One of the best books I’ve read this year is Kevin Avery’s biography / anthology of rock writer Paul Nelson, called “Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson”. Most people have no idea who Nelson was, but he was an integral part of rock history between the 1960s and 1980s. He knew Bob Dylan when he was still Robert Zimmerman at the University of Minnesota and introduced Dylan/Zimmerman to a lot of rare folk recordings that wound up being Dylan staples. He was also one of the few folk critics at the time who supported Dylan’s move to rock in the mid-1960s. He worked for Mercury Records in the early 1970s, and Nelson was not only Rod Stewart’s favorite Mercury employee (Stewart was Mercury’s biggest star at that time), but Nelson also signed the New York Dolls. As a critic for Rolling Stone, he also championed Bruce Springsteen, the Sex Pistols, and the Ramones early in their careers. He also wrote about and became friends with Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, and Clint Eastwood. In the early 1980s, he drifted away from his career as a writer/editor and had difficulty meeting deadlines or completing articles. He worked at a video store during the last years of his life and then gradually lost touch with reality. He died penniless and alone, a sad end to a brilliant career.
“Everything is an Afterthought” is a loving tribute to a writer who deserved bigger and better success than his demons would allow. It’s clear from the testimonials and interviews given for this book how loved Nelson was by his colleagues and friends (i.e. Nick Tosches, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Jonathan Lethem). Special thanks to Avery, as well as Seattle’s Fantagraphics Books for having the vision and passion to bring us this story.