Grown Up All Wrong

Overview

Two generations of American music lovers have grown up listening with Robert Christgau, attuned to his inimitable blend of judgment, acuity, passion, erudition, wit, and caveat emptor. His writings, collected here, constitute a virtual encyclopedia of popular music over the past fifty years. Whether honoring the originators of rock and roll, celebrating established artists, or spreading the word about newer ones, the book is pure enjoyment, a pleasure that takes its cues from ...

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Overview

Two generations of American music lovers have grown up listening with Robert Christgau, attuned to his inimitable blend of judgment, acuity, passion, erudition, wit, and caveat emptor. His writings, collected here, constitute a virtual encyclopedia of popular music over the past fifty years. Whether honoring the originators of rock and roll, celebrating established artists, or spreading the word about newer ones, the book is pure enjoyment, a pleasure that takes its cues from the sounds it chronicles.

A critical compendium of points of interest in American popular music and its far-flung diaspora, this book ranges from the 1950s singer-songwriter tradition through hip-hop, alternative, and beyond. With unfailing style and grace, Christgau negotiates the straits of great music and thorny politics, as in the cases of Public Enemy, blackface artist Emmett Miller, KRS-One, the Beastie Boys, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. He illuminates legends from pop music and the beginnings of rock and roll--George Gershwin, Nat King Cole, B. B. King, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley--and looks at the subtle transition to just plain "rock" in the music of Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and others. He praises the endless vitality of Al Green, George Clinton, and Neil Young. And from the Rolling Stones to Sonic Youth to Nirvana, from Bette Midler to Michael Jackson to DJ Shadow, he shows how money calls the tune in careers that aren't necessarily compromised by their intercourse with commerce.

Rock and punk and hip-hop, pop and world beat: this is the music of the second half of the twentieth century, skillfully framed in the work of a writer whose reach, insight, and perfect pitch make him one of the major cultural critics of our time.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

The senior music critic at the Village Voice employs critical academic theory and an anti-elitist perspective in these essays on acts as varied as B. B. King, the Beastie Boys and Lou Reed. 'He writes on each with equal erudition,' Laura Jamison [has written]...'The results are brilliant.'
— Scott Veale

Salon

Robert Christgau has earned his title as the dean of rock journalism by being honest—a critic who criticizes...A first-person eyewitness to rock's rise to glory, Christgau pens hundred-word mini-essays that leap sublimely from rock to rap to punk to soul to world music. Diving deeper into his favorite artists, the lengthy essays compiled for Grown Up All Wrong—culled mostly from [his] Voice columns—reveal a depth of understanding about...pop music, both as art and commercial proposition...Because Christgau prizes what the music means over what it sounds like or how well it sells, nearly every essay is readable, regardless of how well you know the artist.
— Mark Athitakis

Village Voice
Robert Christgau loves rock--its fans, its 'big beat,' and last (but not most) the musicians themselves--and he loves rock's complicated, rebellious potential. Grown Up All Wrong collects decades of his declarations of love--from Nat King Cole to Sleater-Kinney--as they appeared in the Village Voice. Ranging from as short as one paragraph on 'Why the Beatles Broke Up' to 14 pages of homage to the early Stones and a gonzo essay about the Replacements that begins, 'I mean, fuck art,' these essays capture just how it feels to listen to all that noise, contradictions and all.
Rolling Stone

Since the sixties, when he conceived rock criticism as a glorious expressive form free of high-art headaches, Robert Christgau has interrogated pop music with self-invented rigor. A critic and editor for more than twenty years at the Village Voice, Christgau propels a thorny complex of aesthetics, business and politics into his own Formula One commentary...Grown Up All Wrong discusses seventy-five artists in a collection of essays. They fall into groups about pioneers (Nat 'King' Cole, Elvis), Sixties legends (Hendrix, Aretha) and Seventies phenoms (Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder); other sections highlight punk, hip-hop and pop. The book ends warmly, with looks at Neil Young, George Clinton and Al Green, all of whom, like Christgau, are now in their fifties and wide awake.
— James Hunter

Boston Globe

Hailed by many as the dean of American rock criticism, Christgau, senior music critic of The Village Voice, is arguably the person most responsible for making [rock] criticism a serious discipline...It is as a cultural critic...rather than as a 'rock writer' that Christgau tackles popular music. Although Grown Up All Wrong is a series of essays...ostensibly about artists from George Gershwin through KRS-One, it is also about our times. Eschewing the standard line that rock was born from a union of blues and country music, Christgau looks to more mainstream traditions of popular music, and reflects on Nat King Cole and blackface vaudevillian Emmett Miller to find the reasons for our contemporary tastes. Poking behind the myths...he seeks to decipher why we love this music—or why we ought to. Discussing contemporary acts, he sets out to explain context as much as sound...and lovingly depicts scenes to which fans of any sound can relate.
— Clea Simon

Newsday

Smart, literary, self-assured, heartfelt and politically conscious...[Christgau] offer[s] insights aplenty for any aspiring aficionado interested in pondering popular music as much as grooving to it...Christgau's book reads like the musing of a professional hipster; he's the guy you want to go to concerts with, because he makes pop music feel like a ritual experience...Known as the 'dean of rock critics' for being one of the first, he is a true believer in rock and roll, and much as he can be terrifyingly silly...he is also wonderfully serious about the subtleties of this rather rude and crass genre of popular music.
— Michael Kramer

Chicago Tribune

When Christgau is good...he's a stimulating idea man. His curiosity is boundless, he has a formidable knowledge of a wide range of genres, and his insights on everyone from Chuck Berry to Sleater-Kinney are enough to make every other music journalist bow down in envy.
— Greg Kot

Time Out

Robert Christgau's Grown Up All Wrong is a superb compendium of the noted New York music authority's always readable and ever insightful writings on music from the '50s to the present day, from Gershwin and Presley to Cheb Khaled and DJ Shadow. Put together, the scope of his writings makes for a huge and all-encompassing, rewarding and enlightening book.
— Ross Fortune

Q Magazine

[Christgau] is both infuriating and refreshingly sharp.
— Mark Blake

Wire

Whether you love him or hate him, everyone in the racket owes a debt to Robert Christgau. He may not have been the first rock critic, but he was certainly the first to make a career out of it and he casts a large shadow over all music writers...Grown Up All Wrong is Christgau's love letter to the form that has nourished him, and that he has nourished for 30 years...He is undoubtedly one of the best at untangling the various strands of the pop apparatus.
— Peter Shapiro

Los Angeles Times

Christgau's characteristic passion and humor, historical analysis and personal insight are at their best. This volume shows that rock criticism has grown up to be broader and deeper then anyone imagined when wild verbiage, polemical disputation and lofty thoughts first thrilled readers 30 years ago.
— Jon Wiener

Hampstead & Highgate Express

As with all true music fans, [Christgau's] curiosity and appreciation goes back to long before he began buying records, and carries on well after he might reasonably have been expected to stop. That 'From Vaudeville to Techno' is no idle boast. Christgau puts into words not only what the rest of us can't describe but what we hadn't even noticed was there until he pointed it out...It can be scary hurtling through the black hole of his intellect, but what you encounter along the way is thrilling. He is right so often, whether it be the general point that music is always about more than itself—it is about the country, the culture, the context—or the specific point that Aretha Franklin's singing is about foibles and flaws as much as it is about exactitude, because only in that way is it a true reflection of life...When you have Christgau's intellectual ammunition you can pound into submission all reasonable opposition, and can marshal support for most ideas you choose to posit.
— Guy Somerset

Madison Isthmus

Like James Brown sang it, like the Clash played it, like Grandmaster Flash sampled it, Robert Christgau writes about music. This essay collection by the Village Voice's longtime rock critic delivers on its subtitle's promise of profiles 'from Vaudeville to Techno,' with some jazz, country, hip-hop, Tin Pan Alley and South African mbaqanga tossed in the mix as well. The dizzying breadth of Christgau's musical appreciation is unparalleled in the field.
— Christopher Sieving

Austin Chronicle

Pop culture aesthete/connoisseur and senior music critic for the Village Voice, Robert Christgau has assembled a collection of essays from his career that span from 1972 to 1997. At almost every moment he reveals himself an insightful, open-minded, appreciative, and adulatory fan of rock & roll, which is what every critic ought to be...His introduction is a wonderful exposition on the nature of the work, both of this particular body and of the larger role of a rock journalist...To praise Grown Up All Wrong is not merely to celebrate the dignity and credibility Robert Christgau brings to rock journalism, but to appreciate his treatment of the individual subject.
— Christopher Hess

Nashville Scene
The dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau, demonstrated in Grown Up All Wrong: 75 Great Rock and Pop Artists From Vaudeville to Techno that he's unmatched among his comrades in eclectic interests and broad knowledge. Even if you disagree with him...or don't share his interests (punk, metal, industrial) you can't stop reading his work once you start.
St. Petersburg Times

Christgau, senior music editor for the Village Voice since 1974, considered the 'dean of rock critics' by everyone with an alphabetized CD collection, has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music. Big deal. What makes Christgau's pop 'criticism' so damn good is his unabashed love of the stuff...Christgau's fandom is balanced by his erudition. He knows everything, name-dropping and cross-referencing in a totally inclusive manner. His objective is not to stump or alienate his readers but to involved them in this magnificent thing called music.
— Gina Vivinetto

Memphis Flyer

As the first significant collection of long-form criticism Christgau's ever published, Grown Up All Wrong is something of an event, at least among the subculture of music fans who take rock criticism seriously...Grown Up All Wrong gives a portrait of the underappreciated Christgau. The long pieces here—artist profiles ranging from Nat King Cole to Pavement—downplay the ferocious wit of his capsule reviews for the serious pursuit of sustained ideas—the kind of long-form rock criticism that is rare these days. And, like all good rock writing, it makes you want to listen...Robert Christgau...is the greatest of all rock critics.
— Chris Herrington

Rain Taxi

[Christgau] is a consummate music critic...[and] a contrarian whose evaluations aren't rooted in absolutes, but in the music he's heard and thinks we should hear (or not) for ourselves...Grown Up All Wrong is Robert Christgau's high-fidelity reason for living inside the pop music aesthetic. This compendium of his profiles and features should be required reading for anyone attempting a career, or even a sideline hobby, in putting words to paper on the subject of popular music.
— Brian Beatty

Booklist

[Christgau's] style has allowed him to pack an amazing amount of observation and evaluation into relatively short critiques. Unlike many veteran pop music observers, he is still able to review what's new positively, without coming off like a doddering old fool trying to connect with the kids...[T]his allows him to do serious rock criticism with deeper historical perspective than most of his colleagues nowadays. The 75 pieces collected here cover the entire pop music spectrum, save reggae, and cast backward as far as pre-World War II styles and artists. Great stuff for reading or reference.
— Mike Tribby

New York Times

To those engaged in the joyful, frustrating, spiritually anarchistic, intellectually rigorous act of figuring out this culture through its popular expressions, Robert Christgau is a patriarch. His face is certainly etched on my personal Mount Rushmore of rock critics. But as this collection proves, the last thing Christgau is is set in stone. Writing with passion and hearty wit about John Lennon and LiliPUT, Cheb Khaled and Coolio, he always keeps moving into new subcultures, cultural moments, and artistic frameworks. This book is the testament of a man who still feels the rush that only the popular music can bring—and still is proud to dance to it, talk about it, love it, in public...Some anti-intellectual once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. If that's the case, Robert Christgau is I.M. Pei.
— Ann Powers

Ham & High

Christgau puts into words not only what the rest of us can't describe but what we hadn't even noticed was there until he pointed it out...He is right so often, whether it be the general point that music is always about more than itself—it is about the country, the culture, the context—or the specific point that Aretha Franklin's singing is about foibles and flaws as much as it is about exactitude, because only in that way is it a true reflection of life.
— Guy Somerset

The Independent

In a debased art form, quality rock journalism stands out, which is why Grown Up All Wrong makes for such a rewarding trawl. From the outset, Robert Christgau believed in 'celebrating a moment the high-brows assumed was disposable.' These chronologically arranged essays cover figures such as George Gershwin and Nat King Cole, alongside Patti Smith, Hendrix and Springsteen. Effectively it's a history of popular music, written from the head and heart.
— Liz Thomson

Times Herald Record
[Christgau] uses critical academic theory and an anti-elitist perspective in these essays on acts as varied as B.B. King, the Beastie Boys and Lou Reed. "He writes on each with equal erudition" Laura Jamison wrote in 1998. "The results are brilliant."
Mojo

Christgau is no toady, trusting in the strength of his own perceptions rather than in recycling quotations from the artist. True criticism is invariably contentious, and Christgau's aim is certainly true.
— Mark Paytress

Boston Soundcheck

Known for his honest and insightful criticisms in The Village Voice, Robert Christgau has been 'wasting his time on rock' for nearly three decades. Now, he has put it all (or, at least, most of it) together in this grand compendium of essays on artists ranging from B. B. King to P. J. Harvey. A pop critic in the vanguard of the alternative press, Christgau tells it like it is (or, at least, as he would prognosticate it to be), offering bold opening statements...and revelations...Like Pauline Kael in the film world, Christgau is a critic of broad experience and interest (the compendium ranges from Seattle to Senegal) who is not prone to pull punches. He may even leave a number of icons with black eyes and bruised egos. Some readers may also find themselves upset to find out what Christgau proposes to know and may find more than a few rude awakenings about their jukebox heroes...Christgau makes and breaks the connections and conventions that are the world of rock. So next time you need to defend Mzwahke Mbuli's contributions to pop or explain why the Beatles broke up...in one paragraph or less, consult the man who has heard it all and isn't afraid to tell you what he thinks.
— Matthew S. Robinson

New York Times Book Review - Laura Jamison
Applying the language and ideas of academic critical theory to popular music and adding a good dose of gonzoesque irreverence, Robert Christgau, the senior music critic at The Village Voice, created a brand of music writing that inspired a small but fierce group of critics at alternative weeklies. The subjects in Grown Up All Wrong...include Elvis Presley, the punk girl band Sleater-Kinney, the rap artist KRS-One, the country singer George Jones and the minstrel singer Emmett Miller, among many, many others. He writes on each with equal erudition, examining the artists and their music as both cultural products and influences. No pop act is too weird, arty, commercial or schlocky for Christgau's contemplation...The result is brilliant.
Salon - Mark Athitakis
Robert Christgau has earned his title as the dean of rock journalism by being honest--a critic who criticizes...A first-person eyewitness to rock's rise to glory, Christgau pens hundred-word mini-essays that leap sublimely from rock to rap to punk to soul to world music. Diving deeper into his favorite artists, the lengthy essays compiled for Grown Up All Wrong--culled mostly from [his] Voice columns--reveal a depth of understanding about...pop music, both as art and commercial proposition...Because Christgau prizes what the music means over what it sounds like or how well it sells, nearly every essay is readable, regardless of how well you know the artist.
Rolling Stone - James Hunter
Since the sixties, when he conceived rock criticism as a glorious expressive form free of high-art headaches, Robert Christgau has interrogated pop music with self-invented rigor. A critic and editor for more than twenty years at the Village Voice, Christgau propels a thorny complex of aesthetics, business and politics into his own Formula One commentary...Grown Up All Wrong discusses seventy-five artists in a collection of essays. They fall into groups about pioneers (Nat 'King' Cole, Elvis), Sixties legends (Hendrix, Aretha) and Seventies phenoms (Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder); other sections highlight punk, hip-hop and pop. The book ends warmly, with looks at Neil Young, George Clinton and Al Green, all of whom, like Christgau, are now in their fifties and wide awake.
Boston Globe - Clea Simon
Hailed by many as the dean of American rock criticism, Christgau, senior music critic of The Village Voice, is arguably the person most responsible for making [rock] criticism a serious discipline...It is as a cultural critic...rather than as a 'rock writer' that Christgau tackles popular music. Although Grown Up All Wrong is a series of essays...ostensibly about artists from George Gershwin through KRS-One, it is also about our times. Eschewing the standard line that rock was born from a union of blues and country music, Christgau looks to more mainstream traditions of popular music, and reflects on Nat King Cole and blackface vaudevillian Emmett Miller to find the reasons for our contemporary tastes. Poking behind the myths...he seeks to decipher why we love this music--or why we ought to. Discussing contemporary acts, he sets out to explain context as much as sound...and lovingly depicts scenes to which fans of any sound can relate.
Newsday - Michael Kramer
Smart, literary, self-assured, heartfelt and politically conscious...[Christgau] offer[s] insights aplenty for any aspiring aficionado interested in pondering popular music as much as grooving to it...Christgau's book reads like the musing of a professional hipster; he's the guy you want to go to concerts with, because he makes pop music feel like a ritual experience...Known as the 'dean of rock critics' for being one of the first, he is a true believer in rock and roll, and much as he can be terrifyingly silly...he is also wonderfully serious about the subtleties of this rather rude and crass genre of popular music.
Chicago Tribune - Greg Kot
When Christgau is good...he's a stimulating idea man. His curiosity is boundless, he has a formidable knowledge of a wide range of genres, and his insights on everyone from Chuck Berry to Sleater-Kinney are enough to make every other music journalist bow down in envy.
Time Out - Ross Fortune
Robert Christgau's Grown Up All Wrong is a superb compendium of the noted New York music authority's always readable and ever insightful writings on music from the '50s to the present day, from Gershwin and Presley to Cheb Khaled and DJ Shadow. Put together, the scope of his writings makes for a huge and all-encompassing, rewarding and enlightening book.
Q Magazine - Mark Blake
[Christgau] is both infuriating and refreshingly sharp.
Wire - Peter Shapiro
Whether you love him or hate him, everyone in the racket owes a debt to Robert Christgau. He may not have been the first rock critic, but he was certainly the first to make a career out of it and he casts a large shadow over all music writers...Grown Up All Wrong is Christgau's love letter to the form that has nourished him, and that he has nourished for 30 years...He is undoubtedly one of the best at untangling the various strands of the pop apparatus.
Los Angeles Times - Jon Wiener
Christgau's characteristic passion and humor, historical analysis and personal insight are at their best. This volume shows that rock criticism has grown up to be broader and deeper then anyone imagined when wild verbiage, polemical disputation and lofty thoughts first thrilled readers 30 years ago.
Hampstead & Highgate Express - Guy Somerset
Christgau puts into words not only what the rest of us can't describe but what we hadn't even noticed was there until he pointed it out...He is right so often, whether it be the general point that music is always about more than itself—it is about the country, the culture, the context—or the specific point that Aretha Franklin's singing is about foibles and flaws as much as it is about exactitude, because only in that way is it a true reflection of life.
Madison Isthmus - Christopher Sieving
Like James Brown sang it, like the Clash played it, like Grandmaster Flash sampled it, Robert Christgau writes about music. This essay collection by the Village Voice's longtime rock critic delivers on its subtitle's promise of profiles 'from Vaudeville to Techno,' with some jazz, country, hip-hop, Tin Pan Alley and South African mbaqanga tossed in the mix as well. The dizzying breadth of Christgau's musical appreciation is unparalleled in the field.
Austin Chronicle - Christopher Hess
Pop culture aesthete/connoisseur and senior music critic for the Village Voice, Robert Christgau has assembled a collection of essays from his career that span from 1972 to 1997. At almost every moment he reveals himself an insightful, open-minded, appreciative, and adulatory fan of rock & roll, which is what every critic ought to be...His introduction is a wonderful exposition on the nature of the work, both of this particular body and of the larger role of a rock journalist...To praise Grown Up All Wrong is not merely to celebrate the dignity and credibility Robert Christgau brings to rock journalism, but to appreciate his treatment of the individual subject.
St. Petersburg Times - Gina Vivinetto
Christgau, senior music editor for the Village Voice since 1974, considered the 'dean of rock critics' by everyone with an alphabetized CD collection, has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music. Big deal. What makes Christgau's pop 'criticism' so damn good is his unabashed love of the stuff...Christgau's fandom is balanced by his erudition. He knows everything, name-dropping and cross-referencing in a totally inclusive manner. His objective is not to stump or alienate his readers but to involved them in this magnificent thing called music.
Memphis Flyer - Chris Herrington
As the first significant collection of long-form criticism Christgau's ever published, Grown Up All Wrong is something of an event, at least among the subculture of music fans who take rock criticism seriously...Grown Up All Wrong gives a portrait of the underappreciated Christgau. The long pieces here--artist profiles ranging from Nat King Cole to Pavement--downplay the ferocious wit of his capsule reviews for the serious pursuit of sustained ideas--the kind of long-form rock criticism that is rare these days. And, like all good rock writing, it makes you want to listen...Robert Christgau...is the greatest of all rock critics.
Rain Taxi - Brian Beatty
[Christgau] is a consummate music critic...[and] a contrarian whose evaluations aren't rooted in absolutes, but in the music he's heard and thinks we should hear (or not) for ourselves...Grown Up All Wrong is Robert Christgau's high-fidelity reason for living inside the pop music aesthetic. This compendium of his profiles and features should be required reading for anyone attempting a career, or even a sideline hobby, in putting words to paper on the subject of popular music.
Booklist - Mike Tribby
[Christgau's] style has allowed him to pack an amazing amount of observation and evaluation into relatively short critiques. Unlike many veteran pop music observers, he is still able to review what's new positively, without coming off like a doddering old fool trying to connect with the kids...[T]his allows him to do serious rock criticism with deeper historical perspective than most of his colleagues nowadays. The 75 pieces collected here cover the entire pop music spectrum, save reggae, and cast backward as far as pre-World War II styles and artists. Great stuff for reading or reference.
Steve Erickson
Along with Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau is the writer who has best explained what the rest of us intuitively understood about the last thirty years of rock and roll but couldn't quite say. As is entirely evident in this brilliant and idiosyncratic survey, before anyone else Christgau identified the meaning in the maelstrom of Exile on Main Street, the profane ecstasy of Al Green's voice, Cobain's cry from the approaching oblivion--and in so doing didn't just monitor the music and map it, but changed it.
Dr. Donna Gaines
With the relentlessness of a searing hot guitar, 'the Dean' peels away the mythologies that blur music, politics and economics. With incomparable grace, wit and and uncompromising critical sensibility, Christgau offers a glimpse of beauty and the beast--the sacred and the profane, dancing in the moonlight, sha la la la.
Nelson George
Robert Christgau is the dean of American rock criticism, not because he's opinionated (which he is), contentious (which he is), and witty (which he is). He is a dean because whenever he writes he teaches about pop culture, music, and America.
Gary Giddins
Not knowing Sylvester from Coolio, I'm inclined to enthuse about Robert Christgau's intelligence, humor, and style, which straddles the vernacular and the high-falutin like nobody's business. But when I read his discourses on music I do know (more than half of Grown Up All Wrong, happily), all that recedes before the fact that he is a sage critic who breathes music and can get to the nub of any performance, allowing the reader to hear almost as insightfully as he does.
Danny Goldberg
Robert Christgau has no peer as a rock critic, a profession he helped invent, and one he has lovingly developed since the nineteen sixties. He combines intellectual gravitas with a teenager's passion for music. Through some magic of poetic prose, Christgau exudes rigorous taste without ever becoming a snob. He rejoices in all musical genres, never loses sight of the rebellion and fun and poetry in music and has given us an extraordinary and unique overview of rock and roll. Grown Up All Wrong made me feel young again yet inexplicably okay about being middle aged. A+!
Dave Hickey
Bob Christgau is the pure article. Most rock critics, like most employees of Tower Records, end up mistaking themselves for the rockers they revere. Most of the rest promote themselves as professores. Christgau never falls victim to either of these fatal conceits. He is always our guy, the fellow geekoid standing beside us at the concert. The guy without the backstage pass, who is having a hell of a good time, anyway. Later, he will go home and write something smart and heartfelt, witty and weird about the experience. This earns him the privilege of more music. That's purity, and we are its beneficiaries.
New York Times - Ann Powers
To those engaged in the joyful, frustrating, spiritually anarchistic, intellectually rigorous act of figuring out this culture through its popular expressions, Robert Christgau is a patriarch. His face is certainly etched on my personal Mount Rushmore of rock critics. But as this collection proves, the last thing Christgau is is set in stone. Writing with passion and hearty wit about John Lennon and LiliPUT, Cheb Khaled and Coolio, he always keeps moving into new subcultures, cultural moments, and artistic frameworks. This book is the testament of a man who still feels the rush that only the popular music can bring--and still is proud to dance to it, talk about it, love it, in public...Some anti-intellectual once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. If that's the case, Robert Christgau is I.M. Pei.
John F. Szwed
It was Robert Christgau's writing above all others' which gave voice to the seriousness and passion so many of us felt about music in the late 60's and early 70's. And now, when that passion has begun to ebb and might otherwise slip into torpor and false nostalgia rationalized by quotidian distraction and fallen ideals, Christgau refuses to let us look away, and remains our pop conscience. Crucial reading, as always.
Sarah Vowell
Robert Christgau's Grown Up All Wrong is full of faith: In pop music, in love, in America, and--this is the best part--a faith in his own opinions. It's fearless.
Jon Landau
Bob Christgau has been writing about rock music for over twenty-five years. He moves gracefully from the down-and-dirty to the highfalutin, the ironic to the satiric, and from low comedy to high seriousness. A joy to read, Grown Up All Wrong is the product of a serious mind tackling a worthy subject over a sustained period of time. It is a fascinating meditation on rock music and the rock years.
Sonic Youth
Just when you think he's got it all wrong, he gets it right...sometimes. With hyper-drone vocabulary Xgau decodes rock and roll life as valid social study. It's infuriating, fascinating and, quite often, illuminating. And it's mostly about men. Duh."
Jon Langford
Ha ha. The boot is on the other foot now. A-. (That minus always kept me looking over my shoulder.)
Frank-John Hadley
Wiity, insightful, savvy, and unafraid to bash pretenders and hangers-on, [Christgau] is usually right on target with his criticism…Christgau gives well-reasoned, often provocative insights into all his subjects, from Elvis Presley to the Clash, Patti Smith and Lou Reed to Nirvana, and at book's end, his Bog Three of George Clinton, Al Green, and Neil Young. To his credit, he's also chosen to scrutinize some fascinating lesser-knowns of twentieth-century rock like Andy Fairweather-Low, Freddy Johnson, Marshall Crenshaw, and Loudon Wainwright III. If you're serious about rock-n-roll, you can't do better than pay close attention to Christgau's musings here.
The Independent - Liz Thomson
In a debased art form, quality rock journalism stands out, which is why Grown Up All Wrong makes for such a rewarding trawl. From the outset, Robert Christgau believed in 'celebrating a moment the high-brows assumed was disposable.' These chronologically arranged essays cover figures such as George Gershwin and Nat King Cole, alongside Patti Smith, Hendrix and Springsteen. Effectively it's a history of popular music, written from the head and heart.
New York Times Book Review - Scott Veale
The senior music critic at the Village Voice employs critical academic theory and an anti-elitist perspective in these essays on acts as varied as B. B. King, the Beastie Boys and Lou Reed. 'He writes on each with equal erudition,' Laura Jamison [has written]...'The results are brilliant.'
Mojo - Mark Paytress
Christgau is no toady, trusting in the strength of his own perceptions rather than in recycling quotations from the artist. True criticism is invariably contentious, and Christgau's aim is certainly true.
Boston Soundcheck - Matthew S. Robinson
Known for his honest and insightful criticisms in The Village Voice, Robert Christgau has been 'wasting his time on rock' for nearly three decades. Now, he has put it all (or, at least, most of it) together in this grand compendium of essays on artists ranging from B. B. King to P. J. Harvey. A pop critic in the vanguard of the alternative press, Christgau tells it like it is (or, at least, as he would prognosticate it to be), offering bold opening statements...and revelations...Like Pauline Kael in the film world, Christgau is a critic of broad experience and interest (the compendium ranges from Seattle to Senegal) who is not prone to pull punches. He may even leave a number of icons with black eyes and bruised egos. Some readers may also find themselves upset to find out what Christgau proposes to know and may find more than a few rude awakenings about their jukebox heroes...Christgau makes and breaks the connections and conventions that are the world of rock. So next time you need to defend Mzwahke Mbuli's contributions to pop or explain why the Beatles broke up...in one paragraph or less, consult the man who has heard it all and isn't afraid to tell you what he thinks.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674003828
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2000
  • Pages: 510
  • Sales rank: 1,329,045
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Christgau is Senior Editor and Chief Music Critic at the Village Voice.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: My Favorite Waste of Time

Where "Rock and Roll" Began

Across the Great Divide: Nat King Cole

Let's Call the Whole Thing Pop: George Gershwin

The Complete Work of B. B. King

The Blank Slate: George Jones

Black Face, Whose Voice? Emmett Miller

Brown Eyed Handsome Rock and Roller: Chuck Berry

Elvis in Literature: Elvis Presley

Where "Rock" Began

Spontaneity by the Seat of the Pants: Janis Joplin

Our First Bohemians: The Rolling Stones

God Grows Up: Eric Clapton

Genius Dumb: Led Zeppelin

Jimi Plays History: Jimi Hendrix

Out of This World: Aretha Franklin

Nothing to Say but Everything, or, As Far as He Could Go: John Lennon with John Piccarella

Why the Beatles Broke Up

James Brown's Great Expectations

Snatched from the Maw of Commerce

Stevie Wonder Is All Things to All People

A Boogie Band that Loves the Governor (Boo Boo Boo): Lynyrd Skynyrd

Turn On, Drop In, Find Out: The Grateful Dead

Music for Smart People: Randy Newman

Time Waits for No One: Richard Thompson

Father Alone Farther Along: Loudon Wainwright III

Born to Be Mature: Bonnie Raitt

Two Rock and Rollers Who Won't Change the World: Pete Fowler/Andy Fairweather Low

Smashing the State-of-the-Art

(If I'm Acting Like a King That's Because) I'm a Human Being: New York Dolls

Patti Smith Pisses in a Vanguard

The Clash See America Second

The Great Punk Dandy at the Peppermint Lounge: Richard Hell

Pere Ubu's Right To Choose

Forever Rotten: The Sex Pistols

Kings of Rhythm

Sylvester Is a Star

Triumph of the Trifle: Ray Parker Jr.

Working the Crowd: Bruce Springsteen/ Michael Jackson

Give Him Liberty or Give Him Death: Prince

Magnificent Seven: Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five

The Beastie Boys Go Too Far

Looking for the Perfect Public Enemy

An Autodidact's History of KRS-One

Between Punk and a Pop Place

A Voyage to Liliput

Simple Because He's Simple: Marshall Crenshaw with Carola Dibbell

Aching to Become: The Replacements

Living Legends: The B-52's

Sonic Youth Sell Out

Curse of the Mekons

They Are the World

West Africa Not Africa, Europe Not the World: Salif Keita/Youssou N'Dour

The Black Sea Giant and the Lion Queens: Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens

The Goat-God in History: The Master Musicians of Jajouka

A Goat-God in Exile: (Cheb) Khaled

The Iron Curtain at Midnight: Pulnoc

Culture Hero: Mzwakhe Mbuli

Careers in Iconicity

Madonnathinking Madonnabout Madonnamusic

Garth Brooks, Michael Bolton, Barney, and You: Garth Brooks

Bette Midler Sings...Everything

Lou Reed, Average Guy

What Are Realities of Prince Deal? Hell, What Is Reality?

Making a Spectacle of Herself: Janet Jackson

Careers in Semipopularity

Selling the Dirt to Pay the Band: Freedy Johnston

Are We Not Girls? We Are L7!

Lucinda Williams's Reasonable Demands

The Ballad of Folly Jean Harvey: PJ Harvey

Two Backsliders: Iris DeMent/Sam Phillips

On the Real Side: Warren G/Coolio

Art-Rock You Can Dance To: DJ Shadow

Honk if You Love Honking: James Carter

Unlikely Samba: Arto Lindsay

Stereolad: Pavement

Grrrowing Grrrls: Sleater-Kinney

Blown Away: Nirvana

Modern Maturity

The Goduncle: George Clinton

Pop Songs to God: Al Green

Wasted on the Young: Neil Young

Credits

Index

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