Out of the Vinyl Deeps

Out of the Vinyl Deeps is a collection of essays written by music critic Ellen Willis. In the book’s introduction, written by daughter (and the book’s editor) Nona Willis Aronowitz, she describes how it felt to research her mom’s articles:

“… I couldn’t help feeling insanely jealous–not only because my mother’s clear, shrewd writing style is enviable, but because there simply isn’t a space for this kind of in-depth cultural journalism anymore.”

I carried that statement with me as I read the book, and describes Willis’ writing to a T. These years of music writing represent a perfect storm of long-form journalism, a skilled, introspective writer and amazingly talented musicians. I mean, seriously–to be a pop music writer when the pop music of the day included such one-named wonders such as Dylan, Springsteen, Townshend, Stevie.

While on one level, I thrilled to read these up-close and personal reactions to the music of the day that over the years is simply thought of as iconic and inspiring, on another level I was saddened because we don’t have this kind of writing about popular music anymore.

We don’t have popular music like that anymore.

Today we can take for granted the music of The Who, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder. We take for granted the world of music that we have available to us because of these groundbreaking artists who came before. We forget that once, these artists were the pop singers of their day, and they were taken for granted for different reasons then. Then, they were just songs, some good and some bad. Now we take them for granted because they are larger-than-life icons who paved the way.

Where once pop music still entailed a major production, now it can be generated with a laptop pretty similar to the one I’m typing away on right now. Voices are homogenized with Autotune. The soul and grit and essence of the music has become something else entirely, and today’s pop celebrates an almost an artificial quality. Just like the place where we discuss this music, on the internet, which ironically is a vast and endless place perfect for long and meaningful diatribes, we still are accustomed to keeping it short.

But Willis did (wax poetic, that is), and this is your chance to experience it. The essays are divided into sections and include entries written from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Not all popular artists were covered, as Willis wrote about the popular music that she wanted to write about, not about all of it.

Great read for music and literature lovers alike. Find it here or at your local bookseller.

One Response to Out of the Vinyl Deeps
  1. Ri
    July 13, 2011 | 10:40 am

    “Not all popular artists were covered, as Willis wrote about the popular music that she wanted to write about, not about all of it.”

    …well, it seems to me that Ellen Willis was one of us. A Music Mama. :)

    Great review, Mari – must get this now!!
    Ri´s last [type] ..Beaches, Bikinis, Buffett and Beer

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