I blame my musical tastes on one event in my life - finding an issue of CREEM magazine in a grocery store magazine rack while I waiting for my mom to finish her shopping. It was the August 1978 issue with Bob Seger on the cover. I was 13 years old and, like Lou Reed sang, in love with rock 'n' roll.
I must have bought the magazine for the Paul McCartney story because I was still obsessed with bands like the Beatles and the Stones even though I was listening to a lot of new wave on the New York City radio stations - Patti Smith Group, Blondie, the Ramones, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Joe Jackson, Lena Lovich, Talking Heads, Tom Robinson Band, the Cars, and so on. Of course, there was new music from the Who, the Stones, the Kinks, and local boy done good, Bruce Springsteen to enjoy, too. (Did I mention I grew up on the Jersey Shore? And yes, I know where Bruce lives - very close to my old house - but I'm not sharing. Tough.)
It was because of CREEM that I learned about all the other bands I still listen to like Cheap Trick, the Clash, Elvis Costello, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Yes, I'm stuck in the '80s, but it's a great decade to be stuck in. After all, CREEM was a very good influence. The magazine opened my eyes and my ears to the latest trends in music and some magnificent rock 'n' roll writing by the likes of Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh and Dave DiMartino. It didn't matter that most of the dirty jokes and drug humor went over my head. (My mom asked me once if CREEM was a porn mag, LOL.) The writers and editors of CREEM magazine loved the bands I did. It was teenage rock 'n' roll heaven with the Clash and Joan Jet right in your face. Man, what a hoot!
So when I read that they were releasing a book called CREEM: America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine, I rushed to Border's to get it and immediately sat at the store for an hour thumbing through the coffee table sized book. The cool thing about CREEM: America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine is that there are articles from the years before I discovered CREEM on bands like the MC5 and the Stooges who influenced the punk bands I love.
The book also covers the Midwest origins of the magazine. Its rustbelt Detroit roots helped them sympathize with the UK punk bands, gave them a fresh perspective on the NYC scene, and helped them promote fellow Midwesterners such as Cheap Trick, Devo and Chrissy Hynde. They knew what kids in heartland America were dying to hear. And it also explains why the San Francisco-based hippy holdout Rolling Stone magazine became irrelevant to teens like me who loved punk and new wave.
My only disappointment was that they didn't reprint every article from 1978 onwards. That would have been a big book. Well, maybe they could leave all the KISS articles out. Nah, they were entertaining too, even though I wasn't into the band. Still I want to read the Springsteen interview where he gets drunk on two beers, so I hope they publish a volume two (and three and four.) Can't get me enough CREEM!
One of the funniest articles in CREEM: America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine is Dave DiMartino's "The Clash: Rash Clash Mash in Motor City Bash" from the December 1979 issue. Boy the Clash really were Bored with the U.S.A. - and Dave, the fans, touring and CREEM magazine. It's only funny because I remember another article a few years later when the Clash were fairly nice to the folks at CREEM. You could call it a love-hate thing. Or a bit of a pose for the press.
Still, the magazine always gave me the impression that Joe Strummer was a bit of a jerk. Nevertheless, I loved the band and their music, and was sad to hear that they were getting back together when Joe died of a congenital heart defect.
Wanting to learn more about the man behind the music, I picked up Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer by Chris Salewicz. If you're a fan of Joe or the Clash, get this book. If not, I'm not sure it'll be of interest. Even so, you'll want to read Matt Hanson's well written review at Flak Magazine:
Whatever one's image of Joe Strummer might be, it's probably accurate. He was indeed lonesome and charming and noble and arrogant and gentle and brilliant and kind...
...He decided early on to live for two, and it's very much to his credit that he did. He had the scars and the stories and the words of music to prove it. And now we have a weighty tome to bear witness to his ballad, which turns out really to have been about redemption after all.
Yes, rock 'n' roll has its serious side, too, no matter how irreverent CREEM was. R.I.P. Joe. We miss you.
Click here to read some other reviews from A Mama's Rant.
|Like this post? Subscribe to A Mama's Rant.|