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So you want to be a rock 'n' roll snob?

It began innocently enough.

As friends will, David Kamp and Steven Daly would occasionally have lunch together. Over lunch, they would discuss favorite topics -- or, rather, one favorite topic -- rock music.

Kamp, 38, started with rock on AM radio in ''bland New Jersey," as he puts it, happily subjecting himself to songs like Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' ''Billy, Don't Be a Hero."

Daly, 44, was born in Scotland. As a teenager, he played drums with a highly regarded band, Orange Juice, which Kamp describes roughly as a United Kingdom equivalent to the Pixies.

Like most every rock fan, Kamp and Daly thought highly of their musical opinions. Unlike most rock fans, they were both contributing editors at Vanity Fair. Soon enough, like Sam Phillips hearing Elvis or Madonna realizing she didn't need a last name, they had their epiphany: Why spout off for free when they could get paid for it?

The result is ''The Rock Snob*s Dictionary," which aims to separate the saved from the damned (or the Damned, as the case might be), enlightening those who think ''Rickenbacker" refers only to a World War I ace or that ''Eno" is a typo for ''emo" (or vice versa).

Kamp and Daly discussed the book in a conference call.

''It's a very simple idea," says Kamp. ''Just put some things in boldface and define them: these terms that make up this code you can't quite crack when you're reading rock magazines or discussing music with people in your dormitory."

The dictionary originated as a feature in Vanity Fair. Although the magazine can be seen as a monument to several kinds of snobbery, it had not previously been home to any kind you could dance to.

Of course, even if rock snobbery doesn't date back to the court of Louis XIV (or even Louis Prima), it does have a fairly well-developed cultural pedigree. Think of Daniel Stern berating Ellen Barkin in ''Diner" for misfiling his 45s, or the relentless list-making of Rob, the hero in Nick Hornby's novel ''High Fidelity."

Not that rock snobbery is without pop cultural cousins. There are folk snobs and jazz snobs and movie snobs (Kamp, in fact, is at work on a ''Film Snob*s Dictionary") and even, heaven help us, show-tune snobs. What is it that sets apart rock snobs from their brethren?

''I would say that, unlike the others, the particular condition of rock snobbery is probably a lack of sexual intercourse," Daly deadpans.

Kamp offers a more sociological explanation.

''Think of when a person becomes interested in rock music: the teen-into-college years," he says. ''Politically, that's when you're going to change the world. It's also when you have your most strongly held taste convictions. So you take everything very seriously, you're very territorial. You really think these bands are the most important bands. At the same time, you don't want them to be too well known, because then they wouldn't be yours anymore -- they'd be sellouts. So there's this whole proprietary quality to rock snobbery that isn't there even with film snobbery. To me, actually, film snobs are more insufferable. But rock snobs are the most, 'This is my turf, keep off!' "

Kamp and Daly not only expect but welcome carping from fellow rock snobs over omissions, errors, and lapses in taste. On their website,, they include a Nitpicker's Corner for their critics.

While ''Dictionary" is meant to be humorous, Kamp and Daly note that at least three-quarters of the entries are for performers they like -- although they point out they don't necessarily agree on the three-quarters.

They also emphasize that in mocking rock snobbery they're also mocking themselves.

''It's a bittersweet symphony," Daly says with a sigh. ''Whether it's ourselves or people we know, we end up targeting dearly held icons -- albeit minor icons."

He cites as an example of rock snob excess the Rhino Handmade box set of the Stooges' album ''Fun House."

''It's just this incontinent mess of an album," Daly says. ''And Rhino Handmade put out a seven-disc set based on the entire sessions. Every take, every bit of studio talkback, every little fart, and sold it for $100."

He takes a deep breath.

''The really pathetic thing is, personally, I considered buying it."

Mark Feeney can be reached at

Desert island snobbery

It's the classic rock fan question: Which 10 discs would you take to a desert island? David Kamp and Steven Daly, coauthors of ''The Rock Snob*s Dictionary," offer their desert island picks, with a twist: Five are what they'd really take, five are titles acceptable to rock snobs.

Steven Daly's list

Young Americans," David Bowie
''Nils Lofgren," Nils Lofgren
''The Harder They Come" soundtrack'
'The Hissing of Summer Lawns," Joni Mitchell
''There's No Place Like America Today," Curtis Mayfield

''Lonely Planet Boy," Jobriath (Rhino Handmade edition; liner notes by Morrissey)
''Like Flies on Sherbet," Alex Chilton
''Arkology," Lee Scratch Perry
''Not the Tremblin' Kind," Laura Cantrell
''Inspiration Information," Shuggie Otis

David Kamp's list

''Revolver," the Beatles
''Imperial Bedroom," Elvis Costello & the Attractions
''Unearthed," Johnny Cash (a bit of a cheat, since it's a five-CD set)
''English Settlement," XTC
''Warehouse: Songs & Stories," Husker Du

''Grievous Angel," Gram Parsons
''Brian Jones Presents: The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka," the Master Musicians of Jajouka''
The Bells," Lou Reed (you have to pick one from his wilderness period)
''Pacific Ocean Blue," Dennis Wilson
''Young Loud & Snotty," the Dead Boys

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