In particular, Willis found herself attracted to what she called "pure noise," a Rocky Mountain High of sorts that she wasn't prepared for. "Although I am by now means completely uncritical," she remarks, "I am more willing to follow a song where it leads and suspend judgment for a while," adding, "practically all noise is interesting in some way." When she first arrived in the West, she'd been listening to an album, "doing a little creative drumming with a pencil and an album cover," when she recognized with a start that she'd been grooving to Vanilla Fudge’s The Beat Goes On, which, she acknowledges, "must be one of the worst albums ever made." And yet: "At the same time, I realized that it didn’t much matter; I felt like drumming anyway." Further revelations follow:
In the past couple of months, I have begun to enjoy the Crosby, Stills, and Nash album, which I had dismissed as too polished, too sentimental, and too soft, in the Simon and Garfunkel manner. Now the romanticism of songs like “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Marrakesh Express” doesn’t bother me; if anything, it strikes me as a positive quality. I am also more receptive to white blues. I couldn’t listen to the Blind Faith album in New York; now I listen to it fairly often.However buttoned-up is Willis's tone, this is good critical advice, it seems to me: let your environment guide you, especially if it leads you to strange and surprising places. I can't quite get on board with Willis about CSN, yet I love the image of the New Yorker music critic rocking out to the Fudge, mildly embarrassed, resisting, or at least reassessing, her critical urges, and having fun all the same.
|Vanilla Fudge, getting under her skin|
Photo of Willis via Forward; photo of Vanilla Fudge via Ultimate Classic Rock via Fulton Archive/Getty Images