Critical Appreciation

Categories: Music

I was saddened to read this morning in The New York Times about the death of rock critic Paul Nelson, a writer who had an estimable impact on, among others, Bob Dylan, as the man himself recounted in the 2005 Martin Scorsese-directed documentary No Direction Home. He worked for Circus and Rolling Stone (the latter, twice) and, during his brief tenure on the signing side of the music business, brought the New York Dolls to Mercury Records. As Jon Pareles writes in this morning's Times, "Mr. Nelson prized hard-boiled detective novels and film noir, and his style was pithy and passionate. Reviewing Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps for Rolling Stone in 1979, he wrote: 'For anyone still passionately in love with rock & roll, Neil Young has made a record that defines the territory. Defines it, expands it, explodes it. Burns it to the ground.'" (If you want to read his full review of Dylan and The Band's landmark Basement Tapes, go here; it's a wowee-zowee read.)

Pareles also mentioned something that makes this of very special interest to Unfair Park: Nelson is survived by a single child, his son Mark. Turns out, he lives right here in Dallas, so we offer our condolences. Paul Nelson was a great writer--the kind we aspire to be but will never be, because we'll never peg a record as perfectly as Nelson did the Rolling Stones' 1979 Some Girls, when he wrote of the band's accomplishments on that so-so record, "What they've really done is to reshoot Rebel Without a Cause as a scaled-down, made-for-TV movie." Kinda perfect. --Robert Wilonsky



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