- O.K., I'm a rock critic. I also write and record music. I write poetry, fiction, straight journalism, unstraight journalism, beatnik drivel, mortifying love letters, death threats to white jazz critics signed "The Mau Maus of East Harlem," and once a year my own obituary (latest entry: "He was promising...").
Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung (1988)
- I was in high school (oh, I told you — that was kind of where they put you when they didn't know what to do with you — when you were too big for the Kiddie Kokoons and too young to go out an' hafta assume what we used to call Manhood, which involved going at the same time every day to some weird building and doing some totally useless shit for hours on end just so you could get some bread and have everybody respect you).
- "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: A Tales of These Times" (June 1971), p. 7
- Things started to go downhill. Instead of singing about taking tea with Mary Jane and boppin' your dingus on ol' Sweet Slit Annie it was Help me God I don't know the meaning of life or I believe that love is gonna cure the world of psoriasis and cancer both and I'm gonna tell the people all about it 285 different ways whether you like it or not. And Why is there war well go ask the children they know everything we need to know, and Gee I sure like black folks even if my own folks don't and endless vinyl floods of drivel in similar veins. At that point I started to pack in and resort back to my good old ' 66 goof squat rock. I got out records like 96 Tears by Question Mark and the Mysterians, who were mysterious indeed, and re-whooped to jungle juju cackles like "Wooly Bully," which is indescribable and was recorded by a bunch of guys who drove around in a hearse wearing turbans.
- "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: A Tales of These Times" (June 1971), p. 9
- The top rockers have a mythic aura about them, the "superstar," and that's a basically unhealthy state of things, in fact it's the very virus that's fucking up rock, a subspecies of the virus I spoke of earlier that infests our culture from popstars to politics.
- "Of Pop and Pies and Fun" (November/December 1970), p. 37
- By the end of the decade it had become obvious that perhaps the one constant of our variegated and strung-out peer groups was a pervasive sense of self-consciousness that sent us in grouchy packs to ugly festivals just to be together and dig ourselves and each other, as if all of this meant something greater than that we were kids who liked rock 'n' roll and came out to have a good time, as if our very styles and trappings and drugs and jargon could be in themselves political statements for any longer than about fifteen stoned seconds, even a threat to the Mother Country! So we loved and loved and doted on ourselves and our reflections in each other even as the whole thing got out of hand and turned into mud and disaster areas and downs and death.
- "James Taylor Marked for Death" (1971), p. 66
- The trend toward narcissistic flair has been responsible in large part for smiting rock with the superstar virus, which revolves around the substituting of attitudes and flamboyant trappings, into which the audience can project their fantasies, for the simple desire to make music, get loose, knock the folks out or get 'em up dancin.' It's not enough just to do those things anymore; what you must do instead if you want success on any large scale is figure a way of getting yourself associated in the audience's mind with their pieties and their sense of "community," i.e., ram it home that you're one of THEM; or, alternately, deck and bake yourself into an image configuration so blatant or outrageous that you become a culture myth.
- "James Taylor Marked for Death" (1971), p. 67
- The extravagant and ostentatious lifestyles that pass for charisma in a time when almost anybody talks about charisma but if you think about it there's precious little to be seen.
- "James Taylor Marked for Death" (1971), p. 69
- What all this posturing and fake glamor results in is a vast detachment and cynicism on the part of the artists. Since it's impossible to have respect for an audience that'll take just about anything you care to dish out, and the impassive demeanor is so central to the role, a general numbnose is all that can be expected.
- "James Taylor Marked for Death" (1971), p. 70
- A hero is a goddam stupid thing to have in the first place and a general block to anything you might wanta accomplish on your own.
- "Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves" (March 1975), p. 173
- Realizing that life is precious the natural tendency is to trample on it, like laughing at a funeral.
- "Peter Laughner" (September/October 1977), p. 222
- You see, dear reader, so much of what's doled out as punk merely amounts to saying I suck, you suck, the world sucks, and who gives a damn — which is, er, ah, somehow insufficient.
Don't ask me why; I'm just an observer, really. But any observer could tell that, to put in in terms of Us vs. Them, saying the above is exactly what They would want you to do, because it amounts to capitulation.
- "The Clash" (December 1977), p. 225
- The point is that, like Richard Hell says, rock 'n' roll is an arena in which you recreate yourself, and all this blathering about authenticity is just a bunch of crap. The Clash are authentic because their music carries such brutal conviction, not because they're Noble Savages.
- "The Clash" (December 1977), p. 227
- I'm not saying that all college students are subhuman — I'm just saying that if you aim to spend a few years mastering the art of pomposity, these are places where you can be taught by undisputed experts.
- "The Clash" (December 1977), p. 235
- The politics of rock 'n' roll, in England or America or anywhere else, is that a whole lot of kids want to be fried out of their skins by the most scalding propulsion they can find, for a night they can pretend is the rest of their lives, and whether the next day they go back to work in shops or boredom on the dole or American TV doldrums in Mom 'n' Daddy's living room nothing can cancel the reality of that night in the revivifying flames when for once if only then in your life you were blasted out of yourself and the monotony which defines most life anywhere at any time, when you supped on lightning and nothing else in the realms of the living or dead mattered at all.
- "The Clash" (December 1977), p. 239
- In America you can ease into middle age with the accoutrements of adolescence still prominent and suffer relatively minor embarrassment: okay, so the guy's still got his sideburns and rod and beer and beergut and wife and three kids and a duplex and never grew up. So what? You're not supposed to grow up in America. You're supposed to consume. But in Britain it seems there is some ideal, no, some dry river one is expected to ford, so you can enter that sedate bubble where you raise a family, contributing in your small way to your society and keep your mouth shut. Until you get old, that is, when you can become an "eccentric" — do and say outrageous things, naughty things, because it's expected of you, you've crossed to the other mirror of the telescope of childhood.
- "The Clash" (December 1977), p. 239
- John Lennon at his best despised cheap sentiment and had to learn the hard way that once you've made your mark on history those who can't will be so grateful they'll turn it into a cage for you.
- "Thinking the Unthinkable About John Lennon" (1980-12-11), p. 299
- A Reasonable Guide to Horrible Noise
- Title of Village Voice article (September/October 1980), p. 301
- All the proliferating falsifications of what I and everyone I know experienced once in what it is now so convenient to call the "fifties" or "sixties," as if life was really measured or lived in arbitrary decades, when the history books are sold like comix.
- "Notes on PiL's Metal Box" (1980), p. 314
- It is a fact that nine-tenths of the HUMAN RACE never have and never will think for themselves, about anything. Whether it's music or Reaganomics, say, almost everybody prefers to sit and wait till somebody who seems to have some kind of authority even if it's seldom too clear just where they got it to come along and inform them one and all what their position on the matter should be. Then they all agree that this is gospel, and gang up to persecute whatever minority might happen to disagree. This is the history of the human race, certainly the history of music.
- "Untitled Notes" (1981), p. 374