Virtual Screening Room • Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine

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2019 • dir Scott Crawford w/Alice Cooper, Cameron Crowe, Kirk Hammett, Joan Jett, Wayne Kramer, Greil Marcus, Suzi Quatro, Michael Stipe, Peter Wolf • 75 min

Capturing the messy upheaval of the ’70s just as rock was reinventing itself, CREEM Magazine truly earned its moniker of “America’s Only Rock’n’Roll Magazine.” While Rolling Stone had pretensions of being something more than just a music rag right from the beginning, CREEM wallowed in the unruly, libidinous, juvenile, rebellious spirit of rock and roll – sometimes to its detriment. This engaging documentary explores the magazine’s humble beginnings in post-riot Detroit, follows its upward trajectory from underground paper to national powerhouse, then bears witness to its imminent demise following the tragic and untimely deaths of both its visionary publisher, Barry Kramer, and its most famous alum and genius clown prince, Lester Bangs, a year later.

Though largely celebratory and guided by insiders from CREEM’s roots, the film doesn’t shy away from the magazine’s obvious flaws – among them a sometimes toxic work environment, a childish sense of humor, a love/hate relationship with the stars they covered, and an often gleeful embrace of extremely not-PC content. On the other hand, one revealing fact that soon becomes clear is that, despite CREEM’s identity as a magazine squarely aimed at teenage boys (read: rife with casual misogyny and homophobia), there were a remarkable number of women at its heart. These smart and passionate female music fans weren’t just glorified secretaries either, but served in key creative and editorial positions, establishing a significant presence for women in rock journalism.

Interviews with famous fans, editors, contributors, and even some competitors – fleshed out with vintage footage, pages from the magazine, and an unstoppably rocking soundtrack – help prove that, even fifty years after publishing its first issue, “America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine” remains a seditious spirit in music and culture.

Trigger warning: As a Michigan-set publication, CREEM often featured Ted Nugent and he does appear in the film – but hold out until the end for former CREEM editor Dave Marsh’s epic takedown of the now controversial rocker.

“A brief, careening survey through the publication’s two-decade life and times, filled with colorful personalities and commentary. Vintage rock fans will be in (cough) high heaven.”
– Dennis Harvey, Variety

“A sharp, hip piece of rock history told with the same kind of insolent wit that made Creem what it was.”
– Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle