Music novices now can learn why 'Rock Snobs' refer to Bob Dylan as Zimmy
By Eric R. Danton
Perhaps your music-obsessed friends constantly use the word "seminal" in reference to bands you've never heard of. Or maybe you are music-obsessed, and your friends' eyes glaze over every time you start in on the under-appreciated genius of Jobriath or the trenchant imagery of Hipgnosis.
Either way, "The Rock Snob's Dictionary" (Broadway Books, 176 pages) is here to help. Once a short feature in Vanity Fair's annual music issue, authors David Kamp and Steven Daly have expanded the idea into a funny and useful book.
Useful because rock snobs and poor, undereducated music neophytes now have a way to communicate with minimal eye-rolling and disbelieving tongue clicks. Funny because the dictionary is as snarky - and accurate - as it is informative.
It's easy to spot rock snobs. They're the wannabe insiders referring to Bob Dylan as "Zimmy" (his real name, of course, is Robert Zimmerman) or thumbing through their dog-eared copies of "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung," a collection of essays by contrarian critic Lester Bangs. Honestly, though, everyone knows that "Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste" is a far superior Bangs reader.
The real stuff
Along with the definitions ("seminal: catchall adjective employed by rock writers to describe any group or artist in on a trend too early to sell any records"), the dictionary includes lists of things rock snobs like and dislike. One list of people rock snobs are required to hate includes MTV anchor Kurt Loder, Electric Light Orchestra founder Jeff Lynne and Paul McCartney (for "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and Wings, among other things).
A catalog of "unimpeachable torchbearers of true rock snobbery" features "Sopranos" creator David Chase, Elvis Costello ("for knowing more about every snob angle than you ever will") and "High Fidelity" author Nick Hornby.
"The Rock Snob's Dictionary" is also the place to learn why Rickenbacker guitars and U47 microphones are so highly prized; to become steeped in the intricacies of Countrypolitan or Glam; and to discover the meaning of suffixes such as "-core" and "-ica" (for example, "lounge-core" and "electronica").
For the record, Jobriath was an openly gay glam-rock singer in the early '70s, and Hipgnosis was the design duo responsible for the trippy cover art on albums by Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
Though, really, who doesn't know that?