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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – February 1986 (Volume 17, Number 6)

After a three-month absence, Creem returned in February of 1986 under the management of new publisher Arnold Levitt. There was no change in the editorial staff (Editor – Dave DiMartino; Senior Editor – Bill Holdship; Associate Editor – John Kordosh; and Editorial Assistant – Joanne Carnegie). The magazine remained based in Detroit for the next 18 months. The newsstand price inched up from $1.95 to $2.25 and this era of Creem kicked off with John Cougar Mellencamp on the cover.

Mellencamp had evolved from rube rocker to heartland spokesperson with his highly regarded “Scarecrow” album. In a wide ranging interview with Bill Holdship, Mellencamp discussed the 1960’s garage rock influences on “Scarecrow,” his involvement in Farm Aid, and the move toward an automated society that was leaving many working class families behind. In a sense, Mellencamp was trying to inject some 60’s based idealism into the Reagan era and you have to give him credit for trying.

The death of B-52’s guitarist Ricky Wilson was reported in “Rock ‘n’ Roll News,” which featured a new splashy design with geometric figures filled with pink, yellow, and green backgrounds. Also, the inaugural class of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fame was announced with inductees Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Chuck Berry.

Features:

“We’ll Meat Again: Doing it Smiths-Style,” by Dave DiMartino
“John Cougar Mellencamp: Working Class Hero in the Rumbleseat,” by Bill Holdship
“Straight Talk with Mark Knopfler,” by Liz Derringer


“The Agony and the ABC,” by Jim Farber
“Heart’s in the Right Place, Or: If Anybody Had a Heart,” by L.E. Agnelli


“Thompson Twins: Can You Spot the Replicant?,” by Edouard Dauphin
“Rock Chronicles 1985: The Year That Was!,” by John Kordosh, Dave DiMartino, and Bill Holdship

Dave DiMartino was a big fan of the Smiths, stating, “Very quietly, the Smiths are putting to vinyl some of the finest songs in ages. Songs attuned to the consciousness that is uniquely tied to the ‘80s, but, as the saying goes, timeless. Songs that are brutal, open and honest – about sex, about love, about despair and about hope.” Morrisey loved being interviewed, dishing out Elvis Costello like insults and disparaging his record label. This is an article than any fan of the Smiths should track down.

Liz Derringer, the former spouse or Rick Derringer, interviewed Mark Knopfler who had massive international success with the 1985 Dire Straits album “Brother in Arms.” This is a good Q and A that goes into Knopfler’s life before Dire Straits, as well as the band’s success and working with other artists. Knofler came across as a serious, thoughtful person.

Quotable Quotes:

Morrisey, “I must be quite honest. I can understand that people can find me very irritating.”

Morrisey, “Ultimately, I feel that if people are saying no to the Smiths, they’re saying yes to Madonna. And I find that the biggest sin of all.”

John Mellencamp, “I’m not a ‘cool’ artist, but I kinda like that. I’ve never judged a guy on the car he drives, and that’s sort of the comparison. I’ve just gotta do what I do and hopefully connect with my audience – which IS the working class. It really is the guys with the greasy hair.”

Mark Knopfler on getting a record deal, “It’s just sheer belief and willpower. Now it’s like, ‘How did I do all that, how did I manage sleeping on floorboards?’ You do it’ because you’re so totally INTO it. You’re really in love with it.”

Craig Zeller on ABC’s “How to Be a Zillionaire” album, “ABC is a wretched mix of Bowie at his most pretentious, Ferry at his most dramatic, a dozen hackneyed techno-pop groups with witless delusions of grandeur, and off-Broadway musicals that close on opening night.”

Martin Fry of ABC, “We’re here to entertain. I would have become a priest if I wanted people to take me seriously.”

Richard Riegel on Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow” album, “This is exposed-nerve music, form nervy country boys who exploit their lower-than-low Midwestern status to get away with uncompromisingly personal & intense rock ‘n’ roll.”

From John Mendelssohn’s “Eleganza” column, “’Face it,’ challenges John Leavy of Astoria, New York, ‘people who’ll say they like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ must lie about other things too.”

John Mendelssohn, “Because music’s an emotional, rather than an intellectual medium, rock criticism should be relied on no farther than you could throw Greg Lake if he were tied to John Wetton. You don’t need a rock critic to teel you if a record touches or excites you, or fails to.”

Ann Wilson of Heart, “We just tour our little demo to every label in the whole universe and everybody said, ‘Just forget it! Why don’t you wise up? We’re playing Joan Baez on the radio this week, and who needs YOU?”

Edouard Dauphin on Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, “Think of the guy who ran for Student Government in high school, won by a landslide and then turned down the job. He showed up for the interview late and didn’t apologize, so The Dauph liked him right away.”

Richard C. Walls on the Parents’ Music Recourse Center’s (PMRC) Senate hearings on obscene music, “The vast majority of examples continually given of objectionable lyrics are by either black performers and/or heavy metal groups, suggesting that perhaps the perceived threat to authority is more class-based than generational. The whole thing may just be the hardcore middle-class trying to protect themselves from the grunge below, of bourgeois cultural majoritarians feeling threatened by a bunch of foul-mouthed negroes and uncouth, aggressive whites of dubious social status. It could be that corny.”

Summary: I didn’t go into depth on all the features or columns in this issue, because it feels like the most text heavy Creem I’ve ever read. The editors were contributing more, which was a good thing, alongside stalwarts like Dauphin, Riegel, and Mendelssohn. Also, you immediately get a sense of a change in the direction with articles on The Smiths and the previously unmentioned Prefab Sprout. A lot of good work to digest.

Grade: A-

Latest price on eBay: $12.00 or “Best Offer.”

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