Who Put the Bomp

Greg Shaw: 1949-2004

Greg Shaw was a writer, first and foremost. This will no doubt surprise many people who knew him as the founder of the still-going-strong Bomp record label. Indeed, you could make the case that since he had been principally involved in putting out records, and discovering and championing bands and so on for the past 27 years, calling him a writer might be missing out on most of his life.

But Greg Shaw was a writer, first and foremost, and one of the best—one of the pioneers to recognize how dismal rock music had become by the mid-1970s. He was one of the very few calling for a revolution before the fact, and naturally enough was among the first to champion that revolution when the first Chords Heard Round the World began reverberating out of CBGB's. If the Ramones' debut album was the Lexington, Greg Shaw was Patrick Henry. He waxed eloquently, in print and in person, about the historic importance of what was at the time a small scene in the Bowery, and was an extraordinarily important influence on me, both for what he was saying about a movement I was attempting to help bring to life, and for the way he said it. It was an inspiration to realize just how good music criticism could be if done right, and Greg Shaw invariably did it exactly right.

I was conflicted for a time, part of me wanting to start a band, and another part wanting to write. I chose the band, and within a year Greg Shaw made a similar choice, leaving the writing largely behind to form his own label, mostly out of a genuine love for the music, and a deep desire to help create the scene he'd been calling for. Another year passed, and my band was on his label, and the year after that Greg nearly went broke financing our first album. I'm fairly certain he never recouped his cost on that one.

I ran into him in a club in Marina Del Rey two years ago. He was newly married, and as proud and happy as I can remember ever seeing him. A year later he was one of very few attendees at a small acoustic show of mine in the Valley. We talked briefly, and exchanged the occasional e-mail, but I always knew there'd be more time.

Till now.

It is about an hour since I heard the news of his passing. I had always nurtured a secret hope that he would one day return to his true muse, and give the world a definitive history of rock 'n' roll. That hope died an hour ago. So, Greg: what the hell can I possibly do to honor your memory? Ah, yes—I'm doing it now. I write.

 
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