“The writers [Creem] propelled to stardom — Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, and Nick Tosches being three of the most celebrated — explored rock with a bombast that was smart but anti-intellectual, ‘amateurist and faux lowbrow,’ positioning themselves between the studious class of New York writers and the deference that came out of San Francisco.”
“If Goldstein represented the quandary of what critical practise should be in an age when mediation risked killing the very culture he loved, [early Voice music critic, Annie] Fisher provided an answer: return to pleasure and give up analysis (a stance that would be taken up, in a different way, by the journalists who helped to build Creem)
Both of these quotes are taken from Devon Powers’s Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism (pages 6 and 95, respectively). Of the many specious claims I’ve come across in the book (I like some parts of it, too, though on balance I don’t think the author really achieves the enormity of the task at hand), this is the one that most rubbed me the wrong way — i.e., the idea that Creem was this bastion of anti-intellectualism. Also, the idea that the “journalists” at Creem gave up analysis for pleasure (when really, the point, I think, was to not separate pleasure from analysis, to not even recognize a distinction). Labelling what Tosches, Marsh, and Bangs did as “smart but anti-intellectual” in a book entirely devoted to an important strand of the history of rock intellectualism… I just don’t get that at all. Not to say that there probably weren’t some writers in Creem who might have played that as a certain stance, or a certain move. There was always a “this-isn’t-art” argument lurking below the surface of Creem‘s trash aesthetic, not to mention a lot of fucking around, mocking the musicians, etc. I guess I just don’t read that as anti-thought; it was more about expanding how one could think about this stuff, how something could be analyzed in a way that didn’t necessarily scream “analysis” in bold letters. Lester Bangs typing on stage while the J. Geils Band played their set; this was just a different way to do it.