Soundcheck: Alternative Viewpoints

By Dave Chamberlain


He's one of America's best-known music writers, he has a program on the radio and television, and he’s the author of four books. But no matter what, Jim DeRogatis will always be infamous for getting fired from Rolling Stone magazine.


He covers just that in his latest book, “Milk It!: Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the ‘90s” (Da Capo), in chapter 11: “Hootiegate.”


“Personally I’m sick of that story,” says the Sun-Times music scribe and one-half of Sound Opinions, “but since I’ve heard so many mistaken versions of it—everything up to and including I got fired for punching [Rolling Stone publisher] Jann Wenner—it’s in there so I don’t have to hear about it any more. It’s absurd—people just repeat repeat repeat it.”


If you want to know the real story behind the infamous axing, you’ll have to read the book. But suffice to say, one of music writing’s most opinionated figures didn’t cow down to the Rolling Stone powers. “I just can’t censor myself,” he explains. “I knew I was stepping off the cliff. Keith [Moerer, his Rolling Stone editor and author of “Milk It!’”s forward] and I were just trying to get out of there. We were in the middle of the worst job we had ever held. We hated it, even though we were making a lot of money, and publicists were taking us to $150 lunches every day. Everyone was kissing our ass, but we were putting Art Garfunkel’s naked wife in the magazine because she was having a baby and posing like Demi Moore. We were trying to extract ourselves—I just sped it up.”


Beyond the Rolling Stone fiasco, “Milk It!” collects DeRogatis’ writings from the early nineties until just recently, touching on everybody from Nirvana and Mudhoney to the Flaming Lips and Urge Overkill. While compiling the book, he didn’t change his opinions from the time or update anything that he might not currently agree with. Even in retrospect, he won’t pull punches or glamorize the age.


“I refuse to take this rose-tinted view of any one era. To me, the year 1991 was every bit as great as 1967, when psychedelic rock was in its heyday, or 1977, when punk was exploding, or 1985, when all the great indie-rock bands were coming up, or even this year. In any given year, there’s extraordinary music being released that can change your life. I’m not all aglow with alternative nostalgia the way that all these damn baby-boomer critics are about the Woodstock era.” (Dave Chamberlain)


DeRogatis celebrates the release of “Milk It!” and an updated version of “Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock,” October 17 at the Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia, (773) 227-4433.