Book Review: Harold Bronson — Time Has Come Today

By now, most anyone who could possibly care at all has long since heard about Jann Wenner’s latest imbroglio. The Rolling Stone founder’s misogynist, sexist and racist perspectives – shared voluntarily, mind you – now threaten to undo the good that his magazine (with which he’s no longer associated) has done over the years. It certainly hasn’t helped his reputation, nor perhaps that of music journalism in general.

But there’s a palliative to Wenner’s nonsense. It comes in the form of a sort of memoir by another figure whose up-close-and-personal experiences around and within the music industry cover roughly the same era. Beginning in the late ‘60s, Harold Bronson was a music journalist. He was a friend and acquaintance of an extensive array of names in the music world, both well-known and otherwise. In the second phase of his career (the phases overlap a bit) he was a prime mover at Rhino Records, first a store and eventually (and more famously) a label. Bronson’s new book, titled Time Has Come Today, gives readers a close-up look at those years from his perspective.

Bronson’s approach isn’t typical: he draws from his diary entries, and (as he explains in his preface) he has resisted any temptation to amend his remarks or revise his opinions, even when they might not have aged well. That’s a commendable goal, and as readers will discover as they dig into the highly readable entries – more than 400 pages of ‘em, in fact – Bronson sticks to that commitment.

The results are revelatory. Allowing for the fact that Time Has Come Today reflects the opinions and observations of one individual, it shines a light on many of the personalities of that era. And while some of what Bronson reveals isn’t earth-shaking (Mike Nesmith could be prickly and aloof, for example), there’s a kind of metaphorical meat put on the bones of some of music’s best-known characters.

I hesitate to give too much away in that regard, because Bronson’s writing does a fine job itself of opening up that world to modern-day readers. There’s less in Time Has Come Today about the inner workings of Rhino-the-label, and that will probably suit most readers in any event. Some surprising characters show up in the book, too: people outside the rock world whose names one might not expect to find in a book such as this. Those are fun, too, as Bronson treats the material with just the right tone: a healthy admixture of genuine enthusiasm and wry skepticism. Because he’s presenting his thoughts in real-time style – how he felt about Emitt Rhodes in 1971, for example – he doesn’t have a seen-it-all, worldly-wise tone. As the saying goes, he’ll take you there. And Time Has Come Today is a trip well worth taking. Highly recommended.

Postscript: Here’s a playlist curated by Trouser Press’ Ira Robbins, designed to complement Bronson’s text.