Rocking My Life Away
Writing about Music and Other Matters
Rocking My Life Away represents nearly twenty years of writing by one of the premier critics of popular music in America today. In these pieces from Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and other publications, Anthony DeCurtis reveals his ongoing engagement with rock & roll as artistic forum, source of personal inspiration, and compelling site of cultural struggle. Including significant new work—liner notes commissioned for the Phil Spector box set and a spirited discussion with Peter Buck of R.E.M. about rock criticism, for example—DeCurtis also ventures with insight and power beyond the world of rock & roll. A joint profile of the political writers Neil Sheehan and Taylor Branch and provocative looks at the work of novelists Don DeLillo and T. Coraghessan Boyle round out this eclectic collection.
It's no coincidence that the most interesting contribution in this wide-ranging "greatest hits" package is an off-the-cuff interview with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, in which he and the author discuss at length the cultural value of such an endeavor as writing critically about rock and popular entertainment. Too often an assumption is made by and about writers for magazines such as Rolling Stone, where DeCurtis spent nearly a decade as an editor: the writer may want to define consumer taste, but generally his assignment is simply to reflect upon it. DeCurtis is something of an anomaly from the decades before popular culture became a province of social theoreticians, years when rock 'n' roll could be discussed as art. He defends the academic study of pop culture, in such essays as "Pop Goes to College" and his examination of Don DeLillo's Great Jones Street, but his work is informed by a gutsy street sensibility absent from that of DeCurtis's more academic peers. This unique blend of intellect and bravado might well lead readers to argue a point here and there, but that is the purpose of criticism. DeCurtis reminds us of this basic point with the ease of recalling a classic Keith Richards riff.