I have spent 55 years working in rock. I remain in familiar territory. I’ve always regarded the rock-star phenomenon with immense disdain. I’ve had my moments, which have been gloriously recorded and exalted — but brief — when I’ve felt: I’m going to try and do this job. I’m going to try to be a proper rock star. Then I would do it, and it wouldn’t work. I was counterfeit. There are very few people truly authentic to the cause: David Byrne. Mick Jagger. Neil Young. Joni Mitchell. Deborah Harry.
Is there an honest reading other than a pessimist’s for what the answers to most of those questions ended up being?
I think so. Rock ’n’ roll was a celebration of congregation. A celebration of irresponsibility. But we don’t have the brains to answer the question of what it was that rock ’n’ roll tried to start and has failed to finish. Neither do our journalistic colleagues, no matter how smart they think they are. Greil Marcus is not going to write the book that has the answer. He’s not going to come up with the goods. For God’s sake, neither could the Rolling Stones or the Who. That’s not going to happen. That postwar vacuum that we tried to fill — we did fill it for a while, but then we realized it was fizzling out. The art proposed the questions without offering solutions.