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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – April 1981 (Volume 12, Number 11) 

The April 1981 issue of Creem documents one of the most important events in the history of the magazine, the death of publisher Barry Kramer. Kramer died of a drug overdose a few months after his divorce from Connie Kramer was finalized. He was eulogized by Dave Marsh. It was Kramer who gave Marsh his entry into the world of music journalism and Marsh noted that “there could have never been a magazine with so much guts, ambition and pure spirit without Barry Kramer fostering it.” Barry Kramer had the vision for a national publication based in Detroit and he assembled the first generation of Creem journalists (Marsh, Lester Bangs, Ed Ward, John Morthland) who turned his dream into a reality. Perhaps reflecting Kramer’s somewhat contrarian personality, he left ownership of the magazine to his son J.J. Kramer, who was only four years old at the time. Since J.J. was a minor, Connie Kramer served as the publisher of the magazine for the next several years. Due to the continuity of the editorial staff, there was no significant change in the direction of the magazine (type of acts covered, tone, art direction, etc.) after Barry Kramer’s death. 

With the success of the “Zenyatta Mondatta” album, the Police graduated from feature act to cover material. The cover photo, with the band appearing grim and tight lipped in a police interrogation lineup, reflects that Sting still had one iota of a sense of humor in 1981. Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers gave articulate, lengthy answers to each question, striking the right balance between taking their music seriously, but not sounding pretentious about their success. (I should note at this time that Sting was not a part of the interview). 

Future editor Bill Holdship made his Creem debut in this issue, writing a piece in “The Beat Goes On” about Eddie and the Hot Rods, a band who had peaked in 1977 with the U.K. hit “Do Anything You Wanna Do.” 

From the “Mail” section, “Dear Bruce Springsteen, My name is Mary. I’m seventeen. MAKE ME PREGNANT! PLEAAAASSSEEEE!” 

Features: 

“Suicide: Hot Footing Through Edge City,” by Toby Goldstein 

“This is Pop? Split Enz’ Ab-Original Artificats,” by Toby Goldstein 

“Love Through the Ages (Of Prophets, Seers, and Sages): Arthur Lee’s Legend Lingers,” by Dave DiMartino 

“Interrogating the Police,” by John Kordosh 

“Steve Winwood Keeps on Running: The Diver Comes Up for Air,” by Jim Farber 

“Rolling Armageddon Or: The Son of Stiff Tour Breaks Their Colonial Leg,” by Mark Norton 

“Diary of a Spiritual Housewife: Grace Slick’s Altered States,” by Rob Patterson 

Toby Goldstein’s feature on Suicide included thoughts from producer Ric Ocasek (“I saw ‘em, and I was scared”) and the generally hostile reaction the band provoked. One person who investigated beyond the noise was Bruce Springsteen who covered “Dream Baby Dream” in 2008.  

Toby Goldstein did double duty, also interviewing Split Enz, who were comfortable in some remarkably tacky outfits during this era. Split Enz seemed to have had enough international success that a U.S. breakthrough would have felt more like a perk than a necessity.  

Dave DiMartino did a deep dive into the Arthur Lee/Love catalogue and interviewed the great man himself, who seemed not terribly scarred by the record business (“Of course I’ve been fucked, everybody IN music’s been fucked”), or life itself, considering the prison time he did. When asked about his long term plans, Lee’s response was, “You mean other than being the KING OF ROCK?” 

Jim Farber interviewed Steve Winwood about the making of the “Arc of a Diver” album, an album where Winwood was the sole musician (“I now think doing everything myself was a bit stupid”). Farber also did a deep dive on the career of Traffic, a group that Winwood called “one big band of mistakes.” Winwood was 32 at the time of the interview, still looked boyish, and had lived several lifetimes worth of experiences in the music industry.  

Grace Slick was, of course, funny and candid in a short interview with Rob Patterson (“I just wanted to make some simple music and fuck off”).  

Quotable Quotes:   

Wendy O. Williams, “Nobody arrests a man if HE takes off HIS shirt!” 

Dave Higgs of Eddie and the Hot Rods, “As long as we can get pissed every night, have a place to play and a place to sleep, that’s all that matters.” 

Alan Vega of Suicide, “We’ve been known to empty places out of a couple of hundred people in a few minutes.” 

Tim Finn, “We’ve done enough gigs in Australia that we can come into a place like New York and not get too worried about it.” 

Arthur Lee, “I was so far ahead of my time, I just had to take a long nap and let everyone catch up.” 

John Kordosh, “The Police told me enough to get a good start on my book ‘Police, Please Me.’” 

Stewart Copeland, “We are the first to emphasize the fact that we are not true reggae musicians.” 

Steve Winwood, “In 1977 there was the punk thing. It was satire.” 

Penny Valentine, “I’d rather have Clash making some kind of intervention through rock ‘n’ roll about the state of the nation than nothing. And they do it better than most.” 

Grace Slick, “I’m not a real ‘Baby come back to me, I can’t make it without you singer.’ If somebody wants to go away, you don’t drag them back by the leg.” 

Richard C. Walls on Grover Washington Jr., “Superior mood music, if you can abide that sort of thing.” 

Summary: Another well balanced issue with classic rock staples (Steve Winwood, Grace Slick), relatively new acts (Split Enz, the Police), and a guest spot with cult legend Arthur Lee. 

Grade: A- 

Latest price on eBay: $10.90 or “Best Offer.” 

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