Author: James Wolcott

  • Lou Reed Rising

    Naked Lunch Becomes TV Dinner: The Rise of Punk Rock No “legendary” rock band of the 1960s has proven more legendary than the Velvet Underground. The name alone (before it was abbreviated by fans into “the Velvets”) carried a special resonance, evoking Genet decadence, whip-and-leather s&m, Warhol chic, and European ennui. And even though other urban […]

  • Truman Capote Sups on the Flesh of the Famous

    Has any writer since Boswell possessed a shrewder sense of careermanship than Truman Capote? Gore Vidal expertly packages his arch, marcelled aphor­isms for television consumption, Norman Mailer at his most com­bative has an Elizabethan bravado (though Mailer of late seems sul­lenly muted), but at fashioning a persona and hustling one’s work, Capote is peerless. For […]

  • Underground Rock: Walk on the Wild Side

    Walk on the Wild Side (And Don’t Forget Your Mastercharge) July 12, 1976 Of course the truly cool and satori-graced visitors who conven­tion-cavort in New York will stay in their hotel rooms and watch Joe Franklin — Franklin being the show-biz equivalent to a Zen master: his questions could make Robert Pirsig crash his cycle into […]

  • A Conservative Impulse in the New Rock Underground

    A Conservative Impulse in the New Rock Underground August 18, 1975 Arabian swelter, and with the air-conditioning broken, CBGB resembled some abattoir of a kitchen in which a bucket of ice is placed in front of a fan to cool the room off. To no avail of course, and the heat had perspiration glissading down […]

  • When Bob Dylan Called on Patti Smith

    Tarantula Meets Mustang A copy of “Witt” was slid across the table to Patti Smith. “Would you sign this for me, please?” “Sure,” said Patti, “what’s your first name?” He told her. “Like in New Jersey?” Patti asked, and he said no: with a z. “Well, I’ll draw you a map of Jersey,” and so […]

  • American Civilization: Dead, or Playing Possum?

    “Knowledge Is Good? Intellectuals Bomb Out of Town” May 5, 1980 Saratoga Springs, April 10. Lining the streets of North Broadway are the sort of threatening-looking trees that pelted Dorothy and Toto with apples on their way to Oz. After hanging a left, the visitor finds himself in the bosom of Skidmore College, where squirrels […]