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CREEM: America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine

CREEM: America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine

by Robert Matheu, Brian J. Bowe

With raw photographs of rock's greatest stars and insightful prose by the legendary rock journalists who were stars in their own right, CREEM magazine stood at the forefront of youth counterculture from 1969 to 1988 as "America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine." A product of Detroit's revolutionary counterculture, CREEM cultivated an incredibly gifted staff of


With raw photographs of rock's greatest stars and insightful prose by the legendary rock journalists who were stars in their own right, CREEM magazine stood at the forefront of youth counterculture from 1969 to 1988 as "America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine." A product of Detroit's revolutionary counterculture, CREEM cultivated an incredibly gifted staff of iconoclastic scribes, editors, photographers, and graphic artists whose work continues to resonate today, including: Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, Richard Meltzer, Nick Tosches, and a not-so-famous Cameron Crowe. They invented a raucous new form of journalism, where the writing and photographs were as much an expression of rock 'n' roll as the music itself. CREEM embraced and abused the best and the worst of the era: MC5, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Faces, Lou Reed, the Stooges, T.Rex, Kiss, Mott the Hoople, the Who, the New York Dolls, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, the Ramones, Cheap Trick, the Clash, and Van Halen, among many others.

Now the Mouth of the Motor City presents a retrospective of the beautiful haze that was rock's golden age—from the end of the hippie days through glam and punk and into '80s metal. Featuring the best of the magazine's vast archives of photos, illustrations, and articles, CREEM is the authentic rock 'n' roll experience—written for fanatics by fanatics.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.60(w) x 11.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt


America's Only Rock 'N' Roll Magazine
By Robert Matheu

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Robert Matheu
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061374562

Chapter One


Welcome to Detroit

In the magazine's second issue, under the headline "CREEM IS," founder Barry Kramer wrote:

CREEM magazine is Detroit. CREEM will provide a forum for the diverse areas of our "scene" to communicate and consolidate. This paper is devoted to media with the emphasis on music and the people that live it—you. Detroit is home to many creative artists, and for a reason. We are real, receptive and quite selective.

There are those who would like to exploit this market. Sell its soul. We won't let this happen. CREEM will help build a more cohesive community—we want to know who our friends are—we want to expose our enemies. CREEM is a compliment to those other media extensions already involved in the community.

We particularly want to discuss the ramifications of the music world rationally, internationally and especially in Detroit. We can't do this without your help because you are Detroit. Involve yourself. Music and art are the threads of community. Help us bind these together. If in any way you can contribute to the e≈ectiveness of CREEM—do it!

The earliest issueschronicled the local scene in great detail. The mighty MC5 ruled that scene, and that band's rise and demise was of particular interest to the magazine's founders, as shown in the following excerpts.

MC5 at the Crow's Nest
by Pam Brent • March 1969

. . . The Crow's Nest is small, extremely so. One cannot possibly fathom the results of as renowned a group as the MC5 playing there until one has actually lived through the experience. This, however, is not easily done.

Arriving approximately thirty minutes after opening time, one is confronted with a block-long double line, in which one is obliged to stand, freezing for an added half hour. Once inside, one pushes and shoves one's way through a solid mass of human flesh in an attempt to rid (oneself) of that unwanted coat. Having succeeded in depositing it on the lower, a fight to ascend the stairway ensues.

Reaching the main level, where hundreds of bodies are sitting or standing awaiting the Five, one listens to the Ashenperpol. A fairly good group, but one whose music is made all but inaudible by the constant flow of persons pushing and shoving to rid themselves of their wraps.

The temperature soon becomes unbearable, and, as the Five mount the stage, the place is literally an inferno. Rob Tyner invites us to remove any extraneous clothing, and in response, shirts, ties, scarves, etc. are removed. The music begins. The wall of sound assaults every cell in these close quarters (so much more greatly magnified here than elsewhere). Bold, exalting tones rip through the heat and set fire to the very air, as sweat drips down the backs and brows of all present.

The roaring vibrations and now-language combine to put the audience in an indescribable and frenzied mood. The voice of the Five resounds all that is the youth of today. An aura of all our sought-after goals; love, peace, freedom, and fucking in the streets—they are (echoes), an incarnation of our will. We receive them with appropriate joy and rapture.

Listless movement resumes as the band breaks for fifteen minutes. The basement fills with people, as it is a few degrees cooler. Ascending the stairs, someone opens the door, and a frosty breeze provides longed-for coolness. A cloud of musky steam sizzles around me for the remainder of the ascent. Upstairs, the doors have been opened, allowing billowing steam to issue from them into the cold night. Everyone that leaves is engulfed, for a time, in his own private cloud.

The Five's next set caused an even greater fever of heat, as we were all urged to stand. The vibrations were good, but the close air burned. The management plans, happily, to remedy the situation through the purchase of the adjacent warehouse. Good luck and more power to them.

All in all, the Crow's Nest will never equal the Grande, but has the potential of providing a good time for its patrons.

MC5 On The Cusp
September 1969

"Our program, at its finest level, is supposed to be together, coherent and relatable. In order to be e≈ective you have to have those qualities, and our program obviously didn't in the past because our program, which was to clarify things, muddled things. And when you get into a situation like that you either have to check yourself, Jack, or get back:" Rob Tyner of the MC5, a group which is going through a period of critical self-evaluation and restructuring, appraisal and correction that was much needed. All signs indicate that the band is on the move again after a disastrous album, a period of financial chaos and months of creative stagnation.

"You have to check yourself, check what you're into, and if you're into the wrong shit, then you're not doing anything, you're not doing it right. So you cut it—you got to rearrange, reevaluate new strategies, new ways of doing things. Like we've gone through a period of reassessment of our tactics and our capabilities, and we've found after this period ended that our program in the past wasn't always as solid as we might have liked to consider it . .. "

Shit and Fan With John Sinclair in jail, the band's organizational position has been thrown into a state of flux, and they are looking for some new solutions to the non-musical problems that confront them. Rob Tyner: "As of right now, there is no formal relationship between us and Trans-Love, i.e., there is no one from Trans-Love who is working exclusively with the band, for the band, on band business. They do not represent us, and it's an informal relationship between two separate entities . . .

Wayne Kramer: "Our main responsibility is to ourselves, inasmuch as, hypothetically, if Trans-Love isn't together enough to be doing all the things that a production-management company does, that doesn't stop us; we still have to be don' what we have to be doin' . . . "


Excerpted from CREEM by Robert Matheu Copyright © 2007 by Robert Matheu. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Robert Matheu cofounded CREEM Media Inc. in 2001. He has been a rock photographer since his early teens in Detroit and originally began working with CREEM magazine while he was still in college. He has worked for Playboy, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, and Mojo. His photos have graced more than 100 album covers and countless magazine covers around the world.

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