To the editors:
Reading Bill Wyman's "Truth or Dare: Madonna's Big Lie" (June 21), I was impressed not only with his skill in shooting down her myths, but also with the seeming passion behind his gunning. But I also sensed he was lecturing a crowd who "should know better" than to fall for Madonna: his peers in the critical establishment and us, the Readership.
About the critics, sure, even the hardasses went soft on Truth or Dare--Jonathan Rosenbaum in this paper, and more improbably, Robert Christgau in the Voice ("Madonnathinking Madonnabout Madonnamusic," May 28), who gushed "this century will not see her like again."
About the Readership, we should know better, but we need pop more than Wyman does. It's partly about access: we don't receive free records every day in the mail, we aren't put on the guest list of every concert in town. It's partly about life-style: we give the best 50-plus hours of our week to some career, and try to use the leftover energy to keep music meaningful in our lives, listening to what decent radio we can find, skimming some mainstream music magazines, shelling out for as many albums as we can (or can't) afford, taping what we can borrow, soliciting dubious word-of-mouth from our friends, attending a weekend gig if we can rally (including standing in a long line, standing in a lousy spot). Even reading Bill Wyman.
Under these circumstances, we're prone to grasp things within easy reach, settling for what Wyman might consider mediocre or worse yet, fraudulent: old rockers he once admired (McCartney), old rockers he never liked (the Grateful Dead), pop stars he never liked (Sting), and pop stars he wouldn't bother mentioning (Phil Collins, MC Hammer, etc.). Even Madonna. Sometimes you don't want to know better.
Wyman's aesthetic is as richly informed and rigorous as anyone working in rock criticism--he doesn't deserve snob-baiting, and that's not my purpose. I'm not telling him anything's off limits, but I would caution him against rubbing our faces in the pop we need to live. Yes, need--because most of us can't survive alone on the Impotent Sea Snakes, Goober & the Peas, whatever other underground flake/flukes he picks, and the few off-center stars he champions (Public Enemy, the Replacements). I encourage him to elevate the new gods of rock and to pull down the old ones and fake ones--but without alienating the humans who buy into a Big Lie every once in awhile.