Steve Esmedina wrote his first story for the Reader in July 1973; his last story appeared in September 1994. He wrote about popular music and film, mostly in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Esmedina died on June 24, 2001.
In this issue, his closest associates remember him.
Drunk on 163 — Thomas K. Arnold
Slow Death — Mike Thomas
Cut to the Heart — George Varga
Student Steve — Eleanor Widmer
Blubbo vs the Kaypro — Linda Nevin
Friends Forever — David Zielinski
The Shadow Knows — Abe Opincar
Get Out and Get Drunk — John Brizzolara
I Feel a Jam Coming On — Ted Burke
Blubbo Adrfit — John D’Agostino
Better on the Music Page — Duncan Shepherd
Stumble, Stumble, Thump, Crash — Linda Nevin
A Critic Looks at a Critic — Jonathan Saville
Blubbo's Secret Tongue — Bill Richardson
In His Own Words
July 12, 1973
Yes Is More Than Just a Word
The critics who have consistently maligned Yes have a hard time justifying their disdain in reasonably musical terms. Usually their criticism stems from the nebulous belief that “Yes are merely trying to show how clever and brilliant they are.”
Perhaps it is old fashioned of me, buy I do not regard attempts at brilliance as distasteful, especially when they are successful. This is particularly true with Yes who are certainly rock’s most sophisticated stylists.
January 8, 1976
Best of 1975 Issue
- Steve Esmedina, READER Contributor
- Best Albums
- Country Life/Siren, Roxy Music
- Death And The Flower/The Koln Concert, Keith Jarrett
- New York Fall, 1974/Five Pieces, Antonthy Braxton
- Natty Dread, The Wailers
- Still Crazy After All These Years, Paul Simon
- There’s a Trumpet In My Soul, Archie Shepp
- The Last Record Album, Little Feat
- Northern Lights- Southern Cross, The Band
- Follow My Mind, Jimmy Cliff
- Atlantic Crossing, Rod Stewart
- Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy, Elton John
- Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen
- The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, Joni Mitchell
- Man-Child, Herbie Hancock
- By Numbers, The Who
- One Of These Nights, The Eagles
- McCoy Tyner, Back Door
- Little Feat, Sports Arena
- Mahavishnu Orchestra, Golden Hall
- Weather Report, Civic Theatre
- AWB/Kokomo, Sports Arena
- Joe Farrell, George Benson, Civic Theatre
- I wish I had gone Toots and The Maytalls, Balboa Stadium
- I skipped them Elton John, Jethro Tull, The Eagles
- I should have Aerosmith, Herbie Hancock, Graham Central Station
- How Could You Be Soo Good On Record And So Lousy In Concert Jeff Breck,
- Golden Hall
- Vice Versa KC and The Sunshine Band, Sports Arena
The Rock Criticism Finally Pays Off Award: Bruce Springsteen
Runner-Up: Patti Smith
Businessman Of The Year:
Clive Davis, President of Arichta Records
Anyone who can have Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, The Breckers, and Mal Waldron on the same label with Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Bay City Rollers, and The Outlaws is either an artistic pervert or an economic genius.
The Pauline Kael I’ve Said A Mouthful Award: Jon Landau, the rock critic whose declaration that Bruce Springsteen was the “past, present, and future of rock and roll” got him a position as Springsteen’s manager, thus requiring that his beaming mug be plastered on the pages of Time, Newsweek and other periodicals.
The Bye-Bye Birdie Award for Sublime Vulgaity: Ken Rusel, for turning The Who’s Tommy, “the twentieth-century’s greatest work of art” (huh?) into a two hour rococo pig sty; a fitting fate for the first rock opera.
Stop In The Name of Love Award: Diana Ross, who after such a smashing debut as an actress in Lady Sings the Blues succumbed to a ranting variation of the same role in Mahogany.
Trend Of the Year: Disco-decadence. At last Muzak became a recognizable force on the pop charts. By adding a barely funky beat, people such as Barry White, Van McCoy, MFSB, Percy Faith, and The Silver Convention got Muzak out of the office and onto the dance floor.
Maybe This Year: Roxy Music, The Wailers, Archie Shepp, and Anthony Braxton will make their way to San Diego; Bryan Ferry will get his Tuxedo on the cover of Newsweek; Peter Townshend, Neil Young, and Mick Jagger will collaborate on an album, Rock’s No Fun Anymore, But It’s All I Know; Talented local bands like United States Monsters, Grace, Glory, Harlequin, Horsefeathers and Doomsday Watermelon will get the widespread attention they deserve.
April 8, 1976
Since the Fifties, Charlie Mingus has remained one of the more intriguing anomalies of jazz. Ö Mingus and his latest quintet performed last Friday at the Back Door. The same qualities inherent in his best records Ö surfaced in abundance live. Ö. Ensemble watchfulness is probably Mingus’ greatest talent. He has the uncanny ability to compose and arrange so determinedly that each player is prepared to overcome each other’s flaws. Although he lacked the innovation displayed in the recent Back Door concerts by Elvin Jones and Anthony Braxton, Mingus provided a more-than-average amount of inspired musical democracy in his writing and leadership. In this case, more-than was enough.
June 24, 1976
George Wein’s Kool Jazz Festival
The biggest obstacle was the location — San Diego Stadium. It is doubtful that there is any way to fully appreciate music in tie Grand Canyon setting. The nearest $8.50 seat was situated many yards away, and even the six-screen set-up offered little relief for strained eyes. As for Nancy Wilson, it’s a puzzle that she was on the bill at all, for her affiliation to jazz or soul seem cosmetic at best. She sang fashionably “cool” songs like “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” and “All is Fair In Love” with the dryness of a Las Vegas headliner appearing on The Merv Griffin Show. If Wein wants to tout her as a musician, he should team her up with Michel Legrand, Bobbi Humphrey, Donald Byrd, and Tim Weisburg and have a “Kool Schlock Festival.”
July 22, 1976
Feel Good, Look Good, Smell Good, Be Good
The passersby, the loiterers, and the commuters standing at the bus stop rarely pay attention to the Horton Plaza evangelists, not even to jeer; thus, the shrill efforts to turn back the people flocking to hear Reverend Eikerenkoetter, better known as Rev. Ike, lecturing on “Health, Happiness, and Prosperity,” fell on indifferent ears. Ö The success of Ike’s performances, here and elsewhere in America, is evidence that he needn’t be concerned with heretical or ethical dilemmas. As an entertainer, he is a peculiar sort of genius. Seeing a young lackey bring silver chalices of water to him every 15 minutes, or hearing him tell a little girl who has given him a homemade key ring for his Rolls-Royce that he needs “six more, darling,” or watching the crowd pledge hundreds of dollars to him in order to have their promise placed on his “special altar in Boston” is certainly an affecting experience. How it affects, exactly, depends on one’s sense of religious propriety. But when he climaxes the show by getting the whole hall to chant “Money, Money, Money, Money” in the form of a devotional mantra, Reverend Ike shows himself to be an emissary of God before whom any atheist could bow down.