About Me

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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Road To GOLDMINE, Part 1: Approaching The Minefield

Recently, it occurred to me that November marked the 30th anniversary of my first published appearance in Goldmine magazine. I wound up freelancing for Goldmine for nearly twenty years. I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to look back. But before I can even start to talk about my time with Goldmine, I also need to look at the precarious path I had to follow just to get there: a minefield called the 1980s.

In 1986, I was twenty-six years old, married, and the manager of a record store in the greater Buffalo area. I was seeing concerts when I could--The RamonesPrince, The KinksThe AnimalsDavid BowieThe BanglesThe SearchersThe Lords of the New ChurchCulture ClubLyres, Let's Active, The Waitresses, The Chesterfield KingsTalking HeadsThe ClashJoan Jett & the Blackhearts, The Fleshtones, David Johansen, The Peter Tork ProjectThe Monkees, Red Rockers, The Joe Perry Project, The Restless, The Reducers, The Mystic Eyes, and Johnny Thunders were among the many acts I was able to experience live since moving to Buffalo in '82--and I was buying records and comic books at as great a clip as my budget would allow. (I passed up a legit chance to purchase a copy of Batman # 3 or 5--I forget which--for the unbelievably low price of just $50, because I couldn't spare the friggin' $50.) I had been trying to write in my spare time for years and years, and had finally started making freelance writing sales in 1984.

My first sale! A history of DC Comics' The Secret Six.

My second sale! A speculation on a shared DC and Marvel Comics universe.
My first sales were to a comics fan magazine called Amazing Heroes, which was published by Fantagraphics. The money was pathetic, but it was money: money for writing! With a couple of AH sales now on my resume, I reached out to Krause Publications; Don and Maggie Thompson, editors of Krause's long-running weekly tabloid The Comics Buyer's Guide, had just added a new Krause magazine, Comics Collector. After a few exchanges via the U.S. mail (usually with Kim Metzger, who assisted the Thompsons), I placed a retrospective on the campy 1960s Batman TV series in the Summer 1985 issue of Comics Collector. This was my first of many, many sales to Krause Publications.

It was also the first time I saw my work available on a newsstand. Amazing Heroes was sold mostly in comic book stores, but Comics Collector was a mass-market zine, and the little shopping-mall newsstand right next to my record store in Buffalo's Main Place Mall carried it. It was even available at Wegmans grocery stores! Best of all, the Comics Collector article earned me my very first fan letter, from someone named Jennifer Jones.

Jennifer, honey, I don't know who you are, but I'll love ya forever.

I continued to write for Amazing Heroes, and to send proposals to the Thompsons. I was also trying to write comics, and not just write about them. I sent many spec proposals to DC Comics, both for original creations and existing properties; they were all rejected because of their common trait of outright sucking. These were bad; I was pretty good at the non-fiction commentary and retrospective stuff, but my fiction was terrible. (I have improved significantly since then.)

And, of course, I loved rock 'n' roll as much as I loved comics. Concurrent to my comics-related efforts, I worked on ideas for Creem and Trouser Press. The latter magazine folded before I ever tried to submit anything, and I received a pretty nice rejection letter from Creem editor Billy Altman; I still regret never placing anything with Creem.

And then there was Goldmine.

Goldmine was, at the time, a bi-weekly tabloid for record collectors. I had picked up one issue of Goldmine a few years back--May, 1982--drawn to it by an interview with former Monkee Peter Tork. I saw that issue on sale at World Wide News in Rochester, a large indoor newsstand near the Greyhound bus station, where copies of Goldmine were stacked about midway between the British rock tabloids on the right side of the store and the wall of porn on the left. I enjoyed the Tork interview, and a few other aspects of the magazine; I specifically recall being entertained by a letter from Marshall Crenshaw that was published in that issue. But each issue of Goldmine contained more advertising than editorial content; that was Goldmine's raison d'etre. The ads didn't interest me as much--I didn't have enough spare cash to buy anything in the ads--so I didn't purchase another issue of Goldmine for about three years.

Like Comics Collector and The Comics Buyer's GuideGoldmine was also published by Krause; CBG and Goldmine had similar formats, both tabloids dominated by advertising, but still containing some cool articles and features related to their respective areas of collecting. In 1985 (I think), I took out a subscription to CBG, and therefore started to receive advertising mailers from Krause, hawking the company's other collecting-oriented publications. One of these ads hooked me on Goldmine.

In 1985, I was approaching a crossroads, and I didn't even know it. How had the first half of the '80s brought me here? I feel a digression coming on....

WHEN The Road To GOLDMINE RETURNS: You've Got To Pay Your Dues If You Want To Write Reviews.

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