Capturing the messy upheaval of the ’70s just as rock was re-inventing itself, the film explores CREEM Magazine’s humble beginnings in post-riot Detroit, follows its upward trajectory from underground paper to national powerhouse – spotlighting iconic features, interviews, and anecdotes along the way – then bears witness to its imminent demise following the tragic and untimely deaths of its visionary publisher, Barry Kramer, and its most famous alum and genius clown prince, Lester Bangs, a year later. Fifty years after publishing its first issue, “America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine” remains a seditious spirit in music and culture.
A gritty, no holds barred, look at Detroit’s legendary CREEM Magazine and the unruly band of misfits that made it possible.
Rising from the smoldering ashes of the ’67 riots, CREEM ushered in a new era of raucous participatory rock journalism. A rock ‘n’ roll magazine ‘for the people,’ CREEM was a mirror and an amplifier, reflecting the sounds and scenes of the time and capturing the messy upheaval of the ’70s just as rock was re-inventing itself, dying its hair scarlet and putting on platform shoes, then ripping them off and sticking safety pins through its pouty lips.
Beginning in 1969, the film explores CREEM’s humble beginnings in Detroit’s Cass Corridor and follows its upward trajectory from underground paper to regional taste maker to a national powerhouse, up through the tragic and untimely deaths of its visionary publisher, Barry Kramer, in 1981 and its most famous alum and genius clown prince, Lester Bangs, a year later.
CREEM’s newsroom could be as wild an unruly as the music it covered, and the film spotlights the larger-than-life personalities of the magazine’s staff and their relationships to the artists they covered. Both famous and infamous, CREEM was responsible for some of the most groundbreaking, iconic, and (many times) controversial interviews in the history of rock journalism. Iggy Pop, MC5, Lou Reed, J. Geils, Patti Smith, The Clash, Ramones, Alice Cooper, KISS, Cheap Trick, and Blondie were among the boundary-pushing artists CREEM focused on, while its newsstand rivals largely ignored them.
CREEM Magazine spent two decades breaking barriers, rattling cages, and plugging audiences into their music in a way that has never been replicated. Fifty years later, CREEM remains a seditious spirit in rock ‘n’ roll.