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Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – March 1979 (Volume 10, Number 10)

The 1978 “Readers’ Poll” was the cover story of the March 1979 issue of Creem, with relatively young acts like Cheap Trick, Devo, and Elvis Costello joining the Stones, the Who, and Aerosmith on the cover. Talented eye candy Linda Ronstadt and Debbie Harry (“Blondie is a Band”) also earned cover slots.  

The Stones won the main categories – Top Album (“Some Girls”), Top Song (“Miss You”), Best Group, Best Live Group, Best R&B Group, etc. Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” was voted as #5 in the Top Song category, the only non-Top Forty hit to make that list. Devo took best “New Wave” album honor and Elvis Costello was the best “New Wave Band/Performer.” The listening public also seemed to be tiring of Gene Simmons and his painted friends. Kiss took the honors for “Worst Group” and “Most Pathetic.” Lester Bangs, who had been long departed from the staff at this point, still got the nod for “Rock Critic of the Year.”  

In “The Beat Goes On,” Jeffrey Morgan interviewed William Burroughs. The legendary author professed his appreciation for rock ‘n’ roll and noted he his work was referenced in several band names, including The Heavy Metal Kids, The Insect Trust, and The Soft Machine.  

In an image completely lacking any symbolism, Tanya Tucker appeared as “The Creem Dream,” popping the cork on a bottle of champagne. This was during the five-minute stretch when MCA Records tried to cross Tanya over to the pop and rock markets. Feel free to enjoy her sassy leather pants on the cover of 1978’s “TNT” album.  

Features: 

“Lou Reed & The Secret Life of Plants: Cross-Pollination of the YMCA,” by Stephen Demorest 

“Heart of My Piece,” by Alan Madeleine 

“Rory Gallagher: Return of The World’s Best Normal Guitarist,” by Susan Whitall 

“Talking Heads: More Words About Eno and Life,” by Patrick Goldstein 

“Peter Tosh: He’s the Toughest,” by Barbara Cherone 

“Devo: Actual Size (Investigative Reporter Dances the Poot),” by Richard Riegel 

Lou Reed openly spoke about being gay, chauvinistic, and having had electro-schock therapy as a teenager in his interview with Stephen Demorest. The following year he married Sylvia Morales. 

Susan Whitall noted the difference between Rory Gallagher’s gentle demeanor offstage and “the crazy rave up” guy he became onstage. As much as Gallagher was appreciated by the music press, he never had a breakthrough hit in the U.S., with his highest charting album, 1978’s “Photo-Finish,” peaking at #116. 

David Byrne talked about his appreciation of Brian Eno’s work on the “More Songs About Buildings and Food” album and Jerry Harrison reflected on his Modern Lovers days on Patrick Goldstein’s piece on the Talking Heads.  

Peter Tosh felt ready for mainstream success with his 1978 “Bush Doctor” album, especially since Mick Jagger provided backing vocals on the single “(You Gotta Walk) Don’t Look Back.” At the time, Tosh was signed to Rolling Stones Records. Despite their best efforts, neither Mick nor Keith Richards could push Tosh out of Bob Marley’s large international shadow. 

Richard Riegel interviewed fellow Ohioans Devo, feeling completely at home with their art school aesthetic and visually driven stage show.  

Quotable Quotes:   

William Burroughs on David Bowie, “I think he knows exactly what he’s doing and where’s he’s going and how to get there.” 

Lou Reed, “I have such a heavy resentment thing because of all the prejudices against me being gay. How can anybody gay keep their sanity? Sometimes I feel like getting a gun out and shooting people – but there would be so many people to shoot.” 

Rory Gallagher, “If I was a punk, I’d kill myself.” 

Lenny Kaye on seeing Rory Gallagher perform in New York, “It changed my life.” 

Simon Frith on concluding his time as “Letter from Britain” columnist, “There is good American music, but the only thing its performers have in common – Ramones, Pere Ubu, Talking Heads, etc. – is that their pictures aren’t on the cover of CREEM.” 

Jerry Harrison on joining the Talking Heads, “It’s very hard to find a band that shares the same kind of passion and commitment that you do.” 

Peter Tosh on being beaten by Jamaican police officers, “They worry about me ‘cause I tell the truth.” 

Richard Riegel on Devo, “With their keyboard-swirled chop rhythms, Devo’s songs are the logical, de-evolutionary consequence of such primordial slices of Ohio punk as the Music Explosion’s long-lost ‘Little Bit O’ Soul.’ Devo’s sound sprang from that same punk impulse, but came out of the Ohio closet with eons of acquired avant-garde culture layered over the punk.” 

Jerry Casale, “Sex is outside the mongoloid’s world-view.” 

Gregg Turner on Eric Clapton’s “Backless” album, “Guitar-prowess meanders somewhere between second and third grade with the most wretched, pathetically boring and constipated note/chord riffs (so to speak) you’d never wanna sit thru.” 

Mitch Cohen on Queen, “They’ve learned and stolen from the worst of The Beatles just as Cheap Trick have absorbed and adapted the best.” 

Summary: It was easy for the reader to feel Richard Riegel’s appreciation for Devo, a group of cultural bomb igniters from his beloved Ohio. 

Grade: B+ 

Latest price on eBay: A steal – $4.90 or “Best Offer.” 

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