Out of the Vinyl Deeps
by Ellen Willis
University of Minnesota Press (e-book)
Much is made about Ellen Willis being The New Yorker's first female pop-music critic and Rolling Stone's first female managing editor. Had she lived in an age when gender wars were no longer relevant, she would simply have been remembered as one of rock'n'roll's best scribes. Indeed, it was on the strength of just one story - on Bob Dylan - that she was hired by The New Yorker in 1968. That article, plus others written before she left the music scene in 1981, is included in Out of the Vinyl Deeps, a treat for any fan of 1960s and 70s music. Compiled by her daughter, Nona Willis Aronowitz, the 59 essays are grouped into six topics, among them 'Before the Flood' and 'The Adoring Fan'. Willis took the time to craft her words (her Dylan piece took five months) and her gift, as her daughter writes, was being able to assess music 'in terms of not only musical form and cultural impact but how it made her feel'. A review of The Beatles' eponymous album had her write about its white cover: 'Everyone's going back to basics, and it's getting boring.'