When I was a student at Berkeley in the 90’s, sometimes I would walk home instead of taking the BART. I lived a few miles north of campus, about an hour’s walk if you didn’t stop anywhere, but it always took longer because of the bookstores (and the bagel shop, and the scenery) along the way. On one of these walks, I fished a $5 copy of Greil Marcus’s “In the Fascist Bathroom” out of the remainder bin in Half Price Books on Solano Ave. I can’t guarantee you that I read it cover to cover that night, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t go to bed before getting through all the essays on Elvis Costello, and The Mekons, and The Clash, and Gang of Four, and Springsteen, and The Go-Go’s… so pretty much cover to cover. There were insightful points over the place, but more importantly Greil cared so much, you just couldn’t put the book down.
I’ve been a big fan of his writing ever since. So it was a treat to find out that a lot of it is now available online, at GreilMarcus.net. I don’t know who runs the site, but it has a range of his pieces, from the 60’s and 70’s to today, and keeps adding more. It also links to his monthly Real Life Rock Top 10 column, now hosted at Barnes and Noble. A great intro is this extensive conversation with Elvis Costello from the early 80’s, which was one of the pieces that grabbed me that first night. Two thoughtful, sincere, creative people talking, and taking life and music seriously.