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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – February 1985 (Volume 16, Number 9)

Creem went back to the world of mainstream hair metal with its February 1985 cover, featuring “Ratt vs Motley Crue!” in the “Battle of the Bulge!” Consistent with the magazine’s goal of sticking as many acts as possible on the cover during this timeframe, John Waite, Gene Simmons without makeup (yikes!), and Elvis Costello had smaller inset pics. They had to be thrilled to be seen as less significant than Nikki Sixx and Stephen Pearce. Rick Johnson took on the question, “Who is the Greatest Band in the Complete History of the Entire Universe?” in his “Ratt vs. Motley Crue!” piece. His decision at the end of the piece, “Who’s the greatest heavy metal rock ‘n’ roll band on the face of the planet? W.A.S.P., of course. What a stupid question.” See more in this piece in Quotable Quotes.

This issue also marked Rick Johnson’s departure from working on the editorial staff. Johnson’s deliciously warped sense of humor had been a defining characteristic of Creem after the departure of Lester Bangs. When Susan Whitall was editor and Rick was freelancing, Rick was given the latitude to write about a broad range of subjects, from guitar heroes to junk food to Richard Simmons. Perhaps due to the nature of being on the staff or due to management decisions, Rick wrote less pieces for the magazine after his move to Detroit. He also penned some of his least inspired articles during this timeframe (such as “Who Needs the Beatles?” and “Duets from Hell”).  Johnson would continue to contribute to the magazine, but he would no longer be one of Creem’s most significant voices. 

Proving that California rockers weren’t all about peace and love, “Rock ‘n’ Roll News” reported that Paul Kanter was suing Jefferson Starship for $200,000 consisting of “outstanding loans, recording contract monies and tour earnings.” 


“John Waite, for Me,” by John Kordosh 

“Phantom Squeezing with the Fixx,” by Laura Fissinger 

“Ratt vs. Motley Crue!,” by Rick Johnson 

“Lindsey Buckingham: Goes Like Bonkers, Man – A Real Head-Trip,” by L.E. Agnelli 

“Elvis Costello’s Cruel World Blues,” by Lisa Traxler 

“Give Us a KISS!,” by Sylvie Simmons 

John Kordosh was really polite in his story on John Waite, considering how much of a drama queen the former Baby seemed to be. 

The lengthy Laura Fissinger piece on the Fixx is primarily about what an introverted interview subject Jamie West-Oram was. His best quote, “I’m not doing well, am I?” 

Lindsey Buckingham was enjoying Top 40 success in 1984 with his single/album title cut “Go Insane.” Buckingham discussed his career prior to Fleetwood Mac, his work as an arranger on Fleetwood Mac material, and his enjoyment of production in his interview with Lauren Agnelli. Agnelli, “For the most part, Lindsey thought a lot of my questions ‘unbelievable.’ Oh, gee, thanks, dude! You see, he wanted to rap SERIOUS, about the creative process and Art, and I wanted to keep it LIGHT. This tug-of-war, and his sense of humor, made his first (?!) CREEM interview an unforgettable experience, I’m sure.” 

Elvis Costello was always a good interview and in this piece he discussed recording the “Almost Blue” album (“I think it was a very punk thing to do”), “Imperial Bedroom” (“There are a lot of little nuances in there which are almost lost but for Geoff Emerick’s remarkable job in the mixing of it”), and his latest product (“I’m really proud of ‘The Only Flame in Town’ as a record. I want to occasionally make pop records like that”). 

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons still seemed to think that KISS was the biggest band in the world in 1984, which is probably a good way to live as a rock star. Stanley, “We don’t write about the birds and the bees. We write about FUCKING! We don’t sing about the state of the world, because we ARE the world.” (I wonder if they were also the children).  

Quotable Quotes:   

Rick Johnson, “You know how, when there’s been a horrible sex murder, the cops round up all known sex offenders and grill ‘em? Ratt sends these same people backstage passes.” 

Johnson, “(Stephen) Pearcy wears enough crap around his eyes to frighten a raccoon.” 

Johnson, “Vince Neil’s got the cheap whine of Geddy Lee, the pig-squeal tootery of Freddie Mercury and the sloppy seamanship of whoever’s Black Sabbath’s vocalist this month.” 

Richard Riegel, “My hyperbolic rockcrit instincts have told me for years that Lou Christie is the TRUE Missing Link between ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll and ‘70s-and-beyond modern rock. Working out of the same Italian-pretty-boy pop tradition that coughed up such nullities as Frankie Avalon, Christie nevertheless invented schizo-rock (‘Two Faces Have I’), delved into Catholic-bred Guilt & Lust at a time when the 10-year-old Declan McManus still suffered agonies over touching his Little Elvis, and projected bisexual appeal when Bowie was still Jones.” 

John Kordosh on John Waite, “He had appeared on ABC’s ‘Paper Dolls’ in the role of a hot new star all the kids were talking about. On the show he was called ‘John Waite’ and got to sing onstage, kiss girls and get ‘interviewed by CREEM magazine.’ What a weird plot. Somehow or another, the producers must’ve ignored Robert Redford’s letters because he didn’t play me.” 

John Waite, “When I don’t play music, I’m no longer John Waite. So to keep John Waite alive – whatever that is – I’ve focused myself through music. If I didn’t have music, I really would be a juvenile delinquent – I would be in jail right now.” (Author’s note – I’m not sure how a 32 year-old-man could be a juvenile delinquent, but the 1980s were a confusing time). 

Lindsey Buckingham on why he and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, “We were broke, and we were starving, and we needed money, basically.” 

Buckingham, “You wouldn’t want me to just have a regular Beverly Hills hairstyle – that would be BORING.” 

Elvis Costello, “I’ve never written ‘it’s a wonderful day today, I want to be in Margaritaville.’” 

John Mendelssohn on Billy Squier’s “Rock Me Tonight” video, “He appears not only to have no sense of rhythm,  but no SPINE!” 

Gene Simmons, “We took a lot from the British groups – Zeppelin, Yardbirds – and those were our influences. Anybody who says he’s absolutely original is somebody who’s forgotten to wipe his ass.” 

Paul Stanley regarding the makeup, “After 10 years you want to be able to part your hair on the other side if you want to. You don’t want to be a prisoner of something.” 

Richard C. Walls, “You gotta hand it to Boy George – he bugs all the right people. Reactionaries of every stripe, be they homophobic punks, born again Republicans, or heavy metal fans, insist on being uncool about Boy’s crafty, calculated image games.” 

Summary: Gene Simmons and Elvis Costello were not only both entertaining interview subjects, but they also share the same birthday! By the way, qualities typically associated with the Virgo Zodiac sign include precision, a desire to be of service, and a sense of duty. Feel free to hire those gents out to rotate your tires or organize a parade. 

Grade: B+ 

Latest price on eBay: $5.00 to “Buy It Now.” 

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