Recalling the 2001 Guitartown firestorm

Eleven years ago this week, Ryan Adams was pretty much on top of the world. His album Gold was out and earning the best reviews of his career, launching him into the rock-celebrity jetstream. For the next year, Ryan would be an inescapable presence in the rock press, which devoted seemingly millions of words to breathlessly covering his doings in interviews, features, reviews, previews and gossip-column items. After years of hardscrabble struggle, Ryan had finally arrived.

But on Sept. 28, 2001, three days after Gold’s release, Ryan found time to settle a score via one of his former hometown’s online watering holes, Guitartown. No Depression magazine co-editor Peter Blackstock was one of the few critics in the country who hadn’t gone gaga over Gold, penning a column in which he likened the album to pyrite. I wasn’t too fond of Gold myself and expressed a similarly lukewarm assessment in a News & Observer album review published around then, too.

Anyway, Ryan dropped on into Guitartown with an expletive-laced tirade that excoriated Peter and vowed that his label’s corporate overlords would put No Depression out of business with a boycott. I’ve got this printed verbatim on page 151 of “Losering,”  and you can also find it in the Guitartown archive — along with the ensuing firestorm it triggered, which went on for days with Guitartown denizens blasting Ryan and Ryan blasting back. Finally, Ryan threw out a parting shot before taking his leave for the last time:

…you just cant stand it because its not about your lousy fucking internet groups anymore, peter you are getting old and jaded but worst of all, you are Ross Grady, with a zine, or maybe like a David Menconi but just no balls

After Ryan called me out by name on Guitartown, I decided I’d had about enough and I did respond. For better or worse, I chose to leave that response out of “Losering” because I didn’t want the book to be “Ryan and Me” and it just felt like calling too much attention to myself. But hey, that’s what blogs are for. So here it is:

<sigh>…

hey, somebody tell Ryan that Courtney Love’s been in here posting under his name.

Ryan, babe, I simply *love* your new direction — Andy Kauffman-style confrontational performance art, wow, whoda thunk it? but to quote one of those literary types you’re suddenly so fond of invoking, you have delighted us quite enough for one evening.

so before you fire your next salvo, hear me out. I’m asking you, not as a critic but as one of your fans of longest standing:

stop. please. because right now people aren’t laughing with you, they’re laughing at you, and not in a nice way.

allow me to direct your attention to something you yourself said not too long ago. the following is a quote from your very own current Lost Highway Records bio:

“But I do have two new rules. One is not to analyze what I wrote. The second is not to read my own press. I just want to make it and not fuss about it. No excuses for it. Just make it and there it is. That way, the process is more pure. And even if people hate it, well, it doesn’t matter. Because I’m just doing it to do it.”

okay, then: prove it. “do it just to do it,” make whatever records you want to make, put ’em out there, take your lumps & move on. and if somebody doesn’t like it, oh well, right? you said so yourself.

in the grand scheme of things, the opinions of critics & pundits don’t amount to a hill of beans. the Rolling Stones aren’t in the hall of fame because some ink-stained wretch liked ’em; they’re in there because they made music that stood the test of time, despite getting plenty of less-than-flattering reviews over the years. you think Keith Richards spent much time tracking those people down to berate & threaten them?

“And even if people hate it, well, it doesn’t matter.” so prove it. because this is supposed to be about the music, right?

right?

still the best fan you ever had,

David Menconi

NP — Ryan Adams, Born Yesterday

For all I know, Ryan never read that because he never responded. He did, however, stop posting, so maybe. There was plenty more said after that, but Ryan was gone and it was mostly Guitartowners talking amongst ourselves. My favorite postscript came from the late Tim Kimrey, who posted what he called a “G’town-inspired PR photo of Ryan.” The picture doesn’t seem to be in the Guitartown archive any longer, but it was something like what you see here.

“It seems a little wrinkled-y for a young feller like him,” Tim wrote, “but perhaps it’s had lots of exposure.”

Ryan’s old Whiskeytown bandmate Skillet Gilmore piped in with the perfect closer: “Yup. That’s him.”

Ah, memories…


ADDENDUM (3/17/2015): Ryan may not come around Guitartown in its modern-day Facebook incarnation, but his name still gets dropped there — even if it’s as “HWSNBN” (“He Who Shall Not Be Named”). For example, there’s the post below. And I have a comment, all right: I can’t decide if “16 Days” or “New York, New York” would be a more appropriate heckle for Bryan Adams when he plays Raleigh.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 9.56.27 AM

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4 thoughts on “Recalling the 2001 Guitartown firestorm

  1. Thomas Fornash

    I hated Gold then and I can’t stand listening to it now. I remember when I got a advance copy of it playing a game with friends. I’d play 20 to 30secs of the opening of each song and have people guess what “classic rock” song it was lifted wholesale from. It was a hilarious parlor game punctuated with bourbon and beer. I still use it as a perfect illustration between the difference of absorbing your influences and blatant hack stealin’.

    In the same way that canceling the World Series destroyed my deep love of baseball, Gold and Ryan’s L’enfant terrible routine has made me unwaveringly cynical about anything Adams touches.

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