A couple weeks back, I was thrilled to receive my copy of the gigantic, gorgeously designed Creem anthology. Still haven’t read ANY of it, to be honest (that’s one thing about coffee table books that look great–they’re not especially conducive to delving in and spending time with; who wants to mess up all those lovely pages?), but a few perusals through the thing once the initial shock wore off and my excitement level dropped somewhat. For starters, as a few people mentioned in this ILM thread, the bulk of the book’s content is devoted to artist profiles, which, while certainly in the Creemspeak tradition, are probably the thing I was hoping to see the least of–certainly not as the bulk of the package. As “xhuxk” notes in that thread, it’s cool to see in there things like “Stars Cars” and “Backstage” and “Creem Dreem” reprints, but the book seems sadly lacking in record and book reviews (in fact, I don’t think there are any–I’d love to own a whole book of Creem record reviews, come to think of it). Also, the selection of writers and feature subjects just seems a little scattershot, occasionally making me wonder, “why is this here?” (Though, let’s be fair, no collection could satisfy everyone, and omissions are both understandable and fully to be expected. That’s a tribute to the mag itself, the fact that a true “best of” could never be captured in a single anthology).
Anyway, I was (and am) still happy to own the thing, and there is some great stuff in there, but how much of it I’ll actually get around to reading… not a lot, I suspect. The mags themselves are always close by. (God forbid we should have a fire, the Creem stash will be the first detour on the way out the door–after my wife of course.)
Well, the story, as it turns out, is a lot more complicated.
This afternoon, an anonymous commenter under my initial post about the book (using the pseudonym “Hilarious”) linked to this fascinating piece by Leon Neyfakh in the New York Observer, which sheds a whole new light on the story, a story bloodier (literally), more contentious, and (I presume) more interesting than a Republican candidates YouTube debate. Truth is, as a mostly just-interested bystander, I had no idea any of this stuff was going down at Creem (and it’s fitting, I suppose, that the battle over Boy Howdy’s legacy would erupt in an actual bar fracas). Beyond all the legal issues and whatnot–which are certainly interesting, and you should read the story–the thing that most made me do a double-take was the final bit of the article. I’ll provide context in square brackets where necessary.
Fast-forward to October 2007, when Mr. Kramer came across an advertisement on Amazon.com for a Creem book co-written by Mr. Matheu to be published by HarperCollins that month. [“Mr. Kramer” is J.J., son of Creem founder, Barry. Kramer has a pending lawsuit against Robert Matheu, co-editor of the Creem anthology and–if I’m understanding this properly–present owner of Creem Media.]
Mr. Kramer called his lawyer and successfully filed for an injunction to stop the book from going to press. When that happened, Mr. Kramer said, he was invited to the HarperCollins offices by an editor there to take a look at the book, in case he liked it enough to allow it to go forward.
That was wishful thinking: Mr. Kramer saw the book as a deceptive revision of the magazine’s history that not only overstated Mr. Matheu’s involvement but marginalized some of the people who had made it what it was. [my emphasis]
At that point, HarperCollins came forward and told the court that they had already printed thousands of copies of the book and stood to lose a significant sum of money if it was pulled. As a result, the injunction was lifted, and the book came out as planned.
But for Mr. Kramer, there was always something else at stake. “This whole endeavor for me from the get-go was sort of a bridge to reconnect with my father, who I didn’t really get to know,” he told The Observer. “To have somebody try to take that from me and in the manner in which he’s attempting to do—that is absolutely maddening.”
The comments section which follows the piece is just as interesting. If the names are to be believed, all sorts of former Creem people jump in the fray, mostly (from what I’ve seen) to condemn the book, and specifically its editor, Robert Matheu: Dave Marsh, Sue Whitall, Connie Kramer, and others. Obviously, “L. Bangs” (how original!) and “patti” (touché with the lowercase!) are fakes, as is, one can only assume “Mr. Dreamwhip.” But the person writing under the name “Dave Marsh” sounds like it could indeed be Dave Marsh, even though above his entry he’s listed as Dave “Mash,’ so decide for yourself. It’s possible that’s just an Observer slip-up.
Rockcritics.com will continue to follow this story and provide updates when we can. Note, too, that we already have, in the can so to speak, an interview with Robert Matheu, which was conducted some time ago in anticipation of the book. Stay tuned…