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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – April 1978 (Volume 9, Number 11) 

There is a common myth that the quality of Creem magazine began to suffer after the exits of Dave Marsh and Lester Bangs. Sadly, that myth was reinforced by the 2019 documentary on the magazine, which acted as though the magazine died after Lester Bangs went to New York. The reality does not bear that out. What is true is that popular culture evolves rapidly. A music act could be the hottest item in the business one day and practically irrelevant eighteen months later. If consumers preferred a certain era of Creem because it dovetailed with their interests in a particular phase of rock music, that’s understandable. However, the quality of the overall writing and presentation did not decline when star writers left. In fact, we are very much in a post Bangs world now and we have our first A+ edition of the magazine.  Read all about it!

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After years of having rather predictable cover acts (the Stones, Who, Led Zep, Rod Stewart, etc.), Creem plunged into punk rock with Johnny Rotten on the cover of the April 1978 issue.  Patrick Goldstein’s cover story on the Sex Pistols is time capsule gold, covering a show at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa and noting the mainstream horror they created (“ignorant reporters and TV camera crews heralded their arrival with the morbid fanfare you’d normally associate with the capture of a Nazi war criminal”).  

The entire piece is fascinating, with Sid trying to intimidate Patrick Goldstein and there’s this exchange, which is chilling in retrospect:  

“Vicious glared at me and launched another attack on the rock aristocracy. ‘Keith Richard, big fucking deal,’ he sneered. ‘Nothing but a pathetic junkie who goes to get his fucking blood changed. He oughta change his bloody face. I’d do it for him!’ 

“Ooohhh, junkies,’ Johnny (Rotten) chimed in, mocking Vicious’ tone of voice. ‘Don’t say JUNKIE,’ Vicious complained. Johnny giggled, ‘I’ll say what I fucking well please.’ 

Vicious kicked his chair. ‘Just don’t go round screaming junkie.’ Rotten glared back, winking at me, ‘Junkie! Junkie! Junkie!’ he chanted.” 

            The group had disbanded at the time the issue was published. Rotten mused in a side-bar about his future, “What I’m interested in is something that’s anti-music of any kind. I’m tired of melody.” 

Features: 

“Wet Willie: Slicks from Dixie,” by Patrick Goldstein 

“Queen’s Royal Flush, Roger Taylor: We Will Trump You!,” by Penny Valentine 

“Eric Clapton: Return of the Reluctant Hero,” by John Pidgeon 

“Nashville Babylon, Loud Covenants II: The Parter of Seas and Lips,” by Nick Tosches 

Patrick Goldstein explored the influence of Southern spiritual music on Wet Willie, as well as giving a brief history of the band in a fine, short feature. Roger Taylor seemed like a good bloke in his interview with Penny Valentine, discussing both the business and musical aspects of Queen. Knowing who the star of the band was, he referenced Freddie Mercury repeatedly throughout the interview.  

The Nick Tosches feature on Elvis is an except from his book “Country: The Biggest Music in America.” The piece is centered around Elvis’s pre-Army, rockabilly days and, as one would expect from Nick Tosches, is entertaining and illuminating.  

Quotable Quotes:   

Patrick Goldstein, “Sometimes it seemed like Sid (Vicious) spent more time wiping blood off his face than he did playing bass.” 

Goldstein, “The Sex Pistols came to America like rats scurrying off a sinking ship. Borne on an ill, howling wind, they carried a deadly plague of anger and alienation that ravaged the smug, self-serving and decadent clones who robbed rock ‘n’ roll of its passion and rebellion. The Pistols unfurled rock’s true colors. They broke down the red door and painted it black. Their demise may prompt reactionary critics to claim that the old door still stands. It doesn’t. The punks have left it in splinters.” 

Johnny Rotten, “It’s different here in the States. They treat us like a circus act.” 

Pat Boone, “Some rock performances are so hellish I would not consider them to be entertainment. Many people are embarrassed by what they see on stage.” 

Robin Zander, after being named “World’s Sexiest Man” by a New Jersey Woman’s Club, “You know how Americans are: when it comes to sex, men can’t keep from lying and women can’t keep from telling the truth.” 

Simon Frith on Paul McCartney, “McCartney is working quietly and efficiently at being the People’s Beatle…clean, decent, charming, melodic; every mother’s son, every uncle’s nephew, every TV producer’s guest star. Nothing at all like Sid Vicious.” 

Roger Taylor of Queen, “There are people who come along and heighten the level of popular music – Dylan, John Lennon, Hendrix – and it would be great if eventually we could do something that important.” 

Nick Tosches, “Rockabilly was the face of Dionysos, full of febrile sexuality and senselessness; it flushed the skin of new housewives and made pink teenage boys reinvent themselves as flaming creatures.” 

Summary:  Not even an Eric Clapton feature could mar this issue. When I read the Sex Pistols story, it feels like I am in the middle of a movie. It’s the best piece I’ve ever read on the band. 

Grade: A+ 

Latest price on eBay: $19.99 to “Buy It Now.”  

1 Comment

  1. Susan Whitall on September 18, 2022 at 10:34 am

    Thank you Steve– I can’t let this go without mentioning that April ’78 was put together by three women editors, something that never happened at another rock mag I’m aware of… At that time I was editor, with Linda Barber and Cathy Gisi as my able associates. Assigning, editing, cutlines, Creem Dreem, etc. So much for it being a “lad’s mag.”

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