The World Needs Female Rock Critics

By ANWEN CRAWFORD
The New Yorker

Willis_Out coverDon’t tell anyone, but I don’t own any albums by the Rolling Stones. They’re just so archetypal, so very rock and roll—and that, I find, can be a difficult thing to admire. Rock music has rarely offered women the same tangible promise of social rebellion and sexual freedom that it has given men—though plenty of women, myself included, have tried all the same to find those liberties in it. “Boy guitarists notwithstanding,” the journalist Lillian Roxon wrote to a friend, in 1966, “I don’t think I can stand the sight of another bloody electric guitar.” I know just how she felt.

In 1969, Roxon—Italian-born, Australian-raised, an experienced journalist and a star of Warhol’s back room at Max’s Kansas City—would publish “Lillian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopedia,” the first of its kind, a marvel of research and critical acumen. Within six months of publication, the book had entered its third hardcover print run, and Roxon was profiled in the Times. The book has now been out of print for decades. (Roxon died in 1973, at the age of forty-one.) Ellen Willis, a contemporary of Roxon’s, was The New Yorkers first popular-music critic, beginning in 1968, but a collection of her music writing, “Out of the Vinyl Deeps,” was not published until 2011, five years after her death. 

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