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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – December 1981 (Volume 13, Number 7) 

Seventeen years after making an international splash as a proto-punk band, Ray Davies had retooled the Kinks into a modern AOR act and was rewarded by being the cover subject of the December 1981 issue of Creem. Davies was flanked on the cover with pics of Pat Benatar, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, and Ron Wood and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. Bill Holdship conducted a superlative interview with Ray Davies that included Ray going deep into the writing and recording of “You Really Got Me,” the Kinks struggles as a touring act in the late 1960s (“we were totally floored by the new technology all around us”), and thoughts on material from the “Give the People What They Want” album. A must read.  

In “The Beat Goes On,” Iman Lababedi interviewed the Cure who were still a small cult act, just getting major label status. Robert Smith, “Lots and lots of bands play happy songs, and we listen to them, but there’s nothing there for us.” Killing Joke, another new band that would record and tour for decades, also had a “BGO” piece. Author John Neilson described their music as “putting on in place of punching out walls or hitting yourself repeatedly over the head with a two-by-four.”  

Nick Tosches penned an appreciation for the smile and dance inducing Louis Prima in his “Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll” column. Tosches, “(Prima) mastered a singing style the likes of which the world had never heard. It was, like the music itself, jazz-influenced, yet it struck one’s ears as decidedly strange. He sang in English, granted; but it was an English heavily laced with the Neapolitan slang of his greaseball roots. When all else failed, he simply commenced making odd sounds.”  

Grace Slick appeared as “The Creem Dreem,” showing off a bare foot instead of a bazonga.

 

Features:  

“John Entwistle’s Alright, Or So He Claims,” by Iman Lababedi  

“Do Greenheads Have More Fun? Debbie & Chris Go Koo Koo Chic!,” by Chris Saleswicz  

“Stone City Burns While Rick James & All His Women Laugh,” by Dave Dimartino  

“An Art Lover Gives the People What They…Need! Ray Davies Unravels the Kinks,” by Bill Holdship  

Iman Lababedi interviewed John Entwistle on the pretext of discussing his latest solo album. Thankfully, the interview was primarily about the Who instead. Entwistle noted that the Who had stopped touring at one point, because Keith Moon was in no condition to be on the road. I may have noted this before, but one gets the sense that the Who were just as much relieved as they were saddened by Moon’s passing.  

Speaking of solo album, Debbie Harry was doing the interview circuit to push “KooKoo,” an album produced by Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers. Harry noted how raw her vocals were produced compared to Blondie albums, discussed acting projects, and seemed very astute about the record business.  

Rick James was a fantastic interview subject, talking about trying to “make Paul McCartney white boy money,” bragging about his concert attendance records, his enjoyment of marijuana, how cheap it would be to front a rock band as compared to his stage show, etc. He was probably a pretty fun guy if he wasn’t kidnapping you.  

Quotable Quotes:    

Robert Christgau on the Funkadelic album, “The Electric Spanking of War Babies,” “His embattled empire/utopia in pieces around if not against him, George Clinton reaches into the disgusting depths of his drug-addled mind and comes up with the weirdest chunk of P-Funk since one nation gathered under a groove.”  

John Entwistle, “The Who were very arrogant when they started; we’d go around telling everybody and each other that we were the greatest, we truly believed it, still do believe it.”  

John Entwistle, “With the Who, about 80% of the music we play on stage we don’t enjoy playing.”  

Debbie Harry, “I’ve been coloring my hair since I was 13. Not just blonde – EVERY color: purple, green, yellow, red, orange, blue, pink. I started doing it in 1959.”  

Harry, “The importance of the visual side of what we do is an automatic assumption on my part. I’ve always noticed that the best groups were always visual groups.”  

Harry, “If you are going to enter the commercial music business, then there’s no point in not trying to be successful.”  

Rick James, “Punk funk. We created the name, because I always thought if we were real successful, and really made a dent in the music world, we’d do it before Joe Blow titled us…We just decided to label the music so that when it goes down in the history books, they’ll say Punk Funk was Rick James.”

 

Rick James, “I do the same ol’ shit in the same ol’ ghetto, nothing changes in my life…Other than I’m a MULTI-MILLIONAIRE.”  

Rick James, “I smoke a joint onstage because I want to get HIGH at that particular time. Ni**ers ain’t never been able to do that, but I do it.”  

Bill Holdship, “If rock is indeed a serious art form, then Ray Davies has given the world some of its most wonderful works.”  

Ray Davies on Jimmy Page, “I think he’s an asshole.”  

Robert Hull on the Raincoats, “Their music is so uncompromising that, if they weren’t women, the press would be squawking about the next Sex Pistols.”  

Summary:  Creem ended 1981 on a high note with their best issue of the year. I would include the articles on Rick James and the Kinks in any Creem anthology.  

Grade: A+  

Latest price on eBay: $14.99 to “Buy It Now.”  

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