Creem was an alternative rock’n’roll magazine originally based in Detroit and printed from 1969 to 1989. In the ’70s and early ’80s, it was a go-to source for finding out who and where the cool weirdo bands were. It was run by rockers and psychedelic drug-taking hippies. It featured prolific writers such as Lester Bangs, Cameron Crowe, and Dave Marsh (you know, one of the fourteen dudes that claim they came up with the term “punk rock”?)
Creem: America’s Only Rock N’ Roll Magazine premiered last year and is now streaming online. The doc focuses on the years between the founding of the magazine in 1969, through 1982 when Lester Bangs was found dead. Through archive footage, fast whipping shots of the magazine, and interviews we get the meat of how the magazine was ran. The staff was originally paid five dollars a week and when the magazine moved to a communal house in the country, they were paid with room and board. They were always flying by the seat of their collective pants at Creem.
The magazine poked fun at Rolling Stone and the more clean-cut rock bands. One Creem writer described their work as showing off the “gender-fuckery of rock ‘n roll.” They were showcasing bands other outlets wouldn’t touch, like George Clinton, Alice Cooper, Kiss, MC5, and The Stooges. At the same time, some of the writers interviewed talked about how it was a total boys club and there is a chapter in the doc dedicated to the staff confronting the heavy sexism and homophobia in the magazine.
Other than hearing from members of the staff, there are interviews with Keith Morris, John Holmstrom, Wayne Kramer from the MC5 (who also did the music for the film), Chad Smith, Suzy Quatro, Michael Stipe, and a tiny bit with Joan Jett where she recalls writing a letter to Creem saying the Runaways were going to beat the shit out of a reviewer.
In the documentary, you learn how R. Crumb was convinced to draw the magazines mascot Boy Howdy, how the offices of Creem always ended up being flophouses, how much of delightfully cranky character Dave Marsh is, and what a piece of crap Lester Bangs was. Seriously, why do people idolize that guy?
My major complaint would have to be the horribly animated sequences. They look like someone doodled them quickly in a sketchbook or on Microsoft Paint and then animated with PowerPoint. They are so phoned in it hurts.
As a person who mostly despises ’70s rock culture, I thought this documentary was great. I never want to pick up an issue of Creem (except for that issue with Spider-Man on the cover) but it was a very culturally relevant magazine for its time that gave a lot of contributors a shot when nobody else would. RIP Creem Magazine. But please don’t come back. –Rick V. (Greenwich Entertainment, creemmag.com)