Nick Tosches' death brought memories of rock criticism's golden age.
Tosches, who died Sunday in his beloved New York City at the too young age of 69, brought a pugnacious, free-floating spirit to music writing along with his "noise boys" compatriots Richard Meltzer and Lester Bangs. Like Bangs and Meltzer, Tosches reached dazzling heights, but also crashed spectacularly.
At first writing for gritty small publications, Tosches moved on to music bibles Creem and Rolling Stone. His reputation suffered from reports that he sometimes wrote a review without removing the record from its plastic covering. He was notorious for a Rolling Stone review of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" in which he didn't consider the album's music and confused the band with another group, Black Widow.
Tosches showed impressive research and writing ability with a pioneering book on country's contributions to rock. His"Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story," is considered one of the best music biographies. He gained mainstream success with biographies of subjects ranging from Dean Martin to Sonny Liston and built a career as a major magazine writer, contributing to Vanity Fair and other publications.
Going against that popular success, Tosches returned to his experimental roots with novels blasted by critics for their outrageous plots and pretentious writing, according to his New York Times obituary. That path from acclaim to critical disfavor is common is American literature.
Tosches made his reputation at a time when new forms of writing thrilled readers. A new Rolling Stone or Esquire was a major cultural event. Tosches was among those who created a new literature, now long in the past.