The other day I was flipping through Richard Meltzer's awesome anthology A Whore Just Like The Rest, and I came across this–a rebuttal he wrote to some forgotten musician who dared to publicly complain about Meltzer's review of his band:
From The San Diego Reader 12/30/97
Open letter to Mark Casta, who didn't dig my review of his band some months back, and recently cussed my ass in a letter to this sheet:
Hey, dumbo, if you don't know a RAVE when you see one, I can't fucking help you. What I did was try and get "into your head" and expound upon its glorious et cetera. If you haven't got a head, sorry I gave you one.
If making a fucking record–in nineteen NINETY seven–isn't its own reward, you're in the wrong business–not to mention the wrong life–and have an endless haul of bitterness to look forward to. Treasure the fact of getting anything done at all, and don't wait for the likes of me to validate your achievements. You say you've got airplay on 105.3–well, lucky fucking you. I haven't got airplay on dick–do you see me crying to you?
As to your claim that I didn't listen to your CD, I certainly did–it's fine. (As fine as any 200 or 300 others that come out every year.) If you don't care for my "abstract" manner in expressing same, tough turkey, asshole.
Nobody owes you anything, especially not on your dotted line, and as far as "windows of opportunity for getting reviewed" go, gee, I can sympathize. I write books, great books, I've worked for this sheet for 12 years, and never once has anyone here reviewed one. The fact that nobody, in fact, READS ANYMORE hasn't deterred me from continuing to write… It's my choice, jack, and similar choices remain yours.
Do your fucking job and don't complain. Be a real band, and in 50 years, if you're lucky, you'll be DONE with this wretched waste of cosmic malice some fools call a gift.
Sadly, Googling "Mark Casta" doesn't unearth the name of the band in question (or Meltzer's offending review), but it's irrelevant, really: This could apply to any of a million musicians throughout history who feel they've been slighted by critics. And while few rock journalists have Meltzer's lust and acumen for flinging poo, it's safe to say that every critic of anything has pissed someone off at least once–and has in turn been pissed off by that someone's reaction. Meltzer sums things up pretty perfectly in his tirade above. But is it really that pat and nasty? Do critics get to simply say, "Hey, grow a thick skin, jerk," and be absolved of all all the emotional distress they put sensitive artists through? Do they have any kind of responsibility or obligation to those they review, or should all reviewees just shut up and be happy as long as their names are spelled right? Or is Meltzer–despite the fact that he's far more entertaining to read than 90 percent of all music writers, past and present–just an asshole? This critic wonders.