The first genuine attempt at creating a forum for a dialog between rock writer and rock fan was Paul Williams’ Crawdaddy. The photocopied pages of that magazine carried analysis and interpretation of the importance of rock n roll in articles that were insightful, ridiculous, passionate, literate, embarrassing, brilliant and moronic, often within the span of the same paragraph. Crawdaddy proved there was an interest in … Continue reading Back to School Days
I-94 Bar, a ‘zine from Australia, devotes its latest issue to “America’s Only…” Includes an interview with Robert Matheu, and reviews of the book. Continue reading More Creem Chatter
Musical heartbreak came early for Dave as his first record, Alvin & the Chipmunks, was left too close to the radiator rendering it unplayable. The first record bought with Dave’s own money was the Beach Boys, All Summer Long. Dave’s father, at the time a record storeowner, originated the policy of renting customers listening devices to call in to hear new music. Somewhat … Continue reading Fun Facts About Dave DiMartino
AR: You’re going on to David Lee Roth now, aren’t you?
DD: David Lee Roth is a different scenario. It’s hard to put into perspective now, because it doesn’t make much sense – it depends on how old you are. But when Van Halen came out they were really deemed horrendous by most critics. They were excessive, crappy, noisy, and this really sounds like I’m being a jerk, but I had just done a cover story on them – it’s up on Rock’s BackPages. It got reprinted a lot – the first big Van Halen story we did for Creem. The gist of the story – which is embarrassing now, because as a rule I usually hate most heavy metal – was that I confessed I loved and was captivated by Van Halen. And this was circa the Women and Children First record. And I know at that time it was not deemed a particularly hip move to admit you liked Van Halen, I know. I remember I went to this punk club in Detroit to watch Rachel Sweet play and was wearing a Van Halen t-shirt and got scoffed at by many a punk. Roth was a great showman; great sense of humor and everyone in the band were great guys. The music still stands up – this is pre-Sammy Hagar. They existed in an interesting place – this sounds kind of dopey – a sort of pre-post ironic age. They were really good at acting like morons and knowing they were acting like morons and people liking them whether they were or not.
In a way I was reminded of that years later, living out here, I had to review the new Blue Oyster Cult for Mojo – and this was well past their shelf date, but from an assignment standpoint they asked me who was in town and I said Blue Oyster Cult and they said “Oh, why don’t you review that?” So I saw them and it made me think that BOC also had it good because they had all the trappings of heavy metal, but it all seemed to be a big joke, so they could in one fell swoop get all the hipsters who were sort of in on it, so to speak, and get the ones who weren’t, who liked the music at the same time. And it was just miraculous music that still sounds good.
AR: I guess by the mid ’80s onward it was like one had to work just to avoid the overexposed acts.
DD: Yeah, I agree. The other thing you have to think about is how many music videos you’re familiar with – how many stills from those acts you’ve seen in your mind’s eye, how many brain cells have been wasted with their image splattered on them, that sort of thing. They’re all filled with very striking looking people and it’s almost a mathematical process. People that meet a certain visual criteria, who make music that satisfies a certain amount of people in the country – just put them in the machine and this is the result: In the late ‘80s they’d get on every magazine cover, they were all over TV and the same place at the same time. It’s was the complete antithesis of let’s say, Led Zeppelin, who shunned interviews. These others were out there and setting records for just how out there they could be, for how long. I don’t mean out there crazy, but out there in your face.
AR: What was the music scene like in Michigan at the time?
DD: Well, I moved there in the fall of ‘71. In Miami, I had seen and we were very aware of the MC5 and to a lesser extent the Stooges. Ted Nugent was very bog in Miami in the late ‘60s because of his Amboy Dukes thing, “Journey To The Center of The Mind.” And there were a few Detroit bands I was mildly interested in, like SRC, for example, the Frost, and even Bob Seger, whose “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” had been a hit in Miami as well. But it was very much of a prime music scene, and when I moved there, the most significant aspects of it were already on the decline.
AR: I see.
DD: Actually, one of my favorite moments occurred when I on the air, doing my teenage radio show – at the time I must have been 18 at most.
AR: Do tell…
DD: I was in the studio of WBRS, one of MSU’s campus stations, doing my “show.” No one else was in there but me, and all of a sudden three or four people come in and introduce me to the main man, John Sinclair, who apparently had just got out of jail for his pot smoking offense or whatever. I really only had any inkling of who John Sinclair was on the basis of his involvement on the first MC5 album, and I heard John Lennon had some sort of benefit or other for him. I guess if you were a hip counter-cultural teen dude from Michigan, this would be an exciting moment for you. So he asked if I wanted to interview him on the air, and what was I going to say, “Nah, see you later?” So – and I still have a tape of this but have never ever played it – we’re talking, and I assume it’s completely obvious…
DiMartino and Walter Cronkite, circa 1971. (“From a Miami TV show when Walter ‘met the press’ himself – the youth press. I was editor of my high school paper. “)
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AR: What was the scene like in your formative years? What you were listening to and seeing that perhaps influenced what you wrote about?
DD: I was listening to Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Love, Velvet Underground, Nico, Traffic, Van Morrison, Kevin Ayers, The Nice, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, The Incredible String Band, Procol Harem, King Crimson, Tim Buckley – was a big fan then – Todd Rundgren/Nazz, and Humble Pie.
AR: What else was shaping your young mind, culturally, or sub-culturally at that time?
DD: I reviewed a lot of that stuff in the paper, back then. I used to spend a lot of time at the record store, where you could by three LPs for $10. Used to buy a lot of records merely because they looked intriguing – stuff like Mandrake Memorial, Mott the Hoople’s first album. I spent time going to the local pop festivals – several in Miami, one in Palm Beach, and saw a lot of live bands; was very focused on the music culture. I played the keyboards, which meant that the high school bands we were in covered music that featured an organ – artists like Vanilla Fudge, Traffic, Iron Butterfly, Blues Image – pretty funny stuff. We were briefly the house band for a college fraternity, which was pretty cool for high school kids. Like I said before, was very interested in music, dopey films that played at drive-ins. As “younger” baby-boomers, we looked at the hippies in San Francisco, the guys in Easy Rider as potential role models. It was an interesting perspective in that they were doing things that we couldn’t quite do yet because we were too young, but aware of all that seemed to be promised. Sex, drugs, and rock hadn’t become a formal cliché yet.
It could be said that Dave DiMartino has the life many may wish they had – Cameron Crowe included – both in and out of the music business. He was born in an ideal boomer year (1953), in a great locale (New York before moving to Miami), and raised in a music-friendly household that provided the springboard for his creative and career pursuits.While attending Michigan State University, he worked at the school radio station, interviewing the likes of Big Star and Captain Beefheart.
Soon after he landed squarely at Creem Magazine and almost as swiftly into an editor’s position. He wrote many of the stories about bands, festivals and popular phenomena that linked musical eras; garage and punk to new wave and brit pop of the ‘80s. Since then, DiMartino’s been the most visible guy you’ve never seen.
Departing just before the office relocated to Los Angeles, he became West Coast bureau chief at Billboard for five years. He then spent the next two as a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly and spent six months as acting West Coast editor for Musician while Bill Flanagan was off writing his U2 book. During that time he wrote Singer-Songwriters: Pop Music’s Performer-Composers from A to Zevon. Dave DiMartino has written liner notes for The Best of Love. To balance the hipness factor, he also did so for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Go ahead, ask him about the Doors. He witnessed their notorious performance in Miami in 1969, he was consultant editor for Chuck Crisafulli’s Moonlight Drive: The Story Behind Every Doors Song, 1967-78 and penned the notes for the band’s The Complete Studio Recordings box set. He was U.S. editor of the 3-volume Music in The 20th Century encyclopedia (M.E. Sharpe, 1998).]
His job of the past 13 years as executive editor for Yahoo!Music (formerly Launch.com) has taken him to music conferences and studio stages for soundcasts and interviews. In the latter months of 2006 he took time to interview by phone, instant message, and e-mail to share his accounts of growing up with and working for Creem and beyond.
– A.C. Rhodes
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AR: What was your first experience at Creem?
DD: I was in grad school – I had a B.S. in psychology, but since I was making money writing, I decided to go for a masters in journalism. I did all my course work, so all I had to do was write a thesis, and I had five years to finish it. I got the subject approved, which was a big deal – to compare and contrast artists profiled in Downbeat, the jazz magazine, since its inception, and its coverage of black artists to white versus their historical and sales standing, to see if it was biased, that sort of thing. I was the music writer at the Michigan State paper from ’73 to ’76, but graduated in ’75, so I wrote for another year until someone said, “Why is this guy who doesn’t go to school here anymore writing for us?” I was back the next two years for grad school and was the entertainment editor from ’78 to ’79. I was pretty poor. Then the A&M campus rep told me Creem magazine was looking for an editorial assistant, which I was very happy to hear. I liked Creem and had been reading it since the first nationally distributed issue– the Jackson Five cover in ’71 – so I thought that would be great. I went down to interview with Sue Whitall and Linda Barber. The editorial assistant, Therese Oyler, had taken time off and then quit – and they needed a third hand. So I was happy to get on board.
AR: And it wasn’t that you were abandoning the idea of grad school since you had some years to finish during the Creem stint.
DD: I was so happy to possibly work there that I never really spent any time asking simple questions like “How much money do I get?” So I was kind of stunned when I got my first check, because it was so horribly low. But it was okay. It wasn’t that big a deal. My brother-in-law recently told me his father was stunned beyond belief back then. He was a Republican businessman and thought, “Oh, my God – what an idiot my daughter’s boyfriend is.”
[CREEM, November 1975] Continue reading Old Letters #8
Final installment of Bill Holdship’s Creem history/memoir/book review here, at Metro Times. A much deeper dig than the first installment into the story, the in-fighting, the book, etc.
A few disagreements along the way, the most major one being in regards to this:
“Of course, revisionism has been going on for a long time now. In 2000, music critic Simon Reynolds took potshots at Bangs (and me) on his blog, writing that he’d read Bangs’ stuff in CREEM just recently, and while a lot of it was very good, a great deal of it wasn’t all that. But Reynolds obviously couldn’t read it in full context. So that’s sort of like me saying ‘I listened to Elvis in the ’80s,’ or ‘I listened to the Sex Pistols in the ’00s, and I just don’t know what all the outrage was about.’ Take it from someone who was there reading him at the time: Lester Bangs was great, even if it’s harder these days to accept, as Greil Marcus once put it, ‘that the best writer in America could write almost nothing but record reviews.'”
Sour CREEM The life, death and strange resurrection of America’s only rock ‘n’ roll magazine: the first of two parts By Bill Holdship (Metro Times) This is the mammoth Creem piece Bill mentioned he was working on a few weeks back in his blog entry. Excellent stuff–great summation of the ‘zine’s formative years (though I wish there was a little more about contributors other than … Continue reading Bill Holdship on Creem: The 12″ Mega-Awesome Extend-o Remix