CREEM was one of the loudest, heaviest and most influential rock and roll bands of the ‘70s – it just happened to put out magazines instead of albums. In Boy Howdy: The Story of CREEM Magazine, former staffers and craggy fans (Alice Cooper, Michael Stipe, Bebe Buell) pay their respects to the mightiest vocation of them all: rock journalism.
To a 21st-century viewer, this is the stuff of tragic cliché. Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll? How passé. But Boy Howdy does a solid job of putting CREEM in context, explaining how a bunch of college-age misfits from the burned-out city of Detroit turned a shoestring operation into a cultural behemoth. At a time of violent protests and deep generational divides, CREEM gave voice to the dirtbags of the counterculture, poking fun at their idols on the understanding that, deep down, Sammy Hagar and Lou Reed were just like you and me.
The house style was bolshy, bratty, and hopelessly un-PC (“These bitches suck,” concluded one writer on the Runaways; Patti Smith was a “filthy slut”). But the insolence was conceived to exacting standards, often fuelled by the antagonism between writer Lester Bangs and editor Dave Marsh: gonzo irreverence versus sardonic righteousness. Like all too many of their rock contemporaries, Creem’s story ended in tragedy, but its legacy is irrefutably entwined with the thing we still celebrate as punk rock.