Monday, December 03, 2007

Creem - America's Only R'n'R Magazine (hardcover book compilation)

When I was a kid stuck in a tiny town in Indiana, Creem magazine was my link to the r’n’r world.

This magazine turned me on to so many sounds that I might never have heard otherwise, considering that everyone around me was basically into current heavy metal (which, I admit, I still dig) or maybe oddities like Frank Zappa. Finding someone who had even heard of the Velvet Underground, the MC5 or the Stooges was pretty much unthinkable, much less finding someone else who dug these kinds of sounds.

So, a zine that championed these bands and turned me on to innumerable others, was cherished as a r’n’r grail. Hell, this rag even had many of the rockers actually writing for them! And the rest of the critics had such a hilarious sense of inappropriate, irreverent humor that it was a joy to read.

I still have many of my old Creems buried in storage, but when I saw this collection, with articles from its inception on, I had to have it! There’s plenty of typos (even though the intro makes a point of saying how they supposedly fixed these) and none of my fave section – the letters to the editor and the replies – but more than enough for any r’n’r fan.

The MC5 figured prominently in the mythos of Creem as the hometown heroes and the band voted “most likely to succeed” and it only makes sense that the first article in this compilation is about these cats. The zine was never ashamed of their roots or their city. In fact, the next several articles in this book are on the locals – the “Paul is dead” rumor that started (or at least gained its momentum) on a Detroit radio station, GFRR, an overview of the Michigan scene extolling the virtues of the locals groups, a Mitch Ryder tour, Iggy and the Stooges and on and on. This made you proud to be part of the mid-west instead of one of the coasts.

But the focus wasn’t solely on the regional happenings – real, high-energy r’n’r was hailed no matter where it came from – Creem was one of the first to rave on the J. Geils Band, the New York Dolls, Alice Cooper, Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, Screaming Jay Hawkins, etc etc! Even the writers were celebs in this world – Lester Bangs has his famous “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung” reprinted and Patti Smith’s last article for the mag is here, as well. Even Charles Bukowski does an article on the Stones – long before I knew who he was – and if you were hip to him in ’75, then you’ve impressed me! (Aren’t you thrilled?)

The punk years are represented, but actually come off fairly badly. The Ramones, of course, are heralded as the r’n’r saviors that they were, but the Sex Pistols interview is somewhat pathetic. Rotten just winds up Vicious the entire time, who proves himself to be the brainless jackass that we all knew he was. The interviewer actually is intimidated by their nonsense, and it’s kinda sad that he would fall for it. The Dead Boys really try too hard and while the Clash don’t act like morons, they are kinda dicks for no apparent reason.

I stopped reading the magazine in the 80’s and it seems like a good thing that I did. It’s not all bad, but cover articles on drek like John Cougar, David Lee Roth, Duran Duran and the Beastie Boys, fer chrissakes, do nothing to dissuade me that I was right to pass on the mag by then.

I understand that they would want to cover the entirety of their career - the boring as well as the wild - so I'm not surprised that the late crap is included. The early stuff is so fantastic to re-read (or in the case of some of the original issues - to read for the first time) that I can't complain about the later filler!
As I said, typos are everywhere, but that was par for the course for this zine even in its heyday. That and the 80’s stories are minor quibbles though - there are tons of great pix and some of the best r'n'r writing and humor you've ever read so pick this up!