Almost Infamous – Robert Matheu and the Big Book of Creem, Part II

Matheu snaps Hynde through the mirror, brightly.

AR: Tell me about the book. How did the idea first come about?

RM: No brainer, it was never not an idea. So many tried to do it over the years. I’m not saying that I was the right person, but the only one to get it done. After we started the website archive and then the new era Creem, the readers never stopped asking for it. Since Brian and I had spent so much time with the old issues over the last four years, we knew what was good and where to go. Greg Allen, our art director, had been working with us on the website as well, so it came together pretty fast. We only had three weeks for the first submission, then for corrections, proofing, etc. In that time I went to Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, and Iggy Pop for their color comments, we’d add those while Harper Collins was doing test runs on the photos and proofing. And I’ve told the story how I, or how Brian Bowe found me…

AR: When did you meet him?

RM: He started writing via the website; little emails about what he was into, sensibilities and musical taste, that kind of thing. His love of the MC5 and all things related encouraged me to re-embrace my Detroit music roots as well. So, he started doing some reviews for the website. Richard Riegel and Dave DiMartino were always touchstones with the website archive, the direction we should be taking it, that kind of thing. I asked them how we were going to find the next editor. They both had the same take as Brian began to write more, saying how they enjoyed his work – kind of casting their votes without knowing it. Brian in turn brought some fine new young blood in, writers that he had in his class at Grand Valley. So, his expertise would be from being a journalism professor, working at a couple of newspapers and editing the Creem website the past four years. By any means, the way that Brian got involved was, as we say, very blowjobian. Creem brought Brian out to Coachella the year the Stooges reformed. I gave him my extra photo pass and a camera and took him into the pit to see the Stooges up close. While waiting for them to start, I told him how we thought that he should be the first editor of Creem in its new life. The Stooges tore into “Loose” and that was that.

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Almost Infamous – Robert Matheu and the Big Book of Creem, Part I.

Matheu snaps Hynde through the mirror, darkly.

Robert Matheu is pretty excited about his book release, CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine. In fact it’s all he can talk, or e-mail, about. It isn’t a session with one of the hundreds of musicians he’s photographed before. No, this time it’s all about the book he just finished with a little help from some of his old, and new, friends.

Starting out like many of his Creem compatriots, an impressionable young music enthusiast from Michigan, Matheu instead used photos for words, providing the visuals for many an infamous caption. While Creem was known for using many photographers, it was he who remained most affixed to the magazine, later being a guiding force in the 1980s after his move to the West coast. Leafing through back pages (often literally), it can be great fun to try to spot all the photos. This game will be slightly easier with the book.

AR: What was your first introduction to Creem?

RM: In my early teens, growing up on the West side of Detroit – and that was actually the hard part when I was writing the outro to the book – remembering the bookstore at the corner of my street. Thankfully, my brother didn’t do as many drugs as I did over the years and he actually remembered. I didn’t really start reading it until ’71. I had a lot of friends, older friends, but I think of our lot, I was the first to discover Creem. They sold it at the corner store on my street and at that time had an adult section. It was displayed right on the rack next to Al Goldstein’s legendary Screw Magazine because the name had the weird spelling with the double e; it was kind of misconstrued as being some sort of soft core porn magazine.

Richard Siegel, who is what I refer to as on of the founding fathers, actually used that to their advantage in the early days because from what I understand of all the stories I heard from Rick and Charlie Auringer, they pretty much when they got the paper done, when it was still the double-fold newspaper, everyone had had their duties – almost like a paper route – taking it around to different stores that they actually went to.

Creem was like the only one that appealed to our sensibilities because even though Rolling Stone was around it was very much, you know, they wrote about the Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead, which wasn’t necessarily the stuff we were seeing in Detroit. It was much more originally a local magazine. I think that’s what Tony Reay meant, when we first hooked up and started talking about the website, he said that was his original vision; we were supposed to be about the local scene. It was such a beautiful time and Detroit was such a different city, but it was like CKLW being what it was and WKNR, it was all about Motown, which is why I could never relate to Rolling Stone.

Continue reading “Almost Infamous – Robert Matheu and the Big Book of Creem, Part I.”

Bill Holdship on Creem

the REAL reason I liked Creem so much in 1974

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.

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Creem NY Observer follow-up piece

The New York Observer does a follow-up piece on the Creem debacle, focusing more on Marsh’s, Whitall’s, et al. battles with the ‘zines legacy (and less on the lawsuit). Seems to me there’s an underlying, more interesting battle going on here–a sideshow to Matheu vs. the Creem critics–that being seventies Creemsters vs. eighties Creemsters (witness Whitall’s comment: “‘John Mellencamp?’ she said with incredulity. ‘He’s in there. Come on! He’s so … Continue reading Creem NY Observer follow-up piece

The Creem Dreem is over?

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.

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New Creem Anthology… Boy Howdy indeed!

Just had my Amazon order of the new Creem anthology delivered to me at work. Don’t want to say too much about it yet (as I’ve owned it for all of 120 seconds–literally–and also because we have more full-fledged Creem content on the way in the weeks ahead), but… Holy Crap! This is NOT what I expected at all. What I Expected: A pocket-size collection of … Continue reading New Creem Anthology… Boy Howdy indeed!