The writer Nik Cohn was profiled in the New York Times Magazine last weekend. A gifted critic of Rock n Roll, Cohn is most famous for this piece–“Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”–the basis of the movie “Saturday Night Fever.”
Thing of it is, he made most of it up:
“There’s nothing I’ve written that I’ve been able to reread in later years without deep, deep dread,” [Cohn] said, waving off a compliment. The prime example remains “Saturday Night.”
It’s hard now to believe anyone took it for literal truth. Its audacious artfulness makes most New Journalism look like court stenography. Vincent and his Bay Ridge posse were composites, based on the mods he knew in London a decade before. Cohn — who appears in the article as a shadowy figure in a tweed suit — never did spend much time at the 2001 Odyssey disco. That “Saturday Night” struck a deep nerve was not particularly comforting to its creator. “I found it very difficult to function,” he says of the aftermath, not overjoyed to be talking about it. “I completely lost my way and had enormous self-contempt. It knocked me off my trolley, and my trolley has never been the solidest base in the universe.”
…“When I was young and on the hustle, there was something that made people not want to talk to me,” Cohn admits, still savoring the turnaround. “So when people actually started talking to me, I thought, Wow, this is far more fascinating than all the stuff I made up. I realized you don’t have to create the myth. You don’t have to embroider. It’s all there.”
I’ve never read Cohn’s stuff on Rock. But I’m curious.