Out of the Vinyl Deeps featured in The Guardian's holiday roundup list

By Dorian Lynskey
The Guardian

Willis_Out coverSomething similar occurs in one of the columns in Ellen Willis's Out of the Vinyl Deeps (University of Minnesota Press, $22.95), when she mentions a slew of 1969 articles fretting already about the "death of rock". Willis was the New Yorker's first pop music critic (1968-75), but became better known as a feminist writer. This affectionate anthology rescues her criticism from the vaults and shows her to be just as alert a listener as more famous contemporaries Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau. Eschewing the hatchet, she devoted her energy to interrogating her favourites, whether at length (a reputation-making essay on Bob Dylan) or in a brilliantly pithy phrase: Randy Newman is "the straight man for a black-comedy team that consists of him and his subconscious". Writing about the fading of the 60s, she has the melancholy clarity of Joan Didion, but Didion would never have danced in front of the mirror non-stop to the first five Creedence Clearwater Revival albums to cheer herself up.

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