Freddie Perren died Dec. 16. We had never heard of him, either. But when we read the brief obituary posted on CNN.com, we discovered that we'd known him our whole lives. He was a producer with the Motown Records team known as the Corporation, and along with his cohorts he produced the Jackson 5's ebullient early singles. After he left Motown in the early '70s, he went on to produce hits for the Sylvers ("Boogie Fever"), Tavares ("Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel"), Peaches and Herb ("Reunited") and Gloria Gaynor (the mighty "I Will Survive," for which he won a Grammy). The sound of '70s pop-soul was so slick and machined that it had somehow never occurred to us that there might actually be people behind all those different records, much less one person. Reading of Perren's passing after a long illness at age 61, we felt we had learned something that changed our understanding of the world as we thought we knew it, and we felt better for having found out who he was, even if we never knew before.
That, in essence, is what compels us to add our voice to the chorus of year-end tributes to the departed with our very own alternative (if you'll forgive the term) roll call. While there has been, and will be, no shortage of ink spilled over Marlon Brando and Ray Charles and Yasser Arafat and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the Big Three of late, great photographers lost this year (Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Helmut Newton), we always keep an eye out for the Freddie Perrens of the world in our compulsive obituary scans. Perhaps it's just part of our morbid curiosity, or a manifestation of the universal uncertainty as to how we ourselves will be remembered when we're gone, but it's mostly because people often affect the world in ways far beyond the proportions of their renown. And that's well worth remembering.
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
It's one of the more astonishing things you'll ever see on an athletic playing field. With his back to the goal, a soccer player leaps into the air and starts to flip backward, and just as a high pass or deflected goal shot arrives around head height, he kicks it back over his own head and shoulders toward the goal as he tumbles upside down toward the turf. Dazzling and disarming, the "bicycle kick" is one of those maneuvers so improbable and at the same time so well-established that it seems impossible someone actually invented it. Though he demurred that he came up with it himself (and experts agree he's probably right), Brazilian soccer star Leonidas da Silva made the move world famous with his outstanding play in his native country and in two World Cups. As it turns out, Silva was a somewhat unheralded pioneer in other areas of world sport as well.
Silva carried the strengths and contradictions of Brazil's multiethnic character in his own DNA; born in Rio de Janeiro in 1913, his father was a Portuguese sailor, his mother Afro-Brazilian. The country wasn't the international soccer power that it is today; soccer wasn't even a professional sport in Brazil until 1930. But Silva grew up playing hooky to hang around the local soccer club and soon made his debut as a teen prodigy with various small amateur and then professional teams. Though small for a forward, he was quick and preternaturally agile, a quality that eventually won him one of his many nicknames: "O Homen Borracha" the Rubber Man.
By 1933, he was already something of a rising star, and managed to take his renown to a new peak in a game against Uruguay's national team in which he scored twice, the second using the hitherto unheralded bicycle kick. With that game, he was officially a sensation.
As his fame mounted, his life and career followed a path similar to that of many athletes of color forced to break down cultural barriers on their way to the top. On one hand, he was Leonidas, increasingly one-name-famous to Brazilians of all races and classes and living high on a generous salary (his contract deals always included a provision for two suits of sharp clothes); becoming the first soccer star, much less the first black soccer star, to endorse products (including Diamante Negro candy bars, which took their handle from another Silva nickname "the Black Diamond" and are still popular today); and leading various teams to regional and national titles, as well as a run at the 1934 World Cup that stalled after a first-round loss. At the same time, the racially diverse Brazilian players were segregated from the rest of the passengers on the ocean voyage to Europe for Cup play; in a match against the American national team, Silva reportedly responded to what he perceived as his opponents' racism by exposing himself to them, a move that required a police escort to see him safely away.
Racial tensions aside, Silva made himself and gracile Brazilian-style soccer a sensation in Europe with his performance in 1938 World Cup play. In the team's first-round game against Poland, he scored all three of Brazil's points in the first half; in the second half, frustrated by the muddy field, he took off his shoes until a referee made him put them back on. Silva scored again, Brazil eventually won 6-5, and then went on to tie Czechoslovakia, but the Brazilian coach mysteriously sidelined Silva for the next game, against Italy, which Brazil duly lost. He returned to the lineup against Sweden and the Brazilians won, though by then the Cup was out of reach. Still, he returned home a national hero.
As if on cue, he was embroiled in a major scandal in 1941, he was accused of using forged documents to escape mandatory military service and spent eight months in prison. He returned to the field after his release, still effective (the Saõ Paulo Flamengo team for which he played most of the '40s won the league title five out of seven years) but tarnished enough that he never made another World Cup team.
He retired in 1949, after which he took on familiar ex-jock pursuits: coaching, real estate, radio commentary. As the Brazilian style of play he had embodied and refined came to dominate the global soccer scene, Silva lived in quiet eminence until he developed symptoms of Alzheimer's disease around the time he turned 60. He spent the rest of his life out of the public eye, eventually dying of complications from diabetes and Alzheimer's on Jan. 24 at age 90.
It was, in an ironic twist on the old joke, a face made for radio. Her glittering eyes were set wide above a pinched nose that hooked slightly over a thin upper lip. Her hair was a cropped, mousy tangle. Though she was striking, and attractive to a number of paramours and two husbands, actress Mercedes McCambridge, who died March 2 at age 87, was never a conventional beauty. That her unusual looks and outspoken character determined the course of her career as much as her extraordinary talent made for a life and work more interesting than most of her more doll-faced peers.
Born in 1916 in Joliet, Ill., Charlotte Mercedes Agnes McCambridge grew up Catholic, middle class, Midwestern and, as she acknowledged in her episodic but entertaining 1981 autobiography The Quality of Mercy, a good liar. Like many teens, she had aspirations to be an actor, but unlike most budding drama queens, she had at least one extraordinary talent, and it got noticed. Attending Mundelein College in Chicago, McCambridge belonged to a "verse-speaking choir," which recited poetry in unison, with her as the occasional soloist. An NBC producer attended a performance and came away impressed enough that she was soon dividing her time between classes at Mundelein and starring in NBC radio plays downtown.
She thrived in radio, a medium she found liberating (you could be anybody, sometimes several characters per play, and no one cared what you looked like) and challenging (doing a one-hour play called for "a degree of concentration and creativity that was distinctive"). She also launched a distinguished career in live theater. In fact, McCambridge was working on Broadway when a friend urged her to audition for Hollywood producers casting New York actors. Not actually needing the gig and annoyed by the brutal, impersonal process, McCambridge walked into the audition room, chewed out the producer and director and walked out with a meaty part in the 1949 film version of Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. Her debut film role won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and overnight stardom.
It wound up being a peculiar kind of stardom, however. Her next major role was as Joan Crawford's sexually repressed nemesis in the 1954 bizarro Western Johnny Guitar; dressed in black frocks that can only be described as "nunnish," she burns to punish Crawford's sexually successful saloon owner to an almost comic degree. Next came her role as the mannish range-riding spinster sister of Rock Hudson's cattle baron in Giant (1956); at one point, another character actually posits that everybody knows that McCambridge's character would "rather herd cattle than make love." When Orson Welles needed a sexually ambiguous leather-jacketed tough for a gang-rape scene in his 1958 noir classic Touch of Evil, he called old radio cohort McCambridge and asked what she was doing for lunch that day. In 1962's Angel Baby, she took on an evangelist who spouts fire-and-brimstone scripture in the throes of love, courtesy of a young George Hamilton. She summed up her usual casting as "ugly duckling" roles; more plainly put, when it came to Hollywood's portrayals of butchness and female sexual dysfunction, McCambridge was the A-list.
By the early '60s, her second marriage to TV producer Fletcher Markle had ended, decent film roles of any kind were drying up and her drinking had blossomed into full-blown alcoholism. She eventually dried out and began recovery, thereafter becoming something of a grudging spokeswoman for recovering alcoholics, despite the media and casting agents of the time being even less forgiving about addiction.
She continued to work onstage and in television up through the '80s, but her last notable role was the one for which she is perhaps most famous, a role, like many of her prominent screen roles, that made the most of her considerable skills and was about as far as an actress can get from a romantic lead. Months after Linda Blair contorted herself on a bed in a set in Hollywood, playing a little girl possessed by the devil in 1973's The Exorcist, director William Friedkin summoned McCambridge to a Hollywood sound stage to record the voice of Satan. She was, in effect, back in radio again. The role was "the hardest work I've ever done," she wrote, adding that she often had to lie down and rest for an hour between takes. Her bronchial wheeze and guttural rasp, almost more than all the pea-green spew and revolving heads Friedkin could marshal on the screen, helped make the film a terrifying smash. When she attended the premiere, she was devastated to see that she received no on-screen credit for her work; she only got it after suing Warner Bros. Out of sight, out of mind, apparently.
MAN WITH A PLAN
David A. Wallace was known for taking the long view, for envisioning projects from beginning to end with no detail overlooked, and it was a skill he brought to every project he engineered, including his own death.
He was born in 1918 in Chicago, a place and time rife with vigorous development and new ideas about how people could live. But it was his childhood in Philadelphia that shaped his interest in the intersection between public space and private life. As he wrote in his autobiography, Urban Planning/My Way, he was "initiated into problems of race and poverty" during his Philly boyhood, and with the encouragement of his social-worker mother he soon began mulling how such problems could be addressed by city planning. After studying architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, he followed his interests to California, where he spent a year examining "slum problems" in Los Angeles under prominent African-American architect Paul R. Williams. From there, he went on to Harvard's Graduate School of Design, where he wrote his dissertation on the influence of urban planning on segregation in Chicago.
But it was in Baltimore where Wallace began putting his ideas into practice. In 1957, he became director of the Greater Baltimore Committee's Planning Council and was charged with injecting new life into Charm City's derelict downtown. His solution was estimable in its ambition: 33 solid acres of mixed-use development offices, shops, entertainment venues and apartments and by the mid-1960s the vision was realized as Charles Center, the complex that remains the core of the city's business district. In addition to its mixed-use approach an idea that wouldn't reach mainstream acceptance until the 1990s Wallace's vision was also remarkable for its architectural sensitivity. While "urban renewal" would become code, by the 1970s, for tearing down old buildings to put up new ones, Wallace developed Charles Center around existing structures and streets, believing the character of a city to be enshrined in its built environment.
So when Baltimore Mayor Theodore McKeldin announced plans to revitalize the city's abandoned harbor in 1963, Wallace seemed the right man for the job. Again, his approach was uncommonly comprehensive, taking the entire urban core under consideration. His thinking, carried out with three other planning partners, was to once more dangle mixed-use development as a carrot to attract visitors and residents, primarily in low-slung buildings along the shoreline, with larger structures stepping back toward the city core. It proved to be a career-making turn. While some modern wags describe it as a kind of urban-planning candyland, the Inner Harbor became a model for American urban revitalization. And its success sparked a host of high-profile commissions like developing land around the then-nascent World Trade Center in New York and Philadelphia's Liberty Place which lasted until his retirement in 1992.
It wasn't until this summer, however, that Wallace's notoriously thorough vision would be brought to bear on his own fate. Suffering from prostate cancer while his wife, Joan, labored under the effects of terminal heart disease, the couple took their own lives in their Philadelphia home (their bodies were found July 19). The Wallaces crushed pills into alcohol, wrapped plastic bags around their heads and lay down in their bed. On the front door, Wallace dutifully posted a note for whoever the next visitor might be, reading "come in."
Blake de Pastino
Simply put, no Coxsone, no Bob Marley. No reggae music as we know it, really. Which is not to say that the world-famous singers, songwriters and producers Clement Seymour Dodd discovered, recorded and released records by wouldn't have found an outlet elsewhere in the fledgling Jamaican music industry, or that the island nation's homegrown pop music wouldn't have evolved from imitative forms to ska, then rock steady, then reggae, winning over the world in the process. But trying to imagine the rise of Jamaican music without Dodd, who died May 4 of a heart attack at the age of 72, is all but impossible.
Born in Kingston in 1932, Dodd grew up in a Jamaica that imported most of its pop music from the United States, mostly jazz and R&B. An avid cricketer the nickname "Coxsone" came from a famed British batsman Dodd didn't play any musical instruments himself, but as a youth he reportedly entertained customers at his mother's bar with a primitive turntable setup he used to spin bebop records his father bought from American sailors at the docks. A brief sojourn in the States in the early '50s had two important effects: While working as a sugarcane cutter in Florida, young Dodd attended raucous and profitable block parties; and during a short stay in New York City he scrounged up a collection of records that outstripped anyone's back home.
Back in Kingston in 1954, he formed his own "sound system," a traveling DJ setup that held open-air dances. Armed with huge speakers, his record collection and a sidekick named Count Machuki perhaps the first to speak, or "toast," over a record for an audience Dodd did well, but competition was so fierce that DJs scratched the labels off their records so rivals wouldn't steal their hot tunes. Before long, Dodd and other sound-system owners began commissioning their own tracks from local musicians. In 1959, Dodd started his own label and record store/distributorship to meet the demand for the unexpectedly popular homegrown music he was fostering. In 1963, he opened Jamaica Recording and Publishing Studio aka Studio One, the first black-owned studio on the island.
Dodd's personal impact is difficult to measure. One story from the murky and often contradictory history of Jamaican music features him inspiring his house band to create the rhythm that would come to be known as ska, the first important evolution in Jamaican pop, by humming to them. But the list of future legends he spotted when they were just weedy wannabes is staggering. Prince Buster and Lee "Scratch" Perry both got their start with Dodd. His house band in the early '60s not only had instrumental hits on its own as the Skatalites but also backed multitudes of singers including Toots and the Maytals, Burning Spear and some young slum toughs who called themselves the Wailing Wailers.
Dodd saw enough promise in the group, especially in a slight kid named Bob Marley, to sign them to an exclusive five-year deal. Dodd groomed them and helped them refine their sound; he served as a mentor for the fatherless Marley and even let him live at the studio for a while. Dodd's efforts paid off when the Wailers' Marley-penned "Simmer Down" became a huge hit in 1964. Dodd and the Wailers enjoyed several more years of success together before parting ways, and as the slower reggae rhythm came to dominate the island's sound in the early '70s, Dodd and Studio One continued to crank out tracks for the likes of the Heptones, Dennis Brown and Marcia Griffiths.
By the end of the '70s, Jamaican music, and increasingly Jamaica, were not to Dodd's liking. Laid-back roots reggae was under siege from the electronic grooves and roughneck vibe of dancehall, and Dodd found himself literally under siege when armed men stormed his studio on Brentford Road in 1979. In the mid-'80s, Dodd packed up and moved his operation to Brooklyn, N.Y.
The exceptional attention Dodd paid to Marley notwithstanding, most artists who recorded for Studio One were paid a small fee up-front and never saw a penny in royalties, even if their tune was a smash. Dodd spent most of the '80s and '90s hunting down artists and producers who had recorded knockoffs of Studio One tracks to demand payment, and licensing those same tracks more than 6,000 songs by some estimates for numberless compilations and reissues. He finally returned to Jamaica and reopened Studio One in 1998, but more as a cultural elder statesman than a serious player. On April 30, 2004, Brentford Road was renamed Studio One Boulevard. Four days later Dodd died at work.
Many people's first and only experience with Gloria Anzaldúa's writing comes in a women's studies course. The 1981 book she co-edited with Cherr'e Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, has become a staple of such courses. A Chicana lesbian feminist writer, Anzaldúa's work, which concentrates on issues of race, class and gender, makes her a perfect counterpoint to a culture dominated by white male heterosexuals. This otherness became the focus of much of her writing. She was fascinated by it. And while she felt it informed all she was and all she did, she also dreamed of breaking down the boundaries between Us and Them.
Born in 1942 in Jesus Maria of the Valley in rural south Texas to a family of Mexican immigrant farmworkers, Anzaldúa was always aware of being different. Part history of the Chicano people, part book of poetry hers and others and part memoir, her 1987 book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza examined the physical border between the American Southwest and Mexico and the less visceral borders of culture, race and class. In the introduction she described herself as "a border woman … I have been straddling the Tejas-Mexican border, and others, all my life. It's not a comfortable territory to live in, this place of contradictions … . No, not comfortable but home."
Growing up in Texas, Anzaldúa struggled not only with racism against Chicanos but also with her growing awareness of prejudices and cultural bias within her community. She felt that she did not fit into the roles approved for women. "For a women of my culture there used to be only three directions she could turn: to the Church as a nun, to the streets as a prostitute or to the home as a mother," she wrote.
"Even as a child I would not obey. I was 'lazy.' Instead of ironing my younger brothers' shirts or cleaning the cupboards, I would pass many hours studying, reading, painting, writing. Every bit of self-faith I'd painstakingly gathered took a beating daily. Nothing in my culture approved of me."
Anzaldúa became an avid reader, sneaking books into her room and reading them secretly at night. Though her parents never got beyond grade school, Anzaldúa graduated from high school while doing migrant farm work to help support her family, and went on to get her bachelor's at the University of Texas-Pan American University and her master's from the University of Texas at Austin. While in some ways Anzaldúa felt at home in the world of academia and feminism, as a Chicana it was not an easy fit. In an essay in This Bridge called "Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers," she writes, "We cannot allow ourselves to be tokenized. We must make our own writing and that of Third World women the first priority. We cannot educate white women and take them by the hand. Most of us are willing to help but we can't do the white woman's homework for her."
She educated her readers by embracing her roots instead of hiding them. In her writing she flows freely from English to Spanish to a Tex-Mex combination of the two without apology or sometimes even translation. At a conference in Cincinnati in 1992 she read one of her poems in Spanish, saying, "I know that was frustrating for many of you, but I wanted you to see what it feels like to be locked out of the language."
But even as Anzaldúa pointed out borders and barriers, she also broke them. This Bridge is widely considered the first anthology of feminist writing by women of color, and Anzaldúa herself is considered one of the first openly gay Chicana writers. She went on to teach at San Francisco State University, University of California Santa Cruz and Norwich University in Vermont, and wrote several books, including children's books in both English and Spanish. She was about to finish her doctorate at UC Santa Cruz when she died from diabetes-related complications on May 15 at the age of 61.
Anzaldúa left behind a body of work that was groundbreaking and confrontational, yet hopeful. She was very aware of otherness, but she also foresaw a world where, by acknowledging our differences, we move past them. And while she will be remembered for her words, it was action that she truly hoped to inspire. As she wrote in This Bridge, "Basta de gritar contra el veinto-toda palabra es ruido si no está acompanada de accion. Dejemos de hablar hasta que hagamos la palabra luminosa y activa."
In 1982, Paul Nitze, President Ronald Reagan's Special Advisor on Arms Control, took his Soviet counterpart, Yuli Kvitsinsky, for a walk in the Geneva woods. The two came to a stunning agreement on limiting intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Both of their superiors rejected it but five years later Reagan would sign a similar treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev.
The famous "walk in the woods," later fictionalized as a Broadway play of that name, was the capstone of a legendary career in statecraft. An adviser to every president from Franklin Roosevelt to Reagan (except Jimmy Carter), Nitze, who died Oct. 19 at the age of 97, was dubbed "Master of the Game" by biographer Strobe Talbott. He also founded the school that bears his name the Washington-based Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, now part of Johns Hopkins University.
Celebrated as a shrewd negotiator whose politics could not be pigeonholed (he changed parties twice during his career), Nitze epitomized for many the belief that dispassionate brain power was the only way to make policy in a world freighted with nuclear weapons. But on crucial occasions, Nitze "sexed up" the perceived Soviet threat in order to justify higher military spending. Each time he did this in 1950, 1957 and finally in the late 1970s Nitze's flawed analysis made U.S. policy. When he advocated radical arms control in 1960 and 1982 he was spurned.
Born in Amherst, Mass., Nitze spent his formative years in South Chicago, where at age 7 he joined a street gang for protection. A Johns Hopkins University Press biography called this incident Nitze's "first lesson in pragmatic diplomacy." Though he began his professional life in finance, he was drawn to the power locus of Washington and joined the State Department as a midlevel staffer in 1940.
In 1950, Nitze wrote in a National Security Council report that the Soviet Union was capable of defeating the United States in a protracted war, especially if America did not "deliver a powerful blow" at the outset with atomic bombs. Warning of impending attack, Nitze's top-secret "NSC 68" document came just five years after the end of World War II, which took more than 20 million Soviet lives (verses 400,000 American) and left the Soviet Union's industrial base severely weakened. Nitze's boss, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, later wrote that NSC 68 was propaganda meant to "bludgeon the mass mind of 'top government'" into approving massive military spending. And thus was launched the Cold War.
Guided by NSC 68, U.S. policy-makers saw every small war as part of the struggle to contain global communism. When President Dwight Eisenhower was reluctant to continue the arms race, Nitze wrote another paper in 1957. The "Gaither Report" warned of the "spectacular progress" the USSR had made in its missile program. This was the "missile gap" also illusory on which John Kennedy ran in the 1960 presidential race.
That same year, Nitze gave a remarkable speech at a gathering of defense experts proposing that the United States turn the Strategic Air Command, its nuclear attack and defense arm, into a division of NATO, Fred Kaplan reported in an Oct. 21 Slate.com piece. Then, Nitze added, NATO should "turn over ultimate power of a decision on the use of these `nuclear weapons` systems to the General Assembly of the United Nations," and invite the Soviets to do the same. Such a move might have ended the nuclear threat then and there.
Kaplan reported that he asked Nitze about the speech in 1981. "He told me he was still proud of that speech, but that all of his friends and colleagues hated it," Kaplan wrote. "He seemed bitter recalling their reaction, even 21 years after the fact."
Nitze never made another speech like it. He helped craft the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty of 1972, but in 1976, reportedly angry that President Carter didn't tap him for a top government post, Nitze co-founded the Committee on the Present Danger, a collection of policy heavyweights who again hyped the Soviet threat. The committee gave political ammunition to Reagan's campaign, and upon his election Reagan hired Nitze as an arms negotiator.
In power, Nitze tried to undo the damage his own false claims had caused, and he is rightly remembered as an important shaper of history. But Nitze's dubious ideas brought him power, while his advocacy of logical (and peaceful) ideals limited his career. That is the legacy Nitze's admirers should examine, for that paradox shapes America's foreign policy still.
Edward Ericson Jr.
NOT LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE
It's too easy to come away from Ondi Timoner's 2004 documentary DiG! thinking Greg Shaw was just another Los Angeles music-industry businessman. After some of Brian Jonestown Massacre force-of-nature Anton Newcombe's temper tantrums, Shaw, the owner of the Bomp Records imprint that released BJM's 1995 Methodrone debut, grows more and more fed up with the bandleader, and eventually verbally backhands Newcombe to the camera with, "He's more than just a jerk."
It's exactly the sort of thing you expect to hear from a label honcho who views his artist as just another investment biting the hand that feeds. But what DiG! doesn't say is that Shaw was one of the very, very few people in the industry, independent or otherwise, who supported Newcombe through BJM's careening ups and downs, no matter what. What DiG! doesn't say is that Shaw, who died of heart failure Oct. 19 at 55, was doing what he'd always tirelessly done since the mid-1960s: helping obscure bands make obscure music simply because he was down with the sound.
Editor, writer, label owner, promoter, club owner, band manager, rock historian, graphic designer and enthusiast, Greg Shaw didn't invent the fanzine, but if any one person shaped the attitude that became the rock magazine/fanzine journalism in the late 1960s and flowered through the '70s and '80s (and, eventually, every rock-writing blog out there), Shaw was that guy. Born in San Francisco in 1949, a young Shaw discovered fandom in science fiction and 45s, but he met his future as the 17-year-old co-creator (with David Harris) of the Mojo-Navigator Rock and Roll News.
The Aug. 8, 1966, debut issue was but a two-page free mimeograph full of everything that would come to define the music rag: an announcement of an upcoming Howlin' Wolf appearance and albums from Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish, a blurb about Bob Dylan's career-sidelining motorcycle accident, record reviews. Shaw himself penned a lengthy piece about a singularly strange and unique radio announcer from XERB radio in Chula Vista, Calif., who went by the handle Wolfman Jack.
The Mojo-Navigator only lasted another 12 issues and one year (No. 13 dates August 1967 and is a 38-page booklet of record reviews, an interview with the Doors and ads), but Shaw had discovered his place. He was the West Coast editor for Creem and contributor to just about every other rock-writing outlet, and in 1970 he started his next publication, Who Put the Bomp, later shortened to Bomp.
A 1972 job offer at United Artists (as '70s music mover/shaker Marty Cerf's assistant) sparked a move to Los Angeles, where Bomp grew into a full-fledged magazine Shaw published Lester Bangs' immortal Troggs fume "James Taylor Marked for Death"; a 1975 Kim Fowley-sponsored Bomp contest resulted in the Runaways and Shaw became an ubiquitous music presence for the next 30 years. He used his UA gig to midwife Lenny Kaye's 1960s obscurities-glorifying Nuggets compilation, an archeological enterprise Shaw eventually continued with his endless Pebbles and Highs in the Mid-Sixties series. And in 1974 he met the Flamin' Groovies' Cyril Jordan, who shared some unreleased sessions that included the song "You Tore Me Down," the first release on the Bomp Records imprint. Eventually, Bomp ceased publication and Shaw turned his energies to the label, turning out singles and LPs from the Weirdos, the Germs, the Zeros, Devo, Iggy Pop (his solo debut, Kill City), the Modern Lovers, Stiv Bators, the Plimsouls and Spaceman 3.
Shaw's career started in rock's fecund late '60s and survived bloated '70s rock, punk, power pop, new wave and on into the '90s garage-rock revival that revered the 1960s (an idolatry that Shaw helped stoke). And the defining rudder through it all was Shaw's fearless taste to like what he liked: He got ecstatic over the pure pop of the Rasberries and Gary Glitter as quickly as the gritty thrust of the Standells or the Pandoras. All that mattered is that it had a vibe that did something for him. Greg Shaw probably forgot more intoxicatingly alive rock & roll than most of us will ever know, and somewhere right now he and John Peel are making a mix-tape for which any sane man would gladly relinquish a testicle.
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