Richard Meltzer (born May 11, 1945) was one of the earliest rock music critics. His first book, The Aesthetics of Rock, evolved out of his undergraduate studies in philosophy at Stony Brook University and graduate studies at Yale University. At school, he developed a reputation as something of a prankster, although his actions were closer to the spirit of performance art happenings promoted by one of his professors, Allan Kaprow, than to fraternity hijinks. One of his actions involved sending a tape recorder to class with his comments for the day on tape. Fellow student Sandy Pearlman was responsible for pushing the button. Meltzer also dabbled in art, including "detourned" comic books in the style of the Situationists, which had various objects added to the pages.
Meltzer, along with Sandy Pearlman and several other students, earned money on the side as booking agents for the big musical acts that came to Stony Brook in the 1960s. Following that, the two started writing lyrics and arranging gigs for a musical group they were promoting called Soft White Underbelly, later renamed Blue Öyster Cult (BÖC). Meltzer wrote the lyrics to many of the band's songs, including the hit Burnin' for You.
BÖC guitarist and keyboardist Allen Lanier is often credited with coming up with the umlaut over the 'O', but Meltzer claims to have suggested it to producer and manager Pearlman just after Pearlman came up with the name: "I said, 'How about an umlaut over the O?' Metal had a Wagnerian aspect anyway."
Meltzer started his career in 1967 writing for Paul Williams' Crawdaddy! magazine. That year, he also taught a class in aesthetics at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He went on to write for Rolling Stone, Village Voice & Creem.
During the punk rock era, he formed a band called VOM (short for "Vomit") and released a four-song, 7-inch EP that included "Electrocute Your Cock". Meltzer also produced a movie, directed by Richard Casey, who later directed several Blue Öyster Cult videos. Clips were filmed in Casey's apartment, Malibu, The Pike in Long Beach, and a beach-side sewage treatment plant in El Segundo, with future Mau Maus guitarist Mike R. Livingston pantomiming rhythm guitar along with Gregg Turner and bonze blayk (known at that time as "Kevin Saunders"), who were at that time organizing the Angry Samoans with Mike Saunders, the drummer for VOM. The film for "Electrocute Your Cock" shows "Halifax, NS" t-shirt-clad Meltzer in the shower with jumper cables attached to his crotch, and sparks hand-drawn onto the film cels simulating electrocution. Also included was a beach-side clip for "Punkmobile." The videos are included in The Angry Samoans' 1995 VHS compilation, True Documentary.
In the 1980s, Meltzer dabbled in architectural criticism, writing a series of articles for the L.A. Reader alternative weekly on the ugliest buildings in Los Angeles; these pieces were later published as a book. He moved to Portland, Oregon in the 1990s, but continued contributing to the San Diego Reader. He was also a regular columnist for Addicted to Noise, and by 2004 he was a contributor to a new weekly, Los Angeles CityBeat.
He has also performed and recorded over the past decade with the improvisational music group Smegma.
- The Aesthetics of Rock (1970)
- Gulcher: Post-Rock Cultural Pluralism in America (1972)
- 17 Insects Can Die In Your Heart: Good verse and bad from Richard Meltzer's golden decade (1968–83) (1982)
- Frankie, Part 1 (Talltales Series) (1984)
- Post-Natal Trash (Caned Out: The Authorized Autobiography of Richard Meltzer) (1984)
- Prickly Heat and Cold (Caned Out Series) (1984)
- Richard Meltzer's Guide to the Ugliest Buildings of Los Angeles (1984)
- Frankie, Part 2 (Talltales Series) (1987)
- Boat Ride Down the Maguire (Caned Out Series) (1987)
- L.A. Is the Capital of Kansas: Painful Lessons in Post-New York Living (1988)
- Tropic of Nipples (1995) (unpublished)
- The Night Alone: A Novel (1995)
- Holes: A Book Not Entirely About Golf (1999)
- A Whore Just Like the Rest: The Music Writings of Richard Meltzer (2000)
- Autumn Rhythm: Musings on Time, Tide, Aging, Dying, and Such Biz (2003)
- Angry Samoans, True Documentary. Triple X Records, 1995
- Review of Autumn Rhythm with Richard Meltzer interview (Mike Miliard, The Fall Guy, September 2003)
- Richard Meltzer profile (Alec Hanley Bemis, Is Rock Criticism Dead, June 2002)
- Richard Meltzer interview (Jason Gross, Perfect Sound Forever, August 2000)
- Extensive portal to R. Meltzer content on the internet
- Meltzer on Allan Kaprow
- Interview with Meltzer by Scott Woods at rockcritics.com