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“Don’t Get Any CREEM on Your Legs: Exposing the Mind-Boggling Arrogance of the Occult Magazine’s Book Compilers”

Boy, I wish CREEM would just shut up. Now that it’s dead, that is. It’s been dead for 27 years, you see, since head shop owner and publisher Barry Kramer passed away.

How relevant can you be when you’re dead, kaput, six feet under? Apparently, very, if the tone of the CREEM book’s introduction by Brian Howe is any indication. Howe says “CREEM Magazine wasn’t merely a magazine about rock ‘n’ roll. The magazine itself was a manifestation of rock ‘n’ roll in all its sweaty glory.” Howe cites a “riotous sense of humor” as one of the draws the Motor City outlet wielded, yet his whole blurb is this bloated, pompous and repetitive glowing double-talk, ascribing all these pie-in-the-sky attributes to the magazine without offering any examples. A couple beacons of CREEM’s magic, for instance, that he mentions which are supposed to be so transcendent, are their little beer can logo saying “Boy Howdy,” and some nude shots of some dude no one’s ever heard of.
Then you get to the actual subject matter: the first shot in the book is one of Mick Jagger (everyone knows CREEM started in ’69, three years after the Stones’ prime), and the next one is the MC5, who might have been stylistically vanguard but never wrote a good song in their career. I mean, when do you ever hear their name in the same sentence with The Velvet Underground? [1]
For my money, as far as I’ve read in the book up to now, the best piece is the one about J. Geils. There is no “sense of humor,” thank God, no male nudity, no testicle-stabbingly unfunny little logos, it’s simply an informative piece about how musicians in Boston would hang out together, letting “comraderie” (sic) [2] replace intense rivalry, et. al. That’s right, believe it or not, CREEM, who apparently “never thought it was better than its fans,” some of us readers out here are actually interested enough in rock and roll that traveled, like “Angel is the Centerfold,” to not need little MAD Magazine type prompts for pimply-faced prepubescents.
Now, let me level a bit. It probably is true that CREEM indeed did have a dry knack to its writing, see the quote imbibed from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore: “Having a sense of humor in the rock ‘n’ roll culture–CREEM nailed it in a way that no one else was… I knew immediately that its tone was even more towards what I wanted out of rock ‘n’ roll writing.” But I don’t know how you miss that corny little inside jokes don’t embed in history like music does — they are a veneer for the facilitating of interaction, making it colloquial and approachable. In attempting to immortalize its own “sense of humor,” CREEM not only DOES set itself up as better than its fans [3], it ignores the actual catalysts of persuasive culture — music, and the present moment. Nowhere does it give credit to outlets that would come down the road like pitchfork, which in its early days of Ryan Schreiber and Brent Dicrescenzo really did eclipse CREEM’s smarminess with their simultaneous emo-hating and hipster-mocking, a frighteningly scathing Chicago zeitgeist that would go on probably to have way more impact than CREEM even did, in that it would spawn tributary sites like cokemachineglow.
One pedestal for music criticism’s greatness… hell, for the justification of its existence… is wide stylistic variety. This would have been a better cornerstone of CREEM’s self-aggrandizement early on here: instead what we get is hair, hair, and more hair… oh, and CARS. Every other page is some rocker dude standing with his damned car. Is this an ’80’s butt magazine, or what?
The J. Geils piece is edifying because the story actually is ironic — the band began as a merger of two bands that would hang out, sprouting their jams organically and based on old blues, not with a hitmaking mentality. Yet, the band did essentially become a one-hit wonder, with a song that eschews their original ZZ Top-like m.o.
You learn history through rock and roll. You cut through rock and roll’s corporate sheen with music criticism. In patting itself on the back so excessively, CREEM seems to have wasted a hand that could have tended to the pulse of the world as it currently is.
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[1] Whereas Lou Barlow of Sebadoh does relay the line in “Gimme Indie Rock”: “V.U. Stooges undeniably cool / Learned a lesson from that drone rock school”
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[2] Part of the magazine’s “humor” draw is non-deliberate, being wickedly unedited as it is.
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[3] Also, its cumbersome pursuit of editorial uniformity with “rock ‘n’ roll,” in lieu of “rock and roll” or “rock & roll” is a prime example of its ballooned sense of importance.

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