Polly Watson

  • Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen in 1978 in Chicago. Photo: Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty.
    passages October 14, 2020

    Edward Van Halen (1955–2020)

    I HAVE A FOND MEMORY of sitting on our ratty red velvet couch—or rather, on the small rug that covered the gaping hole in said couch, into which one might fall ass-backwards and not be able to exit without assistance—and earnestly explaining to my parents why Van Halen’s 1984 “Jump” was such a fucking masterpiece. It had something to do with the fact that Eddie Van Halen had introduced the synthesizer into hard rock—something that had never been done before*—or at least so I (thought I) had read. I was actually in the process of hearing this classic for the very first time, via our newly

  • Pinocchio performing at the Glove, New York, July 24, 2019. Photo: Jaime Salazar.

    Polly Watson

    Polly Watson is a former entertainment editor for High Times. She currently performs with 1-800-BAND


    Eno-tinged NYC art-punk weirdness characterized by janky guitar work and almost operatic vocals—courtesy of West Coast hurricane Mary Jane Dunphe—that is shockingly sophisticated in its naïveté.


    Ireland is releasing two one-euro stamps in honor of the (contested) fiftieth anniversary of their hard-rocking native sons, one featuring the cover of the 1979 album Black Rose and the other a portrait of iconic bassist and front man Phil Lynott.



    WHEN A BAND, famous or unknown, leads with a hit it can mean only one of two things: They’re anxious to get the hell off the stage and go back to snorting rails at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée (or smoking crack out of a Bic-pen barrel at the Super 8), or they’ve got hits for days and can afford to burn them like Weimar Republic cash.

    The first thing that greets you as you walk into “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” at New York’s staid and storied Metropolitan Museum of Art is Chuck Berry’s blond Gibson ES-350T—likely, we are told, the one he used to record “Johnny B. Goode,” the legendary


    Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer. New York: Random House, 2019. 278 pages

    I DIDN’T TAKE ENGLISH IN COLLEGE. I tested out of it. And I was stoked. Filling out financial-aid forms, backing into a cop car, and getting ringworm all seemed infinitely preferable to reading about how to parse a sentence, and thus I did all of the former and none of the latter. Eventually I landed a series of jobs that required me to at least be able to explain what a dangling participle was; still, every time I look at a style book, I do so through wrath-narrowed eyes.

  • Polly Watson

    1 BABY GRANDE, 1975–77 (HoZac) Chicago’s HoZac Records specializes in glammy power pop—modern (Mama, Velveteen Rabbit) and master-level (check out the incredible Julian Leal!). This album of previously unreleased tracks finds the Church’s Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes wasting their pre–Blurred Crusade (1982) talent on derivative, stomping glam, and it is fucking AMAZING!

    2 SNAIL MAIL, LUSH (Matador) Just this year, Sunflower Bean’s twenty-two-year-old Julia Cumming sang of her age as being one at which a woman is viewed as “busted and used.” Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan, at nineteen, probably

  • Alan Vega, 1980. Photo: Ebet Roberts.
    passages October 07, 2016

    Alan Vega (1938–2016)

    “Screams at:

    “imagine just playing this , like casually like ppl would listen to Beyonce and shit”

    —Comments on a YouTube video of Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop”

    THERE WAS NOTHING CASUAL ABOUT ALAN VEGA, who died last summer at (what turned out to be) the age of seventy-eight. An artist, musician, provocateur, and all-around wild man, Vega was best known as the vocalist for the lightning-bolt-channeling Suicide, who in the late 1970s gave Frankenstein-life to the extraordinarily loud, harsh breed of synth punk that not only inspired others to take up the

  • passages August 28, 2014

    Tommy Ramone (1949–2014)

    BY THE TIME Tommy Ramone (née Erdelyi) died, his band, which came whipping out of the low, brick-walled canyons of Queens in 1974, had long since been canonized into oblivion, becoming the province of Urban Outfitter–clad interns (“Ramones Tee in Charcoal . . . perfect for channeling your inner rock god”) whose knowledge of the band’s oeuvre might well be limited to the appearance of “Blitzkrieg Bop” in a Coppertone ad. After his death, Erdelyi was rightly eulogized everywhere from Vogue to the New York Times. He had become a big deal. But the drummer/producer of one of the world’s most influential