Billboard reports that Marc Spitz, a music journalist, author, and playwright whose work appeared in Spin, Vanity Fair, Nylon, Blender, Salon, The New York Times, and more, has died. Spitz was 47.
As a journalist, Spitz tended toward interviews, oral histories, and thoughtful essays; while serving as a senior writer for Spin, he produced profiles on everyone from The Killers to a weirdly jovial Morrissey (not to mention the sublimely headlined “Who The Fuck Is Ryan Adams?”) He was unafraid to gently poke at those he wrote about, too, penning a Salon essay a few years ago that took Adams mildly to task for the “easy rhyme” of “fire“ and “desire” in his song “Desire.” The essay is a nice window into Spitz’s style: fast-moving, lyrical, and exhaustively researched. (He apparently spent days interviewing rockers and investigating lyrics to find why they were repeatedly drawn to the extremely common rhyme.)
Yes, maybe he liked the way fire and desire sounded in his mouth and looked on a page or a studio chalkboard, the way they generally fit like a pair of lovebirds on a perch. Fire and desire. Especially when punctuated by a mournful harmonica, which is definitely not a cliché in a Ryan Adams song (definitely). Or maybe he wanted to get wasted or laid and did not give a shit. I can’t really tell. I’m split. My cynical side, well you know what it says, but the mystery, the voodoo, the alchemy of the art of songwriting prevents me from determining one way or another. You’d have to ask him and hope he’d be honest. Which he probably wouldn’t.
Or take this moment from his celebrated Spin profile of The Strokes, catching them in the precise moment when Is This It propelled the band to semi-destructive stardom, fending off groupies and touring briefly with The Rolling Stones.
The arena is nearly full when the Strokes go on, and the cheers are the kind you’d expect for a headliner. Girls scream and shake their hips in the stands. Even the bearded acid casualties tap their sandaled toes. Buzzing afterward, the band gather to watch the Stones show in its entirety. Even the Stones are better tonight, and Jagger seems to know the Strokes are watching. He shimmies down the walkway toward them more than a dozen times, hip-shaking, whooping, and sweating.
Moretti, Hammond, and Fraiture beam like schoolkids. Casablancas keeps his head down, unimpressed, again very much in his own head. He cradles a bottle of red wine in one hand and once again stares deeply into his cigarette. For a minute, I think I see him exhale blue smoke, then cup it in his hands, and splash it back toward his cheeks like senses-reviving cold water.
Those same journalistic traits served Spitz in his long-form writing, too, which included an autobiographical novel about a music writer trying to reunite The Smiths, and a number of biographies covering rock greats like Bowie and the aforementioned Jagger. But Spitz is probably best known for books like We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of LA Punk, an in-depth exploration of the rise of the Hollywood ’70s punk scene that he authored with Brendan Mullen, and which frequently finds its way onto lists of the must-read rock history books. Spitz’s most recent book, 2014’s Twee, meanwhile, charted the rise of the indie movement through artists like Belle And Sebastian and Wes Anderson. According to his web site, he was working on a new project, a cultural history of rock and roll cinema entitled Loud Pictures, which was due out in Winter 2017.
Outside the world of music journalism, Spitz was also a prolific playwright, and a regular in New York’s Off-Off-Broadway theater scene. His theatrical works included titles like Retail Sluts, The Rise and Fall of the Farewell Drugs, “…Worry, Baby”, and The Hobo Got Too High.
According to Billboard, Spitz died earlier today. The cause of death has yet to be announced.