By Ellen Willis
From the New Yorker’s inimitable first pop track critic comes this pioneering number of essays through a conscientious author whose political realm is either radical and rational, and whose major preoccupations are with rock ’n’ roll, sexuality, and particularly, freedom. the following Ellen Willis veritably captures the fun of song, the disdain of authoritarian tradition, and the rebellious spirit of the ’60s and ’70s.
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Extra info for Beginning to See the Light: Sex, Hope, and Rock-and-Roll
If there is an audience for images, artists will inevitably use the image as a medium—and some images are more original, more compelling, more relevant than others. Dylan has self-consciously explored the possibilities of mass communication just as the pop artists explored the possibilities of mass production. In the same 5 OUT OF THE VINYL DEEPS sense that pop art is about commodities, Dylan's art is about celebrity. This is not to deny the intrinsic value of Dylan's songs. Everyone interested in folk and popular music agrees on their importance, if not their merit.
Yet he thinks of himself as an individualist, and finds the idea of massproduced, mechanized art incomprehensible, threatening—or a puton. The pop artist looks at mass culture naively and sees beauty in its regular patterns; like an anthropologist exhibiting Indian basketweaving, Warhol shows us our folk art—soup cans. His message— the Emperor has no clothes, but that's all right, in fact it's beautiful —takes acceptance of image for essence to its logical extreme. Blonde on Blonde is about this love of surface.
But I would not abandon my ground to stand where "the people," for the moment, were. There is a certain irony in this. For during the past ten years, even as I've been pushed toward the ideological fringe, I've become more integrated into the social mainstream: I make more money, have more responsibilities, and am correspondingly more enmeshed in the administrative banalities of daily life. I live with a man in a relationship that has lasted into the double digits and have a seven-year-old daughter.