Chuck Eddy & the Holy Greil
[Editor's note: This double-bill originally appeared in the June '86 issue of Nerve magazine. rockcritics.com is pleased to reprint it with a new preface from Phil.]
By Phil Dellio
My interview with Marcus and Chuck is right near the top of my favourite Nerve pieces. If I didn't mention as much in my contribution to Scott's Nerve retrospective, that's only because it was an interview rather than something I really wrote.
I have a vivid memory of how different it was to talk to each of them. I wrote to Greil beforehand, to get his phone number and to see if he was receptive to an interview. I sent along a piece on junky '70s music that Scott and I had written (a precursor to the book we later wrote on the same subject) for Graffiti. Greil wrote back to say he enjoyed the piece and to give him a call. When I did call soon after--this is the part I remember so clearly--there was a long pause, followed by an intimidatingly impatient "Just a minute." I think he later explained that I'd caught him at a bad moment, but at the time, I wanted to crawl under a rock. ("I was just being polite, doofus--I didn't mean for you to actually call.") I remember also that when we finished, I asked Greil if he'd put together some kind of index or bibliography of his writings that we could publish alongside the interview. More withering exasperation: "I can't do that..." It was, indeed, a pretty strange request. You always remember the bad stuff first, and I'm laughing at these two specific lowlights now. Greil was in fact great once the interview got going, and after publication he sent a nice follow-up postcard that is visible on the bulletin board pictured in the Nerve piece.
I'm guessing Marcus had been interviewed many times by 1986; I don't know if this was Chuck's first interview (I seem to remember him mentioning another one he'd recently done), but it was close enough that he couldn't have been more accommodating or enthusiastic. That it was someone from Canada must have made the experience even more novel and unexpected, comparable, I suppose, to me getting an interview request from Iceland tomorrow. It was actually Chuck's wife, Martina, who fielded my first call (I must have gotten the number through directory assistance), so as soon as he got on the line when I called back, he was ready to go. And, as I wrote in my preface to the interview, that's exactly what Chuck did--probably not as breathlessly as I indicated at the time, but even today I remember the conversation as a blur. A friendship developed from there, one that's had its ups and downs over the years. The downs are adumbrated in a line from the intro: "even though I rarely agree with him about anything," a gap that I have personalized at times. Hüsker Dü = Big Country--all we needed was Bette Davis in the wings telling us to fasten our seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Whenever I take a look at an old Nerve, I especially love anything that's hopelessly dated. I think my favourite part in the whole Greil/Chuck interview is either the burning question of whether or not the Cro-Mags deserved space in Spin--the Cro-Mags??--or the part where, given the chance to ask Marcus his opinion of anybody, I stepped back, took a good hard look at history and posterity and all of that, and got a few words from him on...Anita Baker! It's invaluable that I was able to get that clarified for future pop-music scholars.
Phil's interview with Greil Marcus and Chuck Eddy starts here...