NYCD: The Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

REMEMBERING "THE MAGAZINE OF ROCK"

Classic rock. The music itself is, well, classic. But it's been so overplayed, for so long, whether it's on radio or in movies and commercials, that it's hardly necessary to even put on the records or CDs. Mention "Sgt. Pepper" and I can run through the entire thing on speed play in my head in about ten seconds, and say "Yeah, great album. What should we listen to next?" Add in a generation of baby boomers drumming into our heads the fact that Bob Dylan or the Stones or Janis Joplin are Certifiably Great Music, not like the garbage the kids are into today, and it's enough to turn off almost any music freak.

Wouldn't it be cool to go in the way-back machine and listen to these albums when they were new, with an un-jaded ear and without all the baggage they've acquired over the last 40 years? Reading "The Crawdaddy! Book" may be the next best thing. Crawdaddy!, which called itself "the magazine of rock" and whose premiere issue hit the streets in early 1966 (almost two years before Rolling Stone), was the first American publication about pop music that wasn't a trade mag or a teenybopper rag. It almost singlehandedly invented the art of rock criticism in the States, and was the training ground for brilliant rock writers like Peter Guralnick, Jon Landau, and Richard Meltzer.

"The Crawdaddy! Book" chronicles the magazine's early years, from 1966-68. In reading the reviews and features on artists like Bob Dylan, Love, The Doors, and the Rolling Stones, you get an idea of how they affected people when they were new releases and you actually had to think about whether "Blonde On Blonde" or "Between The Buttons" were good, and why, rather than simply knowing that they're classics. The writers also don't love everything you'd expect them to love. The Mamas & The Papas and the Rascals get raves, but Cream's first album and Paul Butterfield's "East-West" get panned. The style is a little dated in places, but the writing has held up surprisingly well, especially considering that most of the writers were in college at the time.

Returning to some of the artists chronicled in the book, I've realized that I still don't like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band or the Doors, but I have a newfound appreciation for the Stones' "Aftermath" and the Lovin' Spoonful's early albums. And I'm grateful to this book for shaking the cobwebs from my ears and helping me remember that classic rock is classic because (most of it, at least) is damn good.

3 Comments:

Blogger soundsourcenyc said...

wow crawdaddy, between that and ramparts it accounted for most of what i viewed as rock criticism. those guys loved the rock and rolla. i believe they have a website and sell old issues (republished) of the magazine.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

I think I still have several original issues in storage. I should drag them out and remind myself what it was like when I still had brain cells to destroy. Though it must be noted that Crawdaddy had an immediate impact in that teen mags started to write occasionally serious pieces about new bands. It was in Hit Parader (March '67, I think) that I first saw an Eric Clapton quote about his then current fave local band... Pink Floyd. Piper At The Gates of Dawn had not even been released in the US yet.

But Crawdaddy was definitely the first to encourage thinking about musical vs. just getting stoned and listening to it....

3:51 PM  
Blogger David said...

To me, Crawdaddy, and especially Paul Williams, showed the way to write about music that you love, without sounding like merely a blathering fan.

I hopped on the Crawdaddy train midway through its first year of publication. The most memorable articles were the Paul Williams/David Anderle discussion of Smile (3 parts!) and Williams's hilarious review of the Byrds Greatest Hits. I think that Meltzer and Landau did their best work for Crawdaddy.

8:25 PM  

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