That’s how it was in those early days…an innocent dream of doing our own magazine, driven by all the passion we’d acquired over the years.
There is nothing easy or pleasant about the task of writing a tribute to my old friend and colleague, Carrie Lindsey. As most of our readers probably know by now, Carrie, her husband Mike Shelton, and daughter Emily were killed in a tragic car crash returning from Chicago on I-55 on the afternoon of August 22. In a bizarrely ironic twist, I was coming home from Chicago myself (they were at a Beatle Fest event, I was visiting a friend) that afternoon. I saw the traffic backup and knew that something bad must have happened. I took the first exit and went out of my way to get home, wondering what in the world had caused such a snarl on the highway. The next morning, Rob Levy delivered the bad news to me. Carrie Lindsey, one of the most influential people in my life, had died in that crash. I was in utter disbelief and still am. Emotions and memories have been flooding through me since I heard the news. And it’s just not easy to face this, or to say all the things I want to say. But I’ll try.
In metaphorical terms, Carrie Lindsey took a crude dirt trail and turned it into a paved highway. She was creative, motivated, and energetic, and she made things happen. She was a doer. She sowed seeds, and allowed things to grow that didn’t exist before. Publications. Writers needing a forum. Connections between people in the artistic community, people who would go on to forge friendships and collaborate on projects. The ripples from Carrie’s efforts extend far and wide. Playback St. Louis wouldn’t exist without her. Many bands would have smaller press kits or might have broken up sooner without her. I myself might have been just another frustrated former RFT staffer without her, and it’s arguable that I might not have even remained in St. Louis. As one local musician told me, it’s impossible to even state all the things that would be different now, all the lives that would have gone in different directions, had it not been for Carrie (and certainly Mike, as well). Such was the vast network of connections these two lifelong cultural insiders set up.
Carrie and I were born just days apart in October. I first met her over 20 years ago, when we both appeared at an informal planning meeting for a new publication called Reverb. Her enthusiasm for local coverage of art and music was obvious even then, and it was also contagious. We both were really into new wave music, and we occasionally turned up at the same clubs, recognizing each other enough to stop and chat. When Carrie launched the first version of NoisyPaper in 1982, I was intrigued and excited. I asked her if she’d be interested in a piece about Brian Eno, one of my musical heroes, who was pioneering a brand new genre of music called ambient (and was still considered a punk and new wave icon). I handed Carrie a piece of original artwork that a friend had drawn, and an article that took me many hours to write. She made the final layout look great, and it was one of the first feature articles I had published outside college. I proudly included it in my small but growing portfolio. There weren’t many issues of that early incarnation of NP, but each one was striking.
We lost touch in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but fate brought us together again when I was hired by The Riverfront Times in 1996. I didn’t know anyone else there, and so to see Carrie, a familiar face from the past, was immensely reassuring. We began a working relationship that would have a huge impact on my life. Carrie and I had tiny cubicles next to each other for several years. She was a graphic artist, and it was my job to proofread each and every one of the ads or other projects she designed. I would tease her about some of the funny mistakes she and the other artists made. Carrie would tease back, telling me I was too much of a detail person and that I shouldn’t worry about a little mistake here and there. Sometimes, when the mistakes inadvertently spelled out an obscenity, we would have a good laugh over it. The little “Proofreading Hall of Fame” I began as a joke to honor the most distinguished errors included several memorable pieces from Carrie.
The creative dynamic between us was soon to grow in significance. During our slower times at the RFT, Carrie and I would talk about music, photography, and independent publishing. We had both been involved on different levels with local magazines, and Carrie was itching to have a magazine of her own again. She had already been at the helm of a newsletter for The Pretenders, one of her favorite groups, and of course she’d enjoyed the experimental version of NoisyPaper she’d published before. But she had far more experience now, and was thinking of launching a new version of the magazine, one that would cover more of the music that the RFT was ignoring, and that would also pay attention to the art and photography that was close to her heart. She wanted something that would be visually striking, too. In the summer of 1999, we talked about the publication a great deal, and Carrie felt that fall would be a good time to launch it. Students would be in school, bands would be booking gigs, people would want something fresh to read as they sat in student lounges and outdoor cafes. Although there had been other notable alternative publications in the past, such as Jet Lag, Night Times, and Spotlight, none of those papers were still around. An opportunity was there to be seized. Carrie’s enthusiasm was boundless, and she was confident that the first issue or two could be paid for if we just lined up a few ads. She officially asked me if I wanted to be Managing Editor and really jump into this with her. Sharing her vision of an exciting alternative publication, I didn’t even have to think before saying yes. So we held meetings, recruited a few writers, and made lots of big plans. And in September 1999, the first issue of the brand-new NoisyPaper came out.
Those first few months were heady times for me, a period I’ll always remember fondly. It was mostly just Carrie and me, sitting at her house on Forest Avenue brainstorming, getting excited, making lists, laughing, and thinking up prospective advertisers. We were driven, and we had faith that we were onto something. Carrie was ready to put all her past design experience into our baby. She mentioned that her brother Bob was also on a newspaper and kept saying “publishing is in my blood.” The first issue of NP contained stories on the art of Kit Keith, the phenomenon of The Blair Witch Project, and a column by well-known local scribe Thomas Crone. Carrie put up some of the money to print the paper, and we managed to get a few ads. We were up and running.
There were many highlights of those early days, such as a wonderful get-together at a South County diner with a member of a well-known band who treated Carrie like a den mother—he was so grateful there was a new magazine in St. Louis showing a real interest in local music. In a corner of the diner, he played a couple of acoustic songs, live, just for the two of us, since we were thinking of putting him on the cover. Then there was the first meeting Carrie organized to interest other people in contributing to the magazine. A handful of prospective writers came, as well as a number of musicians from hip new bands such as Julia Sets and Children’s Audio, eager for the opportunity to at last have someone pay attention to their music. Ideas were thrown out, lists were made, and there were good vibes all around. NoisyPaper had great promise, and we were all happy to be part of it.
Carrie and I were interviewed on KDHX about the project. And we invited bands to start submitting CDs for review, quickly realizing the remarkable amount of local talent out there that was not being covered. Each time we picked up the bundles of papers from the printer, it was an exciting event. Carrie would look over the cover and the graphics, hoping that the photos were sharp and clear and that the layouts looked good. That was important to me, also, but my job was more to make sure errors were minimal, and that we had a variety of decent stories and reviews. We both wanted things to keep improving as we went along. That’s how it was in those early days…an innocent dream of doing our own magazine, driven by all the passion we’d acquired over the years.
As the paper began to grow, so did the workload. Getting more ads was a necessity, as the printing bill had to be paid every month. We recruited people to help with the distribution, and new writers would sporadically appear to make contributions. Bryan Hollerbach, Playback’s esteemed Contributing Editor, showed up at a meeting in December 1999 with a great interest in what we were doing, and a wealth of knowledge to share. I felt right away he was the type of person who could add an extra degree of professionalism and credibility to NoisyPaper, and so, with Carrie’s blessing, he joined the staff. So did Leo Weisman, an outstanding photographer, and curmudgeonly writer/force-of-nature Rob Levy. The publication was growing, along with our hopes.
By the end of its first year, NoisyPaper had become a demanding operation. We were trying to add more pages, and branch out into areas we hadn’t covered before, but the bills kept coming in, and the struggle to land advertisers was continuous. Carrie talked about taking out a loan. We even jokingly discussed having a NoisyPaper bake sale. That didn’t happen, but we did manage to organize a benefit concert at Mississippi Nights, at which many of the outstanding local performers who supported the magazine, such as Brandy Johnson, Julia Sets, and The Blastoids, donated their talent to help us out. It probably took care of at least one month’s printing bill.