R. Hell Site Forum Message

in memoriam Alan Betrock (pt.2)

Posted by:Roy Suggs (‘webmaster@richardhell.com’)
Posted on: 24 Apr 2000
continued from previous post

New York Rocker changed my life in so many ways. I remember when I first saw the magazine, during a brief period when it was carried by the Sam Goody's in the local mall. Summer 1977. Now, I'd already bought and liked the Television and Blondie albums (having heard them during the two weeks they got airplay on the local FM rock station), and even witnessed a Ramones concert (which just seemed loud and made no sense to me at the time; I actually only went to see the opening local band Kenn Kweder, whom you correctly told me did not belong in the pages of New York Rocker when I later proposed an article on them).

But I was fairly naive and provincial then, and had no idea they were part of a whole new scene. I still relied on the radio for most of my music, though my radio-inspired fandom of Roxy Music led me to check out Eno and John Cale, who didn't get played. I bought that issue of New York Rocker solely because there was a John Cale interview inside, having no idea who this Richard Hell character was.

I showed the magazine to my Yes/King Crimson fan friends, who respected Cale but thought the pictures of Hell and the Dead Boys were quite hilarious. So did I at first.

But soon I started to get curious about all of these new groups, and within a few months Richard Hell was one of my favorite artists, along with several of the others (even The Ramones, after I heard "Rockaway Beach"). I stopped listening to Yes. I met new friends. I realized that most of the funny looking groups in that issue were pretty worthwhile, and some were damned important. Years later I marveled at the scope of coverage in that early issue, how veterans like Alex Chilton (who I then knew nothing about) and Cale fit in with Blondie and the Ramones. And I remember how an editorial you wrote about FM rock radio pinpointed exactly what was wrong with it before I even realized how wrong it was. (Alas, no one took your advice and FM rock radio never came back).

I don't think Andy Schwartz would mind me saying this, but in the Andy Schwartz era NYR was merely an excellent rock magazine. In your era it was positively visionary. Not just that you were the first to champion Hell, Blondie, The dB's, Marshall Crenshaw, and even later the first thing I ever read about the Violent Femmes -- but that you had the incredible foresight to realize that there was enough of a revolution happening to merit its own magazine, with its own graphics, photographers, self-supporting universe -- fully a year before I (and many others) had even heard of it. And if that weren't amazingly clairvoyant of you, you evidently also saw the end of the magic period a year or two before anyone else, when you got out of NYR.

To my thinking, New York Rocker was about the most important rock publication ever in this country, in its way equaling the impact of early Rolling Stone (and covering much better music than that scene had). I know it inspired people all over the country, and changed their lives the way it changed mine. When you let this inexperienced kid call himself the Philadelphia correspondent of NYR, it granted me permanent guest list status at The Hot Club -- which is probably the only way I could have become enough of a fixture to get a job there later. You printed my photos (always uncropped) and what little writing I did (also unaltered), and while my contribution to NYR was tiny, its contribution to me (even just as a reader) was large. That period will always be magic to me. And you enabled me to be inside of it.

One thing leads to another, and everything is connected in some way. As I said, I wound up working in local clubs, managed a band, wrote for some other magazines. It wasn't as magic later, but it was still pretty fun. I kept in touch with Andy and he now gives me overpaying bio writing assignments that let me keep my film showing activities up. He also got me to be part of the HOLLYWOOD ROCK project with the aforementioned Mr. Crenshaw, and I can now impress people by showing that I helped write a real book (where my writing was altered plenty).

Secret Cinema has won me several free trips to present my stuff at film festivals, and just today I reserved a plane ticket to make a return trip to Spain. At the last festival there I met this cute Sixties-music loving Spanish girl who I got on well with, and who might be an interesting diversion or might be the great love of my life. I'm going back to visit her and maybe find out which one she is.

And the way I wound up meeting a girl in a foreign land, and at this peculiar juncture, is a result of a lot of surprising forks in the path of my life. I think about the biggest detour was my discovering New York Rocker, and you giving me my first writing assignment.

Thank you.

Jay Schwartz

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         in memoriam Alan Betrock (pt. 1) by Roy Suggs, 24 Apr 2000 (1)
                 in memoriam Alan Betrock (pt.2) by Roy Suggs, 24 Apr 2000

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