Box Full of Letters from Issue #59
From the author
Regarding Ed Ward’s “review” of my recent book Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life And Legacy Of The Byrds’ Gene Clark in No Depression #58, I am curious about one thing: Just what book did Mr. Ward read for his review? It certainly wasn’t the book I wrote under this title. Mr. Ward refers early on to a “Harold Eugene Clarke”, later stating that by the time Gene had met up with Jim (Roger) McGuinn in 1964, following a short stint with the New Christy Minstrels, “he’d dropped the ‘e'” to become Clark. Huh?
For Mr. Ward’s sake let me provide him with the necessary Byrds membership information he clearly missed in that other Gene Clark(e) book he read and reviewed: Gene Clark was the tambourine player/singer/songwriter and Michael Clarke was the drummer. They are most certainly not the same person. Given his outrageously ignorant statement at the outset, Mr. Ward’s review is clearly flawed and does a great disservice to your esteemed publication. As a book reviewer myself I am well aware that a reviewer has an obligation to suspend all prejudices and review the book before him/her. While I have no problems accepting a reviewer’s studied opinion, whether positive or negative, there is an implicit assumption that he/she actually read the book at hand before passing judgment.
Obviously Mr. Ward failed to bother reading the book he agreed to review. Neglecting to even mention Gene Clark’s groundbreaking roots/contemporary bluegrass recordings with Douglas Dillard in 1968 or his teaming with Carla Olson in 1986 to create one of the best examples of early alt-country acoustic music in a publication dedicated to this music is further astonishing. In fact there is no reference to Gene’s brilliant songwriting legacy and the statement “wave after wave of friends looting the house while his corpse lies in a pool of vomit on the floor” is so erroneous as to border on libelous.
But maybe this was in that other Gene Clarke biography Mr. Ward reviewed. Too bad he didn’t read mine.
— John Einarson
[Ed Ward replies: If I had known John Einarson was going to take honest criticism like this, I’d have spared myself the three nights it took me to read his book, plus the couple of hours I spent going over bits of it before writing my review. What’s telling is what he objected to, which are mere details: I’m not sure where I got that “e” business, and yes, he’s right on that, but I won’t budge on the issue of the friends looting his house. On page 304, he clearly says “What transpired over the last three days of Gene’s life remains clouded by controversy,” which is putting it mildly. Pages 308-311 have a whole collection of dubious characters assembled in Clark’s house doing all manner of strange things, including taking stuff (tapes, guitars), and calling the papers — and arguing. Given the presence of EMS techs earlier, I’d thought the body was gone, but nope: On the top of p. 311, we find, “While this bizarre brouhaha played out in the kitchen, Gene’s body continued to lie on the living room floor face up.” So I may not have absolutely literally perfectly described this situation, but in my opinion the “looting” was psychological as much as it was of physical goods.
As for not praising Clark’s recordings with Dillard and Carla Olson, that’s not my job. My job is to read the book and give my impression as to whether or not it tells its story. I’m not mesmerized by Clark’s songwriting past the Byrds because I haven’t heard it (sorry, John, I haven’t listened to all the records in the world yet), but I don’t think I need to be familiar with an artist’s work to know if the biographer did a good job of telling the story. I think Einarson did a great job of presenting who Gene Clark was. That he can’t see that he was the kind of man he was is, as I said, the pity.]
Judging by the cover…
I for one was shocked to see the July/August cover. Having been a dedicated reader, who truly feels you have the best music magazine for music I like, branching out to jazz or whatever worries me. If I cared about jazz I’d read Downbeat, or Rolling Stone for today’s pop, metal, rap etc.
I’m sure Lizz Wright is a great artist, but give me Ray Wylie Hubbard or Rodney Crowell anyday. I hope this cover was just a test, and you will go back to what we all buy your magazine for!
— Tom Hite
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
Another Ms. Wright:
Preferring Lizz over Chely
No need for the apologia on the Lizz Wright cover story. I mean, it’s not like you’d done an extended feature on that other Wright (Chely), whose Metropolitan Hotel you inexplicably deigned to review in issue #57. I still haven’t figured out whether the reviewer intended to be ironic or not when he spoke of the latter Wright’s “eloquence and candor” with regard to the reactionary single “The Bumper Of My S.U.V.”, about which one really can’t say much without giving the song way more attention than it deserves.
For almost seven years now, I’ve looked forward to every issue of your magazine, but I must confess you folks are beginning to worry me. I might could overlook the write-ups on fence-straddling Americana wannabes like Dierks Bentley or that warmongering redneck mother Charlie Daniels so long as they remain the exception and not the rule, but seeing that Virgin Megastores ad on the back cover of your latest issue really gave me a sinking feeling. If I didn’t know better, I might think ND had done sold out.
— Shawn Cote
Fort Fairfield, Maine
The revolution sells cars
Have you seen the Steve Earle Chevy ad for “The Revolution Starts Now”? It just started airing during NASCAR races and baseball games. It features pickup trucks flying around while the song plays. As a fan I just about choked. “The Revolution Starts Now” was supposed to be a war cry during the 2004 presidential race. It’s not about Steve Earle making money…he can sell any song he wants to. But selling that particular song is a betrayal of everyone who invested themselves in a cause.
— Eric Melcher
Numbers add up to nuthin’
The article about Sufjan Stevens [ND #58] is great, and Kurt Reighley can certainly write, but his math skills seem to be failing him. Stevens would not be 122 in 2053, if he was born in 1975 (like me), he’d be 83. Which seems a fine age to put out a final album!
— Jessica Byers