Being Trixie A. Balm was pretty cool, as my writing voice was very assured, kind of glib, and maturer than my years (my vocabulary & powers of description were certainly advanced). My enthusiasm as the “ultimate fan” was definitely marketable according to Robert Christgau. And who can blame him? Having a “hook” is always valuable -- and that’s what many of us still strive for when writing, a hook to grab readers and a hook to grab listeners when making music.
But, once people met me in person, most of them were kind of shocked. I wasn’t the image of the Trixie they imagined. I looked like a teenager for years (baby face, sure), and strove to be as skinny and tough and funny as possible: a 110-pound waif with long, light brown hair and big brown eyes. I dressed like a hippie prepster, and had a predilection for loud, melodic rock & roll (Mott the Hoople, Jefferson Airplane, The Zombies, The Buckinghams, The BoxTops, Left Banke), baroque music (Bach), and vintage country (Hank Williams, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline).
But, as a music writer, I was sent all kinds of releases and I listened as impartially as I could to so many elpees (on vinyl!). I heard reggae, “boite” music (or cabaret), heavy metal, celtic, R&B, and so much new stuff -- including a poppy rock band called The Dictators, who seemed pretty jokey but the songs were good and the Turtles (!!) were one of their more defined influences.
My editor at Creem Magazine sent me the album and asked for a review. Now, Sandy Pearlman (who worked with Blue Oyster Cult) was involved with The Dictators, so I was predisposed to like them. Sandy Pearlman was a real character, a tall guy with thinning sandy hair who wore perpetual dark shades and tried to look tougher and cooler than he was, I reckoned. A very intelligent, sharp-witted humorist, too.
Anyhoo, The Dictators debut, Go Girl Crazy, had so much attitude, so fun & kind of silly. I had to laugh. So I wrote the review in a tough greaser chick voice, like a true Queens girl (I was actually a defecting Queens girl, as I worked on improving my accent and never hung out with “the gang” -- I was a busy, creative loner). That Creem review inspired Adny Shernoff to come to Purchase, NY to visit me in my summer rental (with a house full of hippie-ish college students). Then he invited me to come to the Bronx to meet the guys: Handsome Dick Manitoba, Ross “the Boss,” and Scott “Top Ten” Kempner.
I recall feeling kind of shy around them, and tried to talk guitars and stuff. They liked the Beach Boys and the Stones, and they liked to drink beer. I don’t remember if we smoked anything together, but I was probably relieved when I went home because I felt kind of socially awkward. . . truth was, I battled with social anxiety most of my young life.
Writing, being alone, was very easy for me -- as was transcribing interviews. I do believe I have a knack for putting people’s words into words, sentences, paragraphs, stories. Hard to think that people actually like working, but for me, retreating into writing mode was such a relief.
Isn’t it almost unfathomable that my career took a turn to the public when I joined a band and started playing out? People can be such walking contradictions (or oxymorons)!
I’ll talk about some of the other rock writers & more of the people I interviewed next, I promise.