Harlan Ellison was not a head. In his review of 2001: A Space Odyssey, set in Canter’s Deli at three in the morning, Ellison tells how Rob Reiner and Sal Mineo’s raptures over the movie nearly ruined his matzo ball soup. He subjected their enthusiasm to the full 10,000-watt glare of his withering scorn, disabusing the showfolk of their fond beliefs that 2001 told a story, or had a meaning—pure bullshit, he heard straight from “one of the men listed in the credits as having devised the bloody story” (Clarke?)—and returned to slurping his chicken broth.
And while he was impressed by Three Dog Night during the week he spent on the road with the band in 1970 (“the writer[...] cannot be bought but certainly can be rented”), Ellison preferred Bach and jazz to teenage rock and roll. If he cherished any hopes for youth culture, they were categorically different from the Beatles’; see his 1973 essay, “Why I Fantasize about Using an AK-47 on Teenagers.”
Now, if I had ever seen Harlan Ellison stalking the sidewalks of Los Angeles, I would have crossed the street, because I value my life. (If you think his belligerence was just an act, tell it to the ABC executive with the broken pelvis.) But somehow, despite the author’s well-documented hostility to people, places and things, the Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, an instrumental psych-rock group featuring ex-Monster Magnet guitarist Ed Mundell, coaxed these vocals out of Ellison for their self-titled 2013 album.
Here’s Harlan Ellison’s lone essay in heavy rock, “Unassigned Agent X-27.” I love the way he pronounces the “g” in “gnat,” and the way he never curbstomped me while he was alive.