Book Review: ‘Any Old Way You Choose It,’ by Robert Christgau

Bob Christgau's Any Old Way You Choose It

First published in Esquire, the Village Voice, the New York Times, and Long Island’s Newsday, the essays collected here provide an excellent sense of what rock and pop, circa 1963–67, was all about.

Robert Christgau‘s style is honest and wholly personal. As he says, “Any critic who wrote about music as if he/she were no longer a fan—or who was no longer a fan—was shirking all the fun.”

Of his own writings, he notes: “My strictly musical analyses tended to be brief and non-technical . . . My criticism bordered on journalism and sociology because I wrote about everything people responded to when they heard music—lyric and melody and rhythm and timbre first, of course, but also the context in which they heard it . . . “

Some imaginative essays result from this philosophy. Take, for example, “In Memory of the Dave Clark Five,” which has little to do with the defunct quintet. A rambling essay/diary of the writer’s cross-country trip to see a girlfriend, it puts the music Christgau heard along the way into the context of a personal experience—which is where I think music rightly belongs.

Any Old Way You Choose It (the title borrowed from a line in Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music”) is everything a rock book should be because it does what Christgau says the music should do: “both provide subtle stimulation and give ’em what they paid for.”

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