4 Mar 2024 07:30

E172: Alan Light on Vibe + Prince + Taylor Swift + Townes Van Zandt

In this episode we welcome esteemed writer and editor Alan Light and ask him about the years he spent at Rolling Stone, Vibe and Spin — plus his close encounters with Prince, Taylor Swift and Townes Van Zandt. Vibe is the particular focus of interest for Alan's hosts, hence we hear about the magazine's inception, its co-founder Quincy Jones, our guest's long interview(s) with The Artist No Longer Known As Prince... and the problem with being a white editor of an essentially Black publication. Not to mention being at the helm when the East vs. West Coast rap wars kicked off and led to the killings of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.. Alan's 1999 move to alternative-rock bastion Spin prompts questions about managing music magazines and nurturing their writers. He talks proudly of Spin's coverage of the infamous Woodstock '99 festival. Our guest's return to full-time writing meant that he went on to interview many of music's biggest stars — none bigger than Taylor Swift, about whom he speaks with the greatest respect. The singer's 2014 switch from country to pop with the 1989 album triggers a fascinating conversation about the Swift phenomenon. What would have been the "late great" Townes Van Zandt's 80th birthday provides the perfect excuse to hear clips from John Tobler's 1987 audio interview with the tragically self-destructive Texan. Alan recalls a couple of "long evenings" with the singer-songwriter who died in 1997 — and tells Townes' funniest joke in the process. After Mark quotes from recently-added library articles about Loverboy and Warren Zevon, Jasper wraps matters up with his thoughts on Papa Roach and Françoise Hardy. Many thanks to special guest Alan Light. Find all his books, including Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain and The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah, at all good bookshops. To listen to his podcast, visit sounduppod.com. Pieces discussed: Vibe: the Hip Hop Years, R.I.P. Vibe, The Demise of Vibe and the Future of Criticism, Prince breaks the silence, Taylor Swift on writing her own rules, Taylor Swift at CMA Fest, Townes Van Zandt audio, Loverboy, Warren Zevon, Papa Roach and Françoise Hardy.

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