Awesome piece in Metro Times by Bill Holdship on the Creem debacle, tackling head-on what I alluded to earlier as the underlying 70s-80s battle that seems to be going on between former Creem staffers (I’m of course grateful to be quoted, but that’s not why it’s an awesome piece, really). As the lone commenter notes, Holdship sounds like the first sane inside voice to jump into the fray–the first, anyway, to make a specific, well-thought-out argument that doesn’t sound like mere grudge-bearing (mind you, I gave up scrolling through the reams of pissy comments at the end of the NY Observer articles, as understandable and occasionally entertaining as they are, so maybe I’ve missed something particularly insightful). All of Holdship’s arguments as to why John Cougar Mellencamp (re: Whitall’s earlier quote) was anything but “un-Creem” ring loud and clear to me, and his anecdotes are both priceless and fascinating, i.e., hearing how excited Mellencamp was to read Psychotic Reactions or learning that he invited Richard Riegel to his wedding, so impressed was he with a profile Riegel wrote.
There’s another argument lurking around the edges of Holdship’s piece, which he suggests when he writes, “Much like J. Kordosh… some of my best writing in the mag was done on artists I detested, such as Dokken, Marillion or Albert Goldman.” As a reader and not a contributor to Creem, I would take this a little further still to suggest that it’s irrelevant in a way (or let’s say “not entirely relevant”) which artists Creem covered; the point was that every artist Creem covered was covered in the inimitable Creem way. It’s true what Whitall was suggesting, I think, that Iggy (and though she doesn’t name him, Lou as well) was very clearly a Creem-identified artist–in a way that Mellencamp really was not–but that surely has as much to do with the era, and the fact that there wasn’t nearly the same amount of competition in the music ‘zine market in 1970 as there was in 1980 (Creem was able to claim the Stooges and Lou Reed by dint of the fact that no one else really wanted them). Also, Stooges-type of things were hardly anomalous in 1980 the way they were in 1970; the truly “radical” thing for Creem to have done in the early eighties would have been to place Grandmaster Flash on its cover… But that’s another minefield I hope to explore some day (i.e., the ‘zine’s conveniently overlooked disinterest in current black pop, more or less throughout its history).
It’s also a fantasy to suggest that the Stooges and Lou Reed comprised the bulk of Creem coverage in the early seventies (the anthology, to its credit, makes this pretty clear). The Creem I grew up reading was also about Black Oak Arkansas and Wet Willie and Led Zeppelin (tons of Led Zeppelin, in fact) and ELP and the Stones and Rick Wakeman and etc. etc. Hang on a sec–I’m not saying that Whitall actually suggested this, or that any other Creem insiders have engaged in this particular fantasy. But I do think it’s a fantasy that has gained some traction among interested observers over the years–i.e., the idea that Creem was this constant churner-outer of the so-called “trash aesthetic.”
In regards to Duran Duran (who Whitall lumped in with Mellencamp as being “un-Creem“): Holdship’s argument is rooted in specifics and is entirely sound, but again, I would take the argument further and say that the point is less about Duran Duran per se than it is about Creem. Bangs himself might’ve (who knows?) written wonderfully about Duran Duran. As might’ve several other Creemsters I could name off the top of my head, including Sue Whitall and Bill Holdship! Note that I have no vested interest whatsoever in this particular argument. Even at the height of my new wave/synth-pop phase, I think I liked Duran Duran for approximately 23 minutes; the only songs I can listen to by them now are a couple middling hits from their early ’90s AOR (Adult-Oriented Roxy) phase, which were released long after they ceased to matter. Their ’80s pop hits truly are vile. Nevertheless, I don’t believe there’s anything “un-Creem” about them. ’80s Creem would’ve sucked hard if all it covered was indie-punk. ’80s Creem way too good and way too smart for that.