guide is competition to be proud of and nervous about. Ira and I have always had serious critical differences, but I depended on his fanatical accuracy in dozens if not hundreds of cases and occasionally used his and his collaborator's reviews to jumpstart one of my own.

This book was originally planned with Pantheon's Wendy Goldwyn, who passed it on to Wendy Wolf when she decided to change careers. And Wendy Wolf saw it through to the end--even after she had resigned from Pantheon, she made time from the turmoil of her own life to provide both practical and editorial advice. At Pantheon, Frances Jalet-Miller, Patra McSharry, and copy chief extraordinaire Ed Cohen were also generous with their attention. Marisa Brunetti and Lesley Oelsner made permissions less onerous than they might have been; Terri Hinte and Bob Merlis dropped in some good words; and Leslie Berman went out and got the damn things. And from start to finish, my agent Bob Cornfield was there when I needed him, as usual.

But two people with the same last name deserve the biggest thanks. As the project began, I was paying Julian Dibbell chickenfeed to collate the Village Voice columns the book was based on. By the time it ended, no one except me had put more thought into it. He copy-edited the entire manuscript, but he also functioned as a de facto text editor, working deep into many nights to clean up my obscurities without homogenizing my style. As for Julian's Aunt Carola, she's my wife. Like many mamas, she doesn't have as much time for music as she once did. But she knows what I need from her, and whenever she observed me flagging, on the book or one of the hundred-plus columns that went into it, she would gird herself up and offer what I treasure: her opinion. Carola and I collaborate monthly in Video Review, and on occasion I've borrowed words and sentences from that work as if they were my own. I plan to crib from her like crazy until she writes more criticism herself. I can't lose--either I get her going or I look like a wise guy.

Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s, 1990