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The Final Issue: Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – November 1988

(It has been an honor and a pleasure posting my friend, rock critic Steve Crawford’s, yeoman service to rock and roll archives… I will miss it – IL)

The final issue of Creem, not including the short-lived early 1990s version of the magazine that shared nothing with the history of Creem except the name and the modern era reboot, featured Robert Cray on the cover. Cray was the first African American musician to be a cover feature subject not named Prince or Michael Jackson since 1973, when a dead, but still relevant, Jimi Hendrix received that honor. Robert Cray wasn’t losing sleep over financial success. Regarding his “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” album, he said, “Whatever happens, happens – and if the record bombs, the record bombs. We can still go out and work and that’s the main thing, being able to play and have fun.” Cray approached his career with the viewpoint that the journey was more important than the destination and author Holly Gleason did a good job of summarizing Cray’s career while keeping the story moving.  


“Michelle Shocked: Hell on Wheels,” by Mark Kemp 

“Shriekback…On a Short Fuse,” by Caroline Sullivan 

“Pat Benatar: Too Short to Live?,” by Liz Derringer 

“Robert Cray: Jumpin’ in the Night,” by Holly Gleason 

“Was (Not Was) Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” by Drew Wheeler 

“The Return of Blue Oyster Cult: Soap, Hamburgers, and the Entropic Dissolution of the Universe Explained! Finally.,” by George “Metal” Smith 

“Havin’ a Weenie Roast with the Dream Syndicate,” by Karen Schoemer 

Mark Kemp did a deep dive on Michelle Schocked’s background and her excellent 1988 album “Short Sharp Shocked.” This folk singing, anti-war version of Shocked seemed much more levelheaded than she would be later in life.  

Pat Benatar was ending her run as a Top 40 artist in 1988. Benatar talks about specific tracks from her “Wide Awake in Dreamland” album in her interview with Liz Derringer. Benatar always sounded down to earth, in this case talking about how much she enjoyed being a mom and that despite her change in fortunes, she and her husband Neil Giraldo still lived “like poor slobs!” 

Drew Wheeler raved about Was (Not Was), “the most consistently and unflinchingly cool band in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.” Don Was talked about record company pressure to find a “Paul Young” type singer and having success with “two older black soul singers with two older white Jewish guys writing the stuff.”  

Long time Creem faves Blue Oyster Cult returned to the marketplace in 1988 with their “Imaginos” album, which approximately 37 people purchased. Buck Dharma described the LP as a concept work that had been evolving since the 1970s. Writer George Smith concentrated on the band’s past while Buck Dharma compared heavy metal to opera (“The form is very rigid and the quality of the group is judged on how well they adhere to the format”). Really, Buck was a pretty passionate guy for the aging music biz vet that he was. 

Richard C. Walls contributed a piece on Morton Downey, Jr. that captured some of the angles that the right wing media would later use so effectively. Walls, “What he does have is the Reaganite ability to put across essentially elitist ideas in terms of common man needs and desires. Not so hard, what with the common man aspiring to elitism, but there is some trickery involved. For example: Downey does a show on rent control. You can’t get people jumping out of their seats because renters are gouging the poor landlords (the conservatism position). So you a) call rent control, ‘socialized housing’ – has a nice pinko ring to it, b) invite a particularly fractious city commissioner and then attack her for being a nice commie – a little off the subject, but it gets the juices flowing, c) mention taxes as often as possible – guaranteed to induce blind fury no matter what the topic.”  

Quotable Quotes:   

Michelle Shocked, “I sing Leadbelly – just like an old black man.” 

Michelle Shocked, “My mother DIDN’T censor my reading, that was probably her biggest mistake.” 

Chuck Eddy on George Michael’s “Faith” single, “’Faith is ‘Jet,’ ‘Honky Cat,’ ‘Jive Talkin’,’ all that dumb stuff, rolled into a split-second 3:14 of absolute popcraft genius, and as such it’ll live forever. Vapid as a Disney frozen treat, but it melts in your ears, not in your hands.” 

Robert Cray, “We just do what we do: R&B and blues, funky fun and boogaloo and saucy fly.” 

Robert Cray, “Now, something like ‘Right Next Door (Because of Me),’ which I didn’t write, with that line about ‘She was just another notch in my guitar…’ Okay, I DON’T put notches in my guitar, but it’s not so far from the truth. I’ve had my days.” 

Don Was, “I think we’re a nice opening act. We’re sexually unthreatening to any ‘glamour’ artist.” 

David Weiss on computer technology, “Basically, my feeling is you could put a gorilla in that room and in about two hours he could come up with a groove that would be perfectly acceptable.” 

Buck Dharma, “I think Kiss had a clearer conception of the youth they wanted to appeal to. I guess we were less calculating.” 

Steve Wynn, “I have trouble writing simple sentiments. I tangle myself up so much in ironies and double meanings.” 

Summary: This by no means feels like a last issue of a magazine. It’s very good, nobody was punching the clock. 

Grade: A-  Latest price on eBay: Not Available 

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