Image: Thierry Arditti, Paris
Earlier this year I visited Greil Marcus, widely considered the greatest living rock writer, at his home on the border between Berkeley and Oakland to profile him for the British newspaper The Guardian. Over the course of an afternoon, we covered the length and breadth of his 45-year career, from his formative experiences and influences to his days as an editor at the newly founded Rolling Stone, through all his major books (Mystery Train, Lipstick Traces, Invisible Republic, The Shape of Things To Come), via his editing of the much-loved desert-island-disc anthology Stranded, to his recent monographs on Van Morrison and The Doors, and much more besides. Marcus was fighting a nasty cold that day: sniffing thickly, propping himself up with a pointed index finger that dimpled into his cheek, he sagged sometimes but never flagged during the three hour conversation. Only a fraction of the interview made into the final article, so here is installment #3 (of four) of the complete transcript. (Parts one and two can be found here and here.) Apart from some minimal tidying up (nearly always to my questions and comments; Marcus "talks like a book," as folk in England used to say about eloquent persons) and one small liberty taken with sequencing to preserve chronological flow, this is exactly how the conversation went down.
— Simon Reynolds
SIMON REYNOLDS: SO WERE YOU SURPRISED by punk? Or, rather, surprised by your own capacity to be taken aback by it, and taken over by it? To be so utterly consumed by a new excitement? You would have been in your early thirties at that point... married, with children. For most people at that age and in that situation, music is beginning to slip into the background. You stop keeping up with the new stuff, you're happy to stick with the old familiar favorites.
GREIL MARCUS: When I saw the Sex Pistols at Winterland, which was their last show, in San Francisco, January of '78, I was 32. That seems pretty young now; I'm more than twice that age. I had two kids, had been married for almost twelve years. But I was a writer, I was writing for Rolling Stone, and I wrote about that show for Rolling Stone. And I didn't feel there was any... no one was excluded at that show. There were all kinds of people at that show. People you hadn't seen for years, people you saw all the time, people you wondered where in the world they came from. There was Michael McClure onstage, reading poetry during breaks between shows. He was born in the 1930s in Wic...read more