The Rock 'n' Roll Years: 1986-1994

As newspaper gigs go, the rock critic's seat was next-to-ideal for someone in his 20s unencumbered by many outside commitments to home and family. The music critic at a major metro daily is, ideally, a cheerful generalist -- someone who tries to bring something fresh to the discussion of every act that rolls through town, from the teen queen in the mall's food court to the legends of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.

Over the years, I covered everyone from garage bands to Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers. Looking back, I see that the artists who resonated most with me were invariably the best writers -- Neil Young, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Los Lobos, X, Johnny Cash and others who were blessed with both uncommon longevity and the gift of storycraft.

In any given year, maybe 20 percent of the recordings and concerts I would review had something interesting to say, or an interesting way of saying it. And maybe 30 percent were either painfully untalented or artists in name only who were just punching out a derivative formula. So that was the most enjoyable -- and, dare I say, easiest -- part of the job: Sitting in judgment of the clearly good and the clearly bad. The other middling 50 percent were not nearly as much fun to write about.

And just when things became really tedious in San Jose, there was usually a road trip -- Nashville, Vegas, New York -- to keep me focused.

Tiffany, July 4, 1988
The Nightclub Guide, June 16, 1989
KFJC, Oct. 14, 1990
Las Vegas, July 19, 1991
Tom Jones, Oct. 21, 1991
Nashville, April 3, 1992
Reba McEntire, Nov. 25, 1994

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