For decades, music writers at the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post were locked in a fierce war to snag the only interview with Bono or Mick Jagger whenever U2 or the Rolling Stones came to town. Two of the most memorable rivals were Mark Brown of the News, who came to Denver from the Orange County Register in 1999, and G. Brown, who covered music for the Post from the ’70s through 2003. G., who started as a teenaged, Cameron Crowe-like reporter, scoring future-star interviews by hanging out at the historic Boulder venue, Tulagi, had the deeper connections. But Mark, who left the News when it closed in 2009 and is now a Brighton middle-school teacher, frequently drew blood.
The (unrelated) Browns worked together for the first time on the Colorado Music Hall of Fame’s August 13 induction of famed Nederland recording studio Caribou Ranch—G., 63, is the hall’s chief curator, and Mark, 58, provided extensive research from his previous Caribou coverage. Here, they talk to 5280 about their past rivalry:
You’re both well-known, Colorado-based music writers. Would you consider your relationship a rivalry?
Mark Brown: It wasn’t so much a rivalry as it was more of a hostage situation. I did hard news back in the day and then I moved to California, worked on music there, then came back here to work at the Rocky without any of the connections, contacts, and depth of knowledge that G. had covering Denver concerts for decades. So yeah, he got the lead singer, I got the drummer’s roadie.
G. Brown: I never subscribed to the newspaper-war model, at least as far as our beat went.
Mark: When there were scoops, there were big ones. My first day, G. had the Sunday story in the Denver Post about Fiddler’s Green scalping their own tickets to the Backstreet Boys. Kicked my ass. I called him that morning and said, ‘Dude, you just killed me. Thanks for a great first week.’
G., in all your time writing for the Post, did what the News was doing concern you?
G.: Well, I worried about the competition. If a band was only going to do one interview, yeah, I was going to move the needle there. But I didn’t get into it to be a newspaper weasel. I got into it to do a good job of covering that beat.
Mark: I came from the newspaper-weasel world! I was more competitive. First thing I did every morning was open the Post and make sure there was nothing I’d have to explain to my bosses.
Mark, did you ever beat G. on anything?
Mark: One time I had a Bob Dylan “interview” that the Post didn’t have. Obviously, [Dylan] doesn’t talk to the likes of us. One of his crew was someone I knew from the music business, so he agreed, every day that Dylan came off stage, he would ask him one of my questions. So I supplied him with like 15 questions and every day he would call me after the show with the exact response Dylan gave to the question. So over the course of several weeks, I put together a Dylan interview.
G., do you remember that?
G.: [pauses to think, then laughs]: Sorry! I never looked at ‘how did he get that?’ Whatever he had to do. He knew someone I didn’t.
Mark: The problem is G. knew everyone I didn’t.
G.: You win some, you lose some.
What about filing overnight concert reviews? You sat next to each other, right? Was that awkward?
Mark: Yeah, press seats would usually be together.
G.: [sarcastically] I shunned him, absolutely. It was hard to watch the show with my back turned to Mark.
G., you downplay the newspaper-war rivalry, but Mark, you paid attention to it, right?
Mark: Oh, yeah. I mean, they were breathing down my neck every day. It was relentless. I literally did get up every morning and grab the Post or look at the Post online and see if I was being given a good day or not.
G.: That makes me feel bad. Head down—that was always my deal. At the end, rock ‘n’ roll. We’re not talking about government secrets here.
But your editors treated it that way, didn’t they?
Mark: Yeah. Mine did.
Steve Knopper is a Denver-based Rolling Stone contributing editor who did his part for the local newspaper rock-writer wars as the Boulder Daily Camera‘s music critic from 1991 to 1994.