RIP: Paul Williams, Founder Of Rock Criticism and Philip K. Dick’s Guardian Angel, Dead At 66


GOLLANCZ: Paul Williams died yesterday, aged 64.  I don’t expect this means anything to most people who visit this blog, but you should honour his memory for various reasons. In the wider realm of popular culture, you should honour him as the founding father of rock journalism.  The magazine he founded as a 17-year-old college student in 1966, Crawdaddy!, was the first publication to focus on serious writing about the then-new music.  It launched the career of writers such as Jon Landau (who went on to become Bruce Springsteen’s manager), Sandy Pearlman, and Richard Meltzer.  It was the inspiration for subsequent magazines, notably Rolling Stone.  Paul wrote many books about music, and particularly about Bob Dylan. As an sf reader, which I assume you probably are, you should honour him as one of the two principal figures who kept the name of Philip K. Dick alive in the decades following his death.  Paul was a close friend of Dick’s, and his 1975 Rolling Stone article “The True Stories of Philip K. Dick” was the most significant piece of writing about him published during his lifetime.  (It later formed the basis of a book, Only Apparently Real, which was in turn the first book about Dick.)  When Dick died in 1982, Paul was named his Literary Executor, and he worked tirelessly in conjunction with Dick’s long-time literary agent Russ Galen (the other hero of this story) to keep his name alive.  Paul founded and ran the Philip K. Dick Society, which attracted hundreds of members in scores of countries.  The small publishing company he ran together with David Hartwell published Dick’s novel Confessions of a Crap Artist – the first time any of Dick’s non-sf novels from the 1950s saw the light of day. Dick’s reputation is now so secure that it’s hard to remember that it wasn’t always so, particularly – perhaps – in the USA. MORE

WIKIPEDIA:  Crawdaddy! was the first U.S. magazine of rock and roll music criticism.[1] Created in 1966 by college student Paul Williams in response to the increasing sophistication and cultural influence of popular music, Crawdaddy! was self-described as “the first magazine to take rock and roll seriously.”[1][2] Preceding both Rolling Stone and Creem, Crawdaddy! is regarded as the U.S. pioneer of rock journalism[1] and was the training ground for many rock writers just finding the language to describe rock and roll,[3][4] which was only then beginning to be written about as studiously as folk music and jazz.[5] Crawdaddy! briefly suspended publication in 1969, then returned, with its title unpunctuated, in 1970, as a monthly with national mass market distribution, first as a quarterfold newsprint tabloid, then as a standard-sized magazine. Crawdaddy continued through the decade, led by editor-in-chief Peter Knobler (who first wrote for the original Crawdaddy! under Williams in October 1968),[3][11] with senior editor Greg Mitchell, featuring contributions from Joseph Heller, John Lennon, Tim O’Brien, Michael Herr, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, P.J. O’Rourke and Cameron Crowe, plus a roster of columnists including at times William S. Burroughs, Paul Krassner, David G. Hartwell, the Firesign Theater, and sometimes Paul Williams himself. While on the run from the law, Abbie Hoffman was Crawdaddy ‘s travel editor. MORE

JOHAN KUGELBERG: The tabula rasa of rock fandom is Paul Williams’ Crawdaddy and Greg Shaw’s Mojo Navigator. Folks argue whether Crawdaddy was first (both came out with their premier issue at roughly the same time), but to me that is not so important. Crawdaddy was very serious, from the very start. Reading Crawdaddy brings about a superb fly-on-the-wall feeling. The Diggers were amazing, the Velvet Underground were under-rated,The Doors were a revelation live and the guys in the Mystery Trend felt disconnected from the Frisco rock scene. Read it as it happens, as it happened. 1960’s rock fandom doubtlessly begat seventies punk, begat rock journalism good and bad, begat freeform radio, and begat music blogging. It is very difficult to think this through unless we acknowledge the science-fiction fandom roots of all rock fanzines and of rock fandom. The rock fandom Big-Name-Fans had been SF-fans: Paul Williams, Lenny Kaye, Greg Shaw, even Lester Bangs had dabbled in the world of science-fiction fanzines and SF-conventions. Living in the Megapolis of unfiltered info, it is almost impossible to understand how important publications like Crawdaddy were. They were the distributors of information, of enthusiasm, the keepers of the flame and the counter-culture life-line for the provincial hepcats. They built bridges between regional scenes, they brought about record company attention for bands that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten beyond their immediate region. Paul Williams pioneered this. Chalk it up alongside all his other accomplishments. MORE

BOING BOING: Here’s a PDF scan of the November 6, 1975 edition of Rolling Stone with a terrific profile of Philip K. Dick by Paul Williams.

RELATED: This has been a novel about some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed — run over, maimed, destroyed — but they continued to play anyhow. We really all were very happy for a while, sitting around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing, but it was for such a terrible brief time, and then the punishment was beyond belief: even when we could see it, we could not believe it. […] Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a  decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is “Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying,” but the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory. It is, then, only a speeding up, an intensifying, of the ordinary human existence. It is not different from your life-style, it is only faster. It all takes place in days or weeks or months instead of years. “Take the cash and let the credit go,” as Villon said in 1460. But that is a mistake if the cash is a penny and the credit a whole lifetime. […] I myself, I am not a character in this novel; I am the novel. So, though, was our entire nation at this time. This novel is about more people than I knew personally. Some we all read about in the newspapers. It was, this sitting around with our buddies and bullshitting while making tape recordings, the bad decision of the decade, the sixties, both in and out of the establishment. And nature cracked down on us. We were forced to stop by things dreadful. If there was any “sin,” it was that these people wanted to keep on having a good time forever, and were punished for that, but, as I say, I feel that, if so, the punishment was far too great, and I prefer to think of it only in a Greek or morally neutral way, as mere science, as deterministic impartial cause-and-effect. I loved them all. — Philip K. Dick, Author Note, A Scanner Darkly