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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – June 1988 (Volume 19, Number 9)

Madonna, an indisputable 1980’s icon that Creem never took too seriously, was featured on the cover of the June 1988 issue of the magazine under the headline, “The Truth Is Not Sexist.” The cover feature was penned by Deb Sprague, who had joined the staff as an “Associate Editor.” Sprague mentioned the then current crop of female pop stars (Tiffany, Belinda Carlisle, Whitney Houston, etc.) and concluded, “With the exception of Madonna, none of these women is more than a voice propped up by staffs of managers, producers, engineers, and songwriters.” Belinda Carlisle refused to be interviewed for the piece (her manager was worried about her being associated with Tiffany). Tiffany was game though, commenting, “I look at people like Elvis Presley and Barbra Streisand, who don’t write their own material, and it doesn’t make any difference to their audience.” Sprague concluded that most current female pop stars were, “Marketing themselves as throbbing pieces of sexual protoplasm.” It was good to see a little bit of old school Creem attitude in a feature again.  

In “Rock ‘n’ Roll News,” it was reported that Chuck Eddy was suing the Beastie Boys for being included in a commercially available video without his consent. This lawsuit may answer the question, “How does a former rock critic own a 200-acre ranch in Texas?” Also, the Sex Pistols had earned a gold album in the U.S. for “Never Mind the Bollocks.”  

Features: 

“Let Us Pray for the Church,” by Steve Peters 

“Would You Buy These Women? And If Not, Would You Rent,” by Deb Sprague 

“Johnny Cash: A Little Farther…Down the Line,” by John Kordosh 

“Robert Plant, Technobilly,” by Chuck Eddy 

“The Strange Case of Buster Poindexter,” by Roy Trakin 

“Soul Asylum: Plaider Than You’ll Ever Be,” by Ira Robbins 

“Crime and Punishment: The Ted Nugent Interview,” by Jeffrey Morgan  

Creem had been championing The Church (the band, not anything to do with the Pope) for several years and Steve Peters interviewed Steve Kilbey right before the band had their breakthrough U.S. success. Kilbey discussed “Under the Milky Way” as being inspired by, of all things, Frank Sinatra. Kilbey, “I always thought pop music to be this weird, creepy sound, kind of like a loneliness and isolation thing, and I think that, so many years later, it’s come out in this song! ‘Milky Way’ is sort of like my attempt to write a song which, in another time and place, I would have like to have seen on Sinatra’s ‘Only the Lonely’ album. That was the real initial thing that got me interested in music and words.” 

From a commercial standpoint, Johnny Cash was at a career low point in the late 1980s. John Kordosh focused on Cash’s legacy and interviewed The Man in Black about the million dollar quartet session, coming up with the idea for “Blue Suede Shoes,” leaving Sun Records, his Opry debut, ‘The Johnny Cash Show’, and his relationship with Bob Dylan. Cash ended the interview by discussing his cover of Elvis Costello’s “The Big Light” and talking about doing song swaps with Paul McCartney. I’ve read a lot of articles and books about Johnny Cash and this is one of the best you’ll ever find.  

Robert Plant’s 1988 album “Now and Zen” was the biggest seller of his solo career. Plant discussed his motive to remain innovative and namechecked Let’s Active, the Swans, Husker Du, and Tom Verlaine as recent inspirations. Robert Plant described “Now and Zen” as an attempt to make a Led Zeppelin in 1988 and commented, “My daughter is so happy that I’m finally making songs that she can sing along to!” Plant, always a good interview, described Zeppelin as, “A very animal thing, a hellishly powerful thing, what we were doing.” Eddy also used the article as an opportunity to argue against some of the common criticisms of Zep, nothing they threw down “some warped kind of Euclidean FUNK.”  

Roy Trakin interviewed David Johansen about his successful alter ego Buster Poindexter. Johansen, “Buster is reaching all ages. This is the largest music demographic since maybe Bing Crosby.” Johansen talked about being “an entertainer,” “a performer,” and working in movies. He seemed like a pretty happy guy at that point in his life.  

Ira Robbins was a fan of Soul Asylum and thought success might be in the near future with major label support. He was correct.  

Jeffrey Morgan and Ted Nugent had a right wing, law and order lovefest of an interview. Probably a good read if you’ve just had a lobotomy procedure.  

Quotable Quotes:   

Iman Lababedi, “As it is, I can’t listen to Springsteen anymore. I can’t reconcile his lyrical and musical temperament with his $17 million mansion and model wife. Somebody, somewhere, is faking it.” 

Iman Lababedi, “The only thing worse than the Housemartins is everybody else in the pop music business.” 

Steve Kilbey on the 1980’s psychedelic revival movement, “Suddenly this whole thing happened where people were adopting the whole Paisley Underground. It was like, ‘Let’s wear paisley shirts, have pudding bowl haircuts and Roger McGuinn glasses,’ and very few of them ever attempted to wrestle with the whole of what psychedelia was all about.” 

Tiffany, “I’m just the All-American girl next door. And I think kids can relate to that, maybe more than they can to Madonna.” 

Chuck Eddy, “The primary reason Megadeth is famous, and probably the only reason they’re on a major label, is because Dave Mustaine used to be in Metallica…Their music has less personality than Anthrax’s. And they don’t rock.” 

Johnny Cash, “I think Bob Dylan equated me with televangelism. He was wrong about that.” 

Chuck Eddy, “Robert Plant’s amassed a body of work which, in terms of wide-rangingly prolific weirdness and new-fangled innovation, is unmatched by anybody of comparable commercial standing.” 

Robert Plant, “I really wish ‘Kashmir’ would have become what ‘Stairway’ did.” 

David Johansen when asked if the Buster Poindexter character might be a novelty one hit wonder, “If you’re trying to be provocative, you’re doing a shitty job. I’m beginning to feel a little like Lester Bangs going up against Lou Reed in one of those classic CREEM confrontations.” 

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, “The Bay City Rollers were the plaidest thing you’ve ever seen, and we’re not like that. We don’t wear plaid for photos and then take it off.” 

Summary: Very good issue including a cover piece that tossed a few well-placed elbows and excellent features on Johnny Cash and Robert Plant. 

Grade: A 

Latest price on eBay: Not Available. 

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