I was a subscriber to The Village Voice back in the late 70s, when it was not a giveaway and had a great deal of artistic, political, philosophical, musical, and humorous content in every thick weekly issue that arrived in my mailbox. There is one article from those years however that I have had almost continuously in the back of my mind; when it was first published in the Voice it triggered a number of conversations at parties and among people I worked with at the Strand Book Store. It has been part of the framework with which I view the world, and I have referenced it in conversations since, among people who think I'm just making this up (to the point where I begin to wonder myself if it may be a false memory). I have never been able to find the holy text itself, until tonight. Thank you internet, especially during this year when the nation's most obvious assholes are campaigning to wrest power from one of the greatest creeps ever to sit in the White House.
The Voice needs to republish this officially on their website, but until they do, I can't thank the Tumblr page of Otto Venta enough for having transcribed Susin Shapiro's timeless observations for this post-print age. It looks as if it's been on Tumblr since 2012, so I haven't been looking hard enough. Click here to read the whole transcription there.
It includes trenchant examples from all the fields of art, commerce, politics, and the animal kingdom to illustrate the differences between creeps and assholes in Ms Shapiro's taxonomy, but there's one example that I had remembered almost verbatim over the decades -- this classification of 1979's musical landscape:
"Sensitive singer-songwriters, take your pick, are creeps; heavy-metal bozos are assholes, moog mood electronics are creep signatures (ultimate creep: Eno), and all blues, soul and R&B singers, regardless of handicaps, are assholes. Frank Zappa is really a creep dying to be an asshole, and Lou Reed is a flagrant asshole yearning for decadent creepitude. Ultimate asshole–Elvis; ultimate creep group–Beatles."I love both Frank Zappa and Lou Reed, but I have never been able to think about either of them for too long without remembering Susin Shapiro's accurate description.