In the merry sequence of things, Cameron Crowe was the third of a conspicuous trio of teenage rock-crit wanna-bes, junior spuds from the gitgo, whose paths crossed mine in the early 1970s.
The biggest cheesepuff of the bunch, if also initially the most ambitious, Jon Tiven began publishing the mimeo rag New Haven Rock Press during his sophomore year of high school. To look at the damn thing now, a single staple holding 20-some off-white pages together, it might be tough to figure how something so lame and ugly managed to endure the three-four years it did, but when mommy and daddy foot the bills, merit is inconsequential. Having grown up in the mansion where that spooky pic The Other later got shot, he made no bones about being what could be loosely termed a rich kid — upper middle class we today would call him — but without the “finish” his class would typically afford him: a dumb little, poor little u.m.c. dipshit, younger than his years. Ein Kind without much Wunder.
On weekends down from Connecticut, crashing sometimes at Nick Tosches’ pad or mine, he brought along Tupperwares full of homecooked crap — his mother didn’t trust Manhattan food. Back then, with the drinking age in New York still 18, nobody ever got asked for I.D., and Nick and I would always try to get him drunk. He’d order some wimp drink like a sloe gin fizz, and we’d tell him, “Jon, this bar has a two-drink minimum.” He’d get another, and then we’d hand him some bullshit like “The custom here is to make your own bar” — raise a forearm to your chin and drink around it (haw!) — and like a monkey he’d go for it. (Never met another 16’er so slowww on the draw.)
When he stayed at my place, he’d have my girlfriend take him to neighborhood fop stores — “boutiques” — where he’d shop for the sorts o’ things rock stars wore: satin, velvet, “English cut.” (Even girl-things with darts were okay if he could imagine Procol Harum wearing them.) He was one thudding fool for platform footery.
Finally, his parents sprung for a room at the New York Hilton, giving him occasion to invite this gal he met at a Nick party up for some room service plus, later claiming they’d whoopeed and he’d come 13 times…say what?…which led us to believe he’d never even jerked off.
If Tiven’s ’zine had truly reflected his misadventures as a neophyte simp, an amateur’s apprentice, that would’ve been one thing, but all it did was blend the same old shit (“With this album, Elton is performing to his potential…5 stars”) with a painful preadolescent cuteness (“Oatmeal Harv” was his favorite pseudonym). Issue after issue, nothing in the New Haven Rock Press spoke even generically of (or from) the “outrageousness of youth” — or the center of grav of its goofy enthusiasm. With an abiding Junior Achievement blandness, it sought merely to coalesce with the least anarchic, least invigorating aspects of the burgeoning rock media, to simulate “rockmag” status and in so doing score mailings of promo albs, tickets to Rod Stewart in Yonkers…oh goody.
Hey — the groovy myth of Everyperson a writer/publisher be damned: 99.9 percent of all ’zines — then, now, ever — are lame, tame, and insipid. As fate would have it, though, one of the great vanity rock sheets of all time was a contemporary of the NHRP. The progeny of a core of young hellions from the Bronx and Queens (only slightly older than Tiven himself) who would later morph into the proto-punk band the Dictators, Teenage Wasteland Gazette could usually be counted on to make a fine mess. Both personally and ideologically, TWG regarded Tiven as a doofus and made him its designated enemy. “The New Haven Rock Press,” wrote editor Andy Shernoff, “really sucks my noodle. If I see another fuckin review by Jon Tiven I will take action. I challenge Tiven to any form of competition he wants. I prefer 12 oz. gloves but he may want GOLF (they have a lotta country clubs in N. Haven). Eat five-iron, limey lover!” When he consequently “ducked away from confrontation” at a Blue Öyster Cult show at Gaelic Park, he was further taunted by Shernoff: “Is it true that your mother picks her nose and eats it?”
I haven’t seen Jon since ’76, but on evidence it would seem he made it through adolescence. Dunno ’bout the years between, but lately he’s producing records by B.B. King, Wilson Pickett, and writing songs for aging blues and soul people — ain’t life funny? The only thing I’ve heard is Buddy Guy’s “Heavy Love”: too heavy for a man to bear alone, he could use a little help, see? (Still makin’ with the cutesy.) I leave it to soul music aficionado Kevin Kiley to fill out the picture:
“He ruined Pickett’s comeback CD with shit arrangements, REAL BAD production, GARBAGE songs written by him and his fucking wife, and bad playing in general. I hate most of today’s records. Even my old favorites’ new records suck, due to crummy ‘modern’ production techniques. I may be a dinosaur, but I know what the shit SHOULD sound like, and Tiven ain’t got a fucking CLUE!
“At the Luther Ingram benefit in Memphis last year he was a self-absorbed prick, and a real asshole namedropper. He played guitar there with Mack Rice and Swamp Dogg. He brought his own guitar, one of those stupid-looking things with a whacky headstock (how do you come to MEMPHIS to play at a SOUL show without a fucking FENDER?!), he overplayed with a rock tone that had NOTHING to do with soul music, and fucked up one of Swamp’s tunes, even though there were CHARTS!
“There was a birthday party for Rufus Thomas. Everyone was smiling, laughing, having a good time. Tiven had his dour, ‘gotta look cool’ mug on. He seemed taken aback that I didn’t know his name. During our entire conversation, he rarely looked at me, but was instead surveying the happenings around the room. He had finished a CD on Sir Mack Rice, and I asked what kinda stuff was on it. ‘You’ll just have to wait to hear it.’ It was like he was thinking, ‘Leave me alone, I’m too cool, I don’t want to miss anything by talking to YOU.’ What a rude, condescending mother-fucker!”