Everyone’s a Critic — Even Rock Stars

Jim DeRogatis

2 Min Read

As befits a magazine that saw no separation between artists and fans, several soon-to-become-legendary musicians appeared in prose in the pages of Creem. Some only contributed contrarian missives to the letters column — among them a young John Lydon, still living in Ireland before the Sex Pistols, and future Pere Ubu singer David Thomas, writing in from Cleveland — while others penned proper features, including Peter Laughner, who with Thomas formed the pre-Ubu Rocket from the Tombs, and Lenny Kaye, a prodigious scribe before he traded his typewriter for a guitar.

Befriended and championed by Lester Bangs in the years before her remarkable debut album, ‘Horses,’ Patti Smith contributed several poems to Creem.

But none became more legendary than Kaye’s musical partner, punk poet and icon Patti Smith. Befriended and championed by Lester Bangs in the years before her remarkable debut album, “Horses,” Smith contributed several poems to Creem, as well as reviewing albums including David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Bob Dylan’s “Planet Waves,” the Velvet Underground’s “Live ’69” and Todd Rundgren’s “A Wizard, a True Star.” She wrote essays lauding the careers of two poets she considered heroes, Jim Morrison and Charles Baudelaire. And, most memorably, she contemplated the appeal of the Rolling Stones in a January 1973 piece flamboyantly titled “Jag-arr of the Jungle: “The monkey man swings home for a snort of Cognac with his pals, Bianca and Boy. He may top it off with a Cold Italian Pizza. Ook, ook.”

“I was scared silly,” Smith wrote of watching the Stones’ first appearance on U.S. television, continuing with little regard for capitalization. “there was pa glued to the tv screen cussing his brains out. A rock ’n’ roll band was doing it right on the ed sullivan show. pa was frothing like a dog. I never seen him so mad. but I lost contact with him quick. that band was as relentless as murder. I was trapped in a field of hot dots. the guitar player had pimples. the blonde kneeling down had circles ringing his eyes. one had greasy hair. the other didn’t care. and the singer was showing his second layer of skin and more than a little milk. I felt thru his pants with optic x-ray. this was some hard meat. this was a bitch. five white boys sexy as any spade. their nerves were wired and their third leg was rising. in six minutes five lusty images gave me my first glob of gooie in my virgin panties.”

Whew! Rock writing doesn’t get much more visceral than that, even from Lester Bangs. Thank you, Creem, for giving it a home.

Published in partnership with Creem Magazine

Born the year the Beatles arrived in America, Jim DeRogatis began voicing his opinions about rock ’n’ roll shortly thereafter. He is an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, and together with Greg Kot, he co-hosts “Sound Opinions,” the weekly pop-music talk show heard on 150 Public Radio stations and via podcast. DeRogatis spent 15 years as the pop-music critic at The Chicago Sun-Times and has written 10 books about music, including “Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly”, “Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs” and “Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock.”

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