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Going Into the City with Robert Christgau

Going Into the City with Robert Christgau

Playlist

About this playlist

How do you construct a playlist in honor of one of the founding voices of rock criticism, especially one who by his own calculations has reviewed in some detail or other 13,400+ individual albums? Easy — by pilfering the memoir of said founding voice of rock criticism. That would be Robert Christgau’s Going into the City, just published by Dey St., which is equal parts Bildungsroman, I-was-there cultural reporting, philosophical essay, and love story.

Over the course of his long career, which included a legendary stint at the Village Voice and the steady accrual of the incisive and pithy “Consumer Guide” capsule reviews upon which his considerable reputation at least partially rests, Christgau has written about popular music with a distinctive voice both brainy and crude. It's smart enough for academics to puzzle over, yet unapologetic about digging pop for pop’s sake. (You can access just about every single capsule over at his well-maintained website, robertchristgau.com.)

Many writers both inside and outside the rock/pop beat have learned something from the self-proclaimed Dean of American Rock Critics — a sobriquet the Dean is quick to note he tossed out at a 5th Dimension junket several glasses deep into the free champagne. That group very much includes more than a few of us here at Napster (where we’re proud to note Christgau once upon a time crafted reviews), not least our own Metal Editor and erstwhile Village Voice music editor Chuck Eddy, whom Christgau remembers in his memoir as the “army lieutenant in Germany” moved to send in “voluble comments” on the Voice’s annual Pazz and Jop poll. Those comments were promptly published in their entirety by Christgau, and thus helped solidify P&J into the “national rockcrit confab” it would become. (Chuck would like to note for the record that the year was 1984, and thanks Christgau for getting his army rank correct.)

This playlist serves as a listening guide to Going into the City, roughly chronological with Christgau’s own narrative, from the pop earworms that found their way into a smart youngster’s consciousness (Bing Crosby, Doris Day, the South Pacific soundtrack) to the hip-hop singles he and wife Carola Dibbell couldn’t get enough of in the early ‘80s (Funky 4, Newcleus, Afrika Bambaataa). In between are some of the doo-wop and pop rarities fondly remembered decades later (Patience and Prudence’s “You Belong To Me,” Marcie Blane’s campy “Bobby’s Girl”), the jazz albums Christgau dug while largely sitting out the early '60s folk movement, and the Connie Francis tune he came across during a 1962 gallery exhibit by pop artist Tom Wesselmann (recalled as a formative moment for the budding young critic). And our hefty collection of tunes concludes with the half-dozen love songs singled out in the memoir’s introduction as constituting some of Christgau’s all-time romantic favorites, from Ashford and Simpson to Chuck Berry. As wide-ranging as Going into the City itself, let’s call the whole thing pop. Or, to nick the title of one of Christgau’s longest-running columns, “Rock & Roll &.”

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