“Haunted by the ghost of ‘Stranded’…” (Various)

Thus putting a wrap on today’s desert island festschrift


“But it’s the more freewheeling entries that best suggest something else to treasure: how impiously most of these ’60s-based writers conceived the craft of criticism. Nick Tosches tells a scabrously antiutopian tale of the counterculture, Robert Stone without glitz or gore, that barely grazes his designated Stones album. Dave Marsh imagines a compilation that will enable him to achieve orgasm by thrusting his tongue into his cheek. John Rockwell rolls out a superhighway of musical detail about the latest-not-greatest album by a much despised female singer whom Marsh expressly bans from his island, preferring to pound his pud in perpetuity. Paul Nelson commits the intentional fallacy on a bus out of Binghamton. Ed Ward fabricates the history of the r&b group he adores (whose real story, by the way, he tells in the notes to Rhino’s Ward-programmed 1994 “5” Royales set). And Marcus himself tops all contributors with a pithy, provocative, fun catalogue that simultaneously defines and undermines the rock canon. There’s a profusion of aural minutiae, the sort of formal description cum prose poetry journalism has no room for, and loads of memoir and social theory…”
Robert Christgau, from the Foreword to the 1996 Da Capo reprint of Stranded: Rock ‘n’ Roll for a Desert Island

toledoblade-interview– Greil Marcus interviewed in Toledo Blade, 08/26/07


“Here’s the thing: This book, the one you’re holding in your hands, is haunted, for me, by the ghost of Stranded. That volume, a batch of commissioned pieces pegged on the beautifully dumb question ‘Which Single Rock-and-Roll Album Would I Take To A Desert Island?,’ not only sets a fine standard for any gathering of essays on music—though it certainly does that. Stranded is more: To my seventeen-year-old self in 1981, the book was itself a message in a bottle bumping ashore on my own little ahistorical teenage island. The message read something like this: Hey, kid, listen. The music you’ve heard is just the tip of an iceberg. The book was an overwhelm­ing introduction to the idea of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantheon, one which might intelligibly sweep the Cream and Joni Mitchell albums I knew from my mother’s collection into a continuum with the Talking Heads and Clash I was then so passionately making my own. The message on the other side of the bottle’s slip of paper might have been: What’s more, my friend, there’s a bunch of really hot-shit writers who’ve been arguing about this stuff for longer than you’ve been listening.
– Jonathan Lethem, introduction to Da Capo Best Music Writing 2002

freeman2– Phil Freeman, Marooned: The Next Generation of Desert Island Discs, Da Capo, 2007

“Each [contributor] in his (mostly) or her way, does a yeoman’s job of attempting to rise to the occasion and stand in at the plate. The ghost of DH Dave Kingman broods over the results: walks, strikeouts, and occasional homeruns. I was most impressed this time with Langdon Winner on Trout Mask Replica and, as always, Ellen Willis on the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. Lester Bangs on Astral Weeks is pretty well undeniable too. In general there is a lot of muzzy breast-beating with regard to the concept and various ways to cheat it and hack ways around it and get cute with it (Dave Marsh: Onan’s Greatest Hits), alternating with earnest defense-attorney closing arguments at trial (Ariel Swartley on The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle). Whether they are over-sincere or overly worked they mostly seemed tedious. And once again, damn, I want Greil Marcus’s job. That’s half the fun of reading his epilogue, which is pure self-indulgence done somehow so artlessly as to be perfectly charming, not to mention compulsively readable. From Johnny Ace, Russian roulette victim, to the Zurvans, ‘Close the Book’ (End), release date unknown, he’s having such a ball you can’t help but wanting to do a version yourself. And don’t let me get in your way. I would love to read more of these kinds of broad-sweeping surveys of the music, and from any vantage, not just 1979.”
– Jeff Pike, “Stranded (1979),” at Can’t Explain

sydney morning heraldSydney Morning Herald, 02/26/84

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