What we did was secret

(One version of) the writing of popular music’s histories

Authored by: Jon Dale

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music History and Heritage

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138237636
eBook ISBN: 9781315299310
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores some of the possibilities offered by various forms of music journalism and criticism for the writing of popular music history. It considers some key contributors to the field, including such figures as Ellen Willis, Lilian Roxon and Simon Reynolds, placing this work within a broader trajectory of publishing on popular music. The chapter discusses a number of different formats for publishing – books, biographies, autobiographies, fanzines and blogs – considering the way these various formats help to frame (and in some ways, produce) the kinds of writing done within their boundaries. The chapter is predominantly interested in a particular narrative and history of music criticism, building from early interventions by figures such as Willis, Richard Meltzer and Greil Marcus, through to relatively recent, and perhaps more ‘fluid’ contexts, such as online publishing, the latter focusing on a network of blogs from the first decade of the twenty-first century. However, it also acknowledges that this narrative is only one of many potential ways of mapping out the writing of popular music history.

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