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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1973 (Volume 5, Number 2) 

The July 1973 issue of Creem introduced us to two important new voices in the magazine’s history and one important voice in chronicling Texas pop culture. Richard C. Walls, who Lester Bangs once described as living “in a little house at the end of a bombed-out street in the ghetto,” contributed an album review on the Mahavishnu Orchestra. He would appear regularly in the magazine throughout the next fifteen years, writing about television, film, rock music, and jazz. After Walls passed away in 2017, former Creem editor Bill Holdship wrote, “The man could write about anything, almost any subject — he was brilliant and so well-read — and make it jump off the page.” I was fortunate to connect with Richard on social media for many years and he was both brilliant and kind. (Note – Walls did write several pieces for Creem in its first year, when it was a regional publication; this is the first piece by Walls we’ve found in our overview series).

Buried deep in the letters section is a missive from Rick Johnson (billing himself from Drayton Plains, Michigan instead of Macomb, Illinois). The often-stoned Swede listed a heap of Creem contributors and then made snide observations about them (e.g., “Nick Tosches – as pretentious about his punktitude as Jerry Rubin was about his rectitude”). Johnson, who started writing in 1973 for the Peoria, Illinois based “Prairie Sun” magazine, was one of the major voices of Creem in the late 1970s (who can forget this sentence about the Runaways – “these bitches suck”) and also worked as an editor in the early 1980s. Ironically, I had a letter published in Creem in 1984 with the same theme of crabbing at the critics. I, however, am no Rick Johnson.  

Fort Worth native Joe Nick Patoski penned a review of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “Rough Edges” album. Patoski’s appreciation/reverence for Doug Sahm resulted in him directing the well-received “Sir Doug & The Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove” documentary in 2015. A long-time contributor to “Texas Monthly” magazine, Patoski has also authored or co-authored biographies of Willie Nelson, Selena, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Dallas Cowboys. His weekly online radio program, “Joe Nick Patoski’s Texas Music Hour of Power,” continues to make the world a better place.  

“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid Duel to the Death,” by Dave Marsh (Marsh spent three days on the set of the pending box office failure)  

“Dead Mute in a Telephone Booth: A Perfect Day with Lou Reed by Lester Bangs  

“Waylon Jennings: ‘If I Was Everything People Make Me Out to be, I’da Been Dead Long Ago,” by Chet Flippo  

“T. Rex: ‘What They Tried to Do with David Bowie Was Create Another Marc Bolan,” by Cameron Crowe  

“Johnny Winter: Back & Kicking,” by Ben Edmonds  

At the time the magazine was published, Bob Dylan hadn’t had a Top Twenty pop hit since 1969’s “Lay Lady Lay.” One is reminded about how fickle fame is when reading these Dave Marsh comments about Bob Dylan, “Even in private no one would say Dylan was a has-been, reduced to playing bit parts on friends’ records, and now, appearing in their movies in minor roles…So you listened when people said that (director) Sam Peckinpagh didn’t know who Dylan was, and you knew they were wrong. Sam knew just who he was dealing with: an unskilled actor.”  

Lester Bangs had Round One with a drunken, combative Lou Reed. Bangs worried that Reed had used sexual ambiguity/orientation as a form of shtick and that he had ruined his shot of fame. Bangs admitted that he was “blasted” during the after-show interview, and it seems like two guys choosing to hide behind their personas as a way to avoid a meaningful conversation. Bangs, “A girl from his organization had to come and carry him off to his room. But I’ll always carry that picture of him, plopped in his chair like a sack of spuds, sucking on his eternal Scotch with his head hanging off into shadow, looking like a deaf mute in a telephone booth. (He’s still pretty cool though; I stole that last phrase from him).”  

Chet Flippo’s piece on Waylon Jennings is an interesting look at country music before the concept of “outlaw country” had been popularized. Despite having a string of Top Ten hits on the country charts, Jennings was playing at a Native American high school in Gallup, New Mexico and a “cowboy cocktail joint” with a capacity of slightly over 400 people in Albuquerque. The narrative was, of course, that Waylon wasn’t going to work within the confines of the Nashville system.  

Cameron Crowe caught Marc Bolan as his fame was beginning to fade, but Bolan didn’t seem to grasp that reality – “I’ve never written a bad song. I don’t know how to…Right now I’m the biggest selling poet in England.” Here’s his retroactively sad conclusion, “When I’m 75, I’ll be able to tell you whether I’ve been truly successful or not.”  

Quotable Quotes:   

Todd Rundgren on producing Grand Funk Railroad, “This will either put them back on top or will permanently destroy my career.”  

Lester Bangs, “It’s not just that Lou Reed doesn’t look like a rock ‘n’ roll star anymore. His face has a nursing home pallor, and the fat girdles his sides. He drinks double Johnny Walker Blacks all afternoon, his hands shaking constantly and when he lifts his glass to drink he has to bend his head as though he couldn’t possibly get it to his mouth otherwise. As he gets drunker, his left eyeball begins to slide out of sync.”  

Waylon Jennings, “Some people think I have too much hair and dress wrong. I have a lot of opposition and resentment to anything I do, but I don’t pay it any mind. I told a DJ on a station in Winston-Salem – he asked me, ‘What does Nashville think about your hippie band?’ I said I don’t care WHAT those motherfuckers think. He said, ‘You can’t say THAT on the air.’ I said, well hoss, I just did.”  

Marc Bolan, “I don’t consider David (Bowie) to be even remotely big enough to be any competition.”  

Lenny Kaye on the Beatles, “Unlike many steadfast fans and amidst continual rumors of the moptop reunion, I don’t especially mourn the passing of the Beatles. A good series of years is all one can expect in the best of circumstances, and in retrospect, I can’t see very many places they could’ve gone after the final choruses of ‘Let It Be.’ Better short and sweet than a painfully protracted plummet, and if their passing is made even more lamentable in the light of their subsequent solo careers…well, we all knew the bubble had to burst sometime.”  

Grade: A-  

Latest price on eBay: Starting bid at $35.00.  

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