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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – June 1981 (Volume 13, Number 1) 

Debbie Harry’s flawlessly beautiful face graced the cover of the June 1981 issue of Creem. She was flanked by boyfriend/Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, who penned the accompanying cover story. Stein’s piece about recording the “Autoamerican” album in Los Angeles isn’t nearly as interesting as he thought it was. Perhaps he wanted a feature in Creem that didn’t include Nick Tosches asking Debbie about her preferred method of birth control.  

The real centerpiece of this issue is John Kordosh’s article on Rush, which is one of the most brutal and entertaining dismissals of a band that I’ve ever read. Geddy Lee was so offended by a silly satirical piece in Creem that he refused to talk to anyone from the magazine (Kordosh, “I really enjoyed not talking to (Geddy Lee). In fact, I can’t remember enjoying not talking to anyone as much as I enjoyed not talking to you. Let’s not talk again real soon, OK”). Neil Peart came across as the ultimate condescending music snob. He called Paul McCartney “a prostitute,” opined that the Rolling Stones “laughed at their audience,” and said that he wrote for “Howard Roark,” the fictional moralist from an Ayn Rand novel. The whole piece could be in the quotable quote section, so I’ll just go with this one: Kordosh, “I think it’s safe to say that Paul McCartney can not only play the bass better than Geddy Lee (I won’t mention the vocals), but that he can probably play guitar better than Alex Lifeson, play drums better than Neil Peart, and WRITE about 80,000 times better than Rush and the National Hockey League put together. I mean, if you think ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and “Someone’s Knocking’ were OUTRIGHT DRIVEL, I invite you to listen to ‘The Temples of Syrinx’ or ‘Cygnus X-1 Book II’ by Neil & Co.” 

Robert Hull wrote about Orion, one of the most lovably stupid gimmicks of all time, in a piece in “The Beat Goes On.” Alabama singer James Ellis could sound enough like Elvis that somebody slapped a cheap mask on him and sent him to Sun Studios to record. Of course, the selling point was, “Maybe Elvis didn’t really die!” Robert Hull, “In a sense, Orion is right up there with the local wrestling legends who tour the Southern boondocks.”  Astonishingly, Orion had eleven singles that made the Billboard country charts. “Rockabilly Rebel,”  his biggest hit, peaked at #63 and could not be accused of being overproduced. Ellis even got “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” on the country charts decades before Dwight Yoakam. Sadly, Jimmy Ellis was murdered in his pawn shop in 1998, but he did inspire the 2015 film “The Man Who Would Be King.” 

In Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Nick Toshes wrote about Ella Mae Morse, the “Cow Cow Girl.” Tosches, on the boogie woogie queen/ Mansfield, Texas native, “Her mother was a pianist. Her father was a drummer. Her breasts developed at an early age. Aside from these meager facts, little is known of Ella Mae’s younger years.”  

Features: 

“The Song of Injun Adam Or: What’s A Picnic Without Ants?,” by Chris Saleswicz 

“What Year Did You Saw This Was? Hippie Happiness from Sir Doug,” by Toby Goldstein 

“Big Clay Pigeons with a Mind of Their Own: The Creem Guide to Rock Fans,” by Rick Johnson 

“Houdini in Dreadlocks: Garland Jeffreys’ Newest Slight-of-Sound,” by Toby Goldstein 

“The Psychedelic Sounds of Roky Erickson,” by Gregg Turner 

“Rush: But Why Are They In Such a Hurry,” by John Kordosh 

“Lonesome Town Cheers Up: Rick Nelson Goes Back on the Boards,” by Susan Whitall 

Chris Salewicz interviewed Adam Ant who was (a) very ambitious and (b) really liked to talk. Toby Goldstein chatted with Doug Sahm who was (a) happy to be on the road again and (b) was way ahead of the curve when it came to Austin fatigue.  

The Rick Johnson piece summarizing the different types of fans for different rock bands makes me wish that I would have ever written a phrase as good as “evolutionary extra-baggage.” 

Few people on the planet have understood and appreciated Roky Erickson’s bizarre and wonderful music as well as Gregg Turner. His historical piece on the Texas madman is one he was born to write.  

Over two decades after becoming a teen idol, Ricky Nelson was still searching for another pop hit. Susan Whitall penned an appreciation for his music and conducted a good interview with Nelson, who was still handsome although perhaps looking more like a 1980’s game show host than a 1980’s rock ‘n’ roller. Nelson never found that hit, but seemed to have enjoyed his musical journey nonetheless.  

Quotable Quotes:   

Adam Ant, “I think show business is looked upon as a dirty word, and I don’t think it is.” 

Adam Ant, “It was A Sound we wanted, rather than just very good songs – there are plenty of those around. It’s much better to have A Sound in the way either Abba or Talking Heads have. Also, we wanted A Look.” 

Toby Goldstein on the Sir Douglas Quintet, “They were country, they were rock ‘n’ roll, they were a lot of yesterdays, they were a distinctive sound that we’ve heard so many times in the pumping of Costello and Carrasco.” 

Doug Sahm, “I lived in Austin for five years. I could walk down to Soap Creek and fall in love. Now there’s a shopping center and a hundred tract homes.” 

Rick Johnson, “Like the laughing hyena, rock ‘n’ roll fans area a curious, incredible and sometimes pitiful breed. They bring a buzzard’s passions and fanatical brand name loyalty to a style of music that practically BEGS not to be taken seriously.” 

Rick Johnson, “If the late Bon Scott is viewing the band’s continued success from Beyond, he’s probably pounding id desperate Morse Code on his coffin ceiling: I-W-A-S-O-N-L-Y-K-I-D-D-I-N-G!” 

Rick Johnson on Pat Benatar, “An alarming number of teenage boys think this sexless punctuation mark is the hottest thing since the origami blowtorch.” 

Rick Johnson on Rush, “Casual observance of this branch of evolutionary extra-baggage leads one to inquire, what if they gave a human race and nobody entered?” 

Gregg Turner on Roky Erickson, “He quickly became the standard the prototype for all latterday punks to emulate and use.” 

John Kordosh, “I was later to infer that Rush have some sort of collective paranoia about making MISTAKES during a live performance. Of course, this is intrinsically impossible, as their material is one gigantic mistake unto itself.” 

Summary:  The Kordosh piece on Rush is one of the best in the history of the magazine. 

Grade: A 

Latest price on eBay: $20.00 or “Best Offer.” 

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