If you grew up in the '70s and were interested in cool music, CREEM Magazine was where it was at. CIRCUS was fine, Hit Parader sucked, and if you blinked, you missed Rock Scene. Trouser Press was still just a gleam in Ira Robbins’ eye. Likewise, if The Eagles, Boston, or Journey were your platters du jour, then you just kept moving, right past that magazine aisle in the checkout line.
But if you were a CREEM devotee, snatching up each new issue (along with your latest LP for a cool 6 bucks!), you’ve been spoiled. Spoiled because at that raw, impressionable age, you had Lester Bangs, Bob Gruen, Lisa Robinson, Jaan Uhelszki and Cameron Crowe guiding your adolescence. You had Debbie Harry, Bebe Buell and Patti Smith providing your “CREEM Dreams.”
“Star’s Cars” and the “CREEM Profile” (oh my!...well, hello Grace Slick) were always good for a laugh and the “Backstage” photo section filled out that world of cool that seemed so…unattainable. Until, of course, the next month’s trip to the 7-11.
But most of all, CREEM magazine was about the music. Befitting its Motor City roots, CREEM was often the champion of the underdog, the blue-collar band who left nothing on the stage. Early champions of the MC5, Bob Seger, The J. Geils Band and Aerosmith, they also embraced glitter, glam and punk early on. Iggy and the Stooges seemed to pop up in every other issue, and rightfully so; if there were ever a band that reflected a magazine’s personality, it is the self-proclaimed “street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.”
The main problem, if any, with this compilation from the archives of “America’s ONLY Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine” is that it’s sure to skip over someone’s favorite piece. Thirty years down the road, I can remember not only the covers, but specific articles or gags — heck, almost magazines in their entirety.
What you do get — “Alice Cooper’s Alcohol Cookbook,” and “A Short Introduction to Androgyny” to name just two— is wickedly funny. The inside flaps offer up a very nice cover retrospective and gives you another reason to wish you were sixteen again. You also get plenty o’ vintage Iggy, Dolls, Aerosmith, Stones and Zep, mixed with some definitive Clash and Sex Pistols.
However, for my money, this collection has a bit too much late-80s stuff in here (Judas Priest? Really?). Maybe because, by that time, I was out on my own, experiencing some of these bands live rather than just reading about them, the baby bird who’d been kicked out of the CREEM nest.
In any case, I’m sure it was near impossible whittling down twenty years of genius, but that’s my only beef. Maybe they should provide yearly compilations, you know like yearbooks, for those of us who stupidly threw away these rags, and load ‘em up with EVERYTHING they did in those years. The good, the bad AND (maybe especially?) the ugly. Anyways, it’s a pretty minor criticism that there’s “not enough” greatness here…
MOJO’s onetime editor-in-chief Paul Trynka said it best, in his rundown in the book’s opening pages: “CREEM magazine was stripped down, no pretension, but plenty of attitude and urban lyricism and a wicked sense of humor. All of which makes up something that today’s bland, market-researched magazines so often lack — a soul.”
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