The world of rock and roll has seen many amazing journeys, but few like Dawn Eden Goldstein’s. Using the pen name of Dawn Eden, Goldstein carved out a niche in the 1990s as a rock historian. As the concept of the deluxe CD reissue took hold, she contributed essential liner notes to albums by artists including Harry Nilsson, The Hollies, and The Seekers, and wrote for publications such as Billboard and The Village Voice. But Goldstein was a seeker herself. Born into a Jewish family, she found herself upon a spiritual odyssey that would take her first to Christianity and then, finally, to Catholicism. Her latest book, the conversion memoir Sunday Will Never Be the Same: A Rock and Roll Journalist Opens Her Ears to God (Catholic Answers Press), chronicles her journey of faith and music in often moving and even quirkily humorous fashion.
Sunday Will Never Be the Same, titled after Spanky and Our Gang’s ebullient 1967 sunshine pop hit and decorated with a wonderful cover by Steve Stanley of Now Sounds, is presented in diary style. In a clever touch, each chapter bears the name of a relevant pop song (“God Only Knows,” “Soul and Inspiration,” “Along Comes Mary,” etc.). The breezy, easily digestible format quickly draws the reader in, and Goldstein keeps interest high throughout. She displays enormous candor reflecting upon both the difficulties she has endured and overcome – sexual abuse, thoughts of suicide, a battle with depression, a rocky relationship with her parents – and the moments of pivotal discovery that occurred along the way.
Goldstein’s gifts as a memoirist are abundant. She vividly conjures the underground scene of Greenwich Village in the 1980s and 1990s, now seemingly lost forever to the new landscape of Starbucks and luxury condominiums. She deftly recalls her experiences attending New York University in a music business program as well as her extracurricular life as a budding rock journalist. Many of these recollections are universal, such as a beautiful passage in which she describes the thrill of seeing a favorite artist, Robyn Hitchcock, perform live. Naturally, there are period references a-plenty, whether to Tower Records, The Dive, The Ritz, or Maxwell’s across the river – not to mention nostalgia for the days when like-minded individuals bonded not over the internet but via fanzines. (And remember when you had to pay for a call to long-distance information?) Other now-shuttered haunts, like the louche music and video emporium Mondo Kim’s (where Goldstein was once employed), figure into some of her more unpleasant memories.
The search for connection is a key theme of the book. Goldstein made profound connections with the music of artists like the late Curt Boettcher; the arc of her relationship with the sunshine pop guru behind The Millennium, The Ballroom, and Sagittarius makes for truly affecting prose. Upon hearing the Boettcher production of The Millennium’s “It’s You,” she asks, “How is it possible for something to be so perfectly calculated and yet so authentically affecting? It was like the musical equivalent of those Impressionist paintings that look from a distance as though they are painted the usual ways, but when you get up close you find they are actually thousands of tiny dots.” Not only did she uncover the pointillism in Boettcher’s layered yet accessible works, but her quest to uncover the man behind the music actually gave her a reason to live at a difficult moment. Her descriptions of his music will leave you reaching for your CD player (or digital app) for a soundtrack as you read: “Curt’s impossibly pure voice, sounding every bit as angelic as that ethereal photo on his solo-album cover [1973’s There’s an Innocent Face] looks, asks the object of his affection if she – he? – will ever know how he feels,” Goldstein writes. “Again he is reaching out toward a love of seemingly cosmic dimensions. The sense of longing is so intense, I can hardly bear it.”
Goldstein’s longing to answer the questions of faith she faced in her life is palpable, as is her thrill and relief at her eventual spiritual discoveries. As for music fans, they will delight in her mentions of Judee Sill, Lou Christie, or Tommy Roe, and especially her warm, often unexpected, and altogether poignant encounters with rock royalty like Dave Davies, Del Shannon, and John Carter (the British songwriter of hits like “Little Bit O’ Soul,” “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” and “Beach Baby”). The latter two are particularly significant. Goldstein shared a tender and eye-opening moment with Shannon not long before his tragic death; as for Carter, she arranged for him to perform his first concert in New York, which led to one of the crucial appearances of the divine in her life.
The author is frank about her bumpy experience as a copy editor and headline writer at The New York Post as well as her embrace of political conservatism. Sunday details how Goldstein was inspired by St. Maximillian to pursue her interest in pro-life doctrine and ultimately immerse herself into the Catholic faith. While some hot-topic opinions expressed in these climactic chapters may not align with all readers’ views, Goldstein’s book is not a polemic. Late in Sunday, she describes the luck of snagging a seat close to the stage for a theological speech, much as she had earlier in her life for countless rock shows. There’s a sense of coming full circle as Goldstein found herself and her calling in Catholicism, learning from her past life and work rather than renouncing them.
Sunday Will Never Be the Same concludes in 2009 upon Goldstein’s acceptance of Mary. Over the last decade, Goldstein has become the first woman to earn a doctorate in sacred theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake, and today, she is currently an assistant professor of dogmatic theology in the online division of Holy Apostles Church and Seminary. She’s continued writing about Catholicism and its tenets, and has even occasionally returned to the liner notes fold, as with The Goldebriars’ 2014 collection Walkin’ Down the Line on Now Sounds.
“No longer can I walk these paths for they have changed,” Spanky McFarlane sang in “Sunday Will Never Be the Same.” Happily, Dawn Eden Goldstein has revisited her past paths in edifying style. Whether or not you’re a person of faith, Catholic or otherwise, interested in the author’s spiritual travels or you’re a music fan looking to learn more about a favorite writer (or both!), Sunday Will Never Be the Same is a colorful and compelling read.