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JJ

Jesse Jarnow

In June 2012, Gotham will publish Jesse Jarnow's book, Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock. His work has appeared in the Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Paste, Relix (where he is a contributing editor) and elsewhere. He hosts the Frow Show on WFMU.

 

Abstract:

"From Gem Spa to the World: New York Rocker and the Exploding City"

In some ways, the 54 issues New York Rocker published between February 1976 and November 1982 veritably define the archetype of hegemonic Manhattan media in the music world -- that is, a monthly tabloid staffed and written mainly by white, male critics specifically about rock music. It would be problematic if not for the publication's vitality.

Reporting on the emerging indie rock world at home and around the country, the influential Rocker was a City-enabled crossing point for at least a dozen undergrounds. Its midtown office housed a practice space for No Wave zinesters (Information) and Alex Chilton proteges (the dB's). The crisply edited pages, meanwhile, gave regular home to a range of young writers: archivists (like Miriam Linna and Billy Miller of Kicks/Norton Records), hardcore correspondents (Gerard Cosloy, later co-founder of Matador Records), and generally eager contributors, from a photo of an early Sex Pistols gig provided by one "S. Morrissey" to Cleveland scene coverage by James Jarmusch to future Yo La Tengo guitarist Ira Kaplan's stint as reviews editor. Byron Coley often lived on the office couch, staying up all night to index editor Alan Betrock's Crawdaddy back issues.

I will recount the publication's history with particular emphasis on the changing meanings of (and relationship between) "New York" and "Rocker" in the ensuing decades, considering the staff's gradual migration to Hoboken as an early sign of Manhattan's transformation from its burned-out '70s nadir to the surreal cultural center it is today. In researching my forthcoming biography of Yo La Tengo, I have interviewed the paper's staff and read the majority of its back issues.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23
 

2:15pm EDT