Creem Magazine was THE ROCK magazine. The best of the best was, without a doubt, Creem. Forget Rolling Stone. Corporate and usually dismissive of Punk.
Yes, Creem magazine was the BEST ROCK MAG. Ever. Read on to see they didn’t treat me that well, lost slides, but hey, THEY WERE IT. And Creem, of all the mags, deserves to be honored, remembered and most of all, CELEBRATED.
Creem was one of the few magazines who actually put photographer’s names on their masthead. This is a major list of who’s who of rock photography. Note the author of the Creem book is not listed. Yeah.
Ok, so why we MUST have THIS version? The TRUTH.
Creem magazine and I started our relationship in early 1976. Let’s start at the beginning. Late 1975, while waiting in line at the grocery store, I glanced at a new magazine called “People.” I lived in the northeast corner of the Valley, in Granada Hills. I stopped when seeing a photo of a rather androgynous looking woman. Quoting Rimbaud. I figured any rock n roller who knows the Symbolist poets is someone I want to know.
I will never forget first listening to Patti’s “Horses.” My life was totally and irreversibly changed. I wanted to read everything I could about this new thing called “Punk music.” But mainstream media wasn’t having it. They were not fans.
Only a handful of magazines and fanzines were covering punk in late 75 and early 76. I also had a disadvantage because I was out in the Valley. We didn’t get a lot of rock ‘n roll magazines.
Like then, I was too busy making art to hang out. So I rarely ventured into the city (Hollywood, West LA, etc) except for old movies (which you can see on TCM now).
I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. New York Rocker. From the South Bay in Los Angeles, the great “Back Door Man.”
PUNK magazine was of course great. But I felt alienated from it. Like it was a special group of people which didn’t include me. John Holmstrom said they would have used my photos. I never knew.
Thankfully Creem magazine was sold at the local 7/11 (a rather new convenience store open from 7 am to 11 pm, a radical concept for its time). Kids out in the wilderness far from Hollywood could get their hands on this irreverent and very relevant cutting edge magazine.
“Back Door Man,” “New York Rocker” and “Creem” were my window into this strange new wonderful, exciting world. (All predated “Slash” magazine. I was published in and mentioned in Slash. Many times. Totally left out of new Slash book. Thanks. For nothing.)
I never imagined that any my photos would ever be in Creem magazine. Or that my name would be on the masthead for a few years. That still is a great honor and privilege. Gives me great smiles.
I probably first read about the Ramones in Creem. Creem wrote about the Ramones’ first West Coast tour (Hollywood, South Bay, San Francisco) August 1976. The article started by stating they were followed around by “a 250 pound cherub name Jenny.” I didn’t weigh more than 175, so adding nearly 80 pounds should have hurt more than it did. At least I was mentioned. I can laugh and feel hurt at the same time. Fat girls get used to that. But not that fat!
That ‘cherub’ created one of the most vital Ramones photo archives. As for the rest of my vast archive: it stands on its own. Unique. Influential. Iconic. Beloved.
My photos were published all over the world. Docs, mags, fanzines, art exhibits and more. My work in our national Museum, the Smithsonian. Waking up to an email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art inquiring about licensing my Screamers photo for their annual fashion doll up. “Punk: From Chaos to Couture.” When I was studying and creating art for my BA in Art and MFA in Design, I never imagined my work in the Met!! The Smithsonian! Grammy Museum, Rock Hall of Fame, Experience Music Project and more. Wow.
BUT of all the mags in the world, CREEM WAS IT.
Creem didn’t open doors. Didn’t help me get photo passes. Rarely paid and paid very little. I don’t even think I got a free subscription. They didn’t return some prized slides despite my requests. I wonder what happened to my photos. I sent more photos to Creem than anywhere else. Either they were thrown out, stolen by staffers, or who knows what because I’ve heard a lot of stories.
But that is not my focus. My focus is about the importance of Creem magazine.
PLUS the honest fact that our stories, the people involved in Creem, have never been told. There’s a book but I’m not mentioned. How I can be left out of Creem magazine when I created some of its most vital punk photos? When MY name on the masthead BEFORE his? I’m not the only photographer left out. Chalk it up to the massive ego of the person behind the book.
I’ll start with Ramones, although I don’t usually recall what was published where.
Lisa Robinson mailed a postcard I’ve buried in my files. She didn’t think the way Creem described me was very nice. She was so sweet! Silly, insecure me. I never kept in touch with the woman who became the most vital rock writer. Ever.
[This photo also from my “Punk Pioneers” book, published by Rizzoli/Universe]
Creem absolutely loved my Debbie Harry Blondie photos. Particularly my infamous photo of Debbie sitting on the Whisky stage floor.
Her white panties, or as they say in England, white knickers, are showing. Creem love that. Creem also loved the Screamers. They lost my very best Screamers slide. The only evidence I have my scan of the tear sheet.
But I am very grateful honored and flattered that they did utilize my photos. And he didn’t hesitate to put my name on the masthead and keep it there while I was shooting.
Most fanzines and magazines like Creem were run by the seat of their pants. Things happen. Slash Magazine threw out my Blasters negatives and blamed me. I only lived a few blocks away from their office but nobody told me. LA Weekly did the same with some of my Patti Smith pictures.
Don’t make out Creem to be a villain when everyone was mishandling files.
A wild and wacky and wonderful time. So let’s focus on the good stuff.
Blondie debuted at the Whisky with Tom Petty. February 1977. I usually mention they debuted with Ramones. But they played with Tom Petty before the Ramones.
My negatives show that Debbie rolling around on the Whisky stage floor. My classic photo captured her as she was just about to get up. I was standing to the audience left of Debbie, or stage or her right. I was standing next to the stage. Not many attended early punk shows. Easy to get up to the front and to move around. Punk was not on radio nor known. Except to readers of Creem and other underground or indie mags and fanzines.
I cannot recall exactly how I was in Blondie’s hotel room at the Bel-Air Hotel in Brentwood. I think Screamer Tomato du Plenty probably invited me. I have photos of him, and Tommy Gear, his fellow band member of the soon-to-be infamous the Screamers, plus Black Randy (a whole other chapter unto himself) and others. A pal, guitarist Michael Wilcox, told me a story a few years ago. He ripped his pants while visiting Blondie. Debbie sewed them up. Sadly I did not see nor photograph that. Probably happened before I arrived.
I remember standing facing the kitchen. I saw a tall, slim, well-dressed man with a gorgeous head of dark brown curls walk towards me. I put my hand out and said “Hi, I’m Jenny.” He said “Hi, I’m Brian.” Oh that gorgeous British accent. The Go-Go’s sang of “London Boys.” I absolutely adore British accents.
I had this funny feeling he was someone special. I literally walked away facing him. I had this weird instinct is not to turn around so that my back would face him as I walked away. Which is how the British treat their Queen.
I walked into the main room with many sitting around or on the bed. Brian’s companion was sitting next to Debbie.
Creem loved those photos of Debbie and the blonde pal of tall Brit Brian.
I took some other shots of that tall man sitting and playing around with a guitar on the bed.
Later I found out I photographed Brian May, guitarist, and Roger Taylor, drummer. Queen plays a vital part in punk. If you are a fan of the Germs, Darby Crash, Pat Smear, Belinda, Go-Go’s or other early LA punks, you would know that a Queen show is where a lot of early punks first met each other.
Now we have the memory of Donald Trump using Queen to make his entrance at the RNC. Brian May repeatedly said Queen never approved any of their songs for Trump. In fact, ALL the rock music used during the RNC, including George Harrison’s estate to Queen to others, have been denounced by the rock bands. Of course that doesn’t matter to Trump. Or GOP. The irony of Reagan using “Born on the Fourth of July” by Springsteen. Which he wrote in opposition everything Reagan ever stood for.
Getting back to Queen: they were brought to Blondie’s hotel room by their good friend Rodney Bingenheimer [Seen here introducing the first British punk band to play LA, the Damned at the Starwood, April 17, 1977.].
I was very new to the scene. I did not know the history of all this nor all the players. I was very shy. I was taught not to ask personal questions. I held myself back. And I was so focused on taking pix, but not getting in people’s faces. I’m still learning about all that now. When I feel like it.
Another reason I WANT this Creem documentary. I wanna know! So many questions!
I had other images in Creem. Then, like now, I don’t keep track. I don’t really know what was published where nor when. I’m always surprised fans know much more about that than I!
I sent photos to Creem when Iggy performed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, April 15, 1977. Bowie was on piano with Hunt and Tony Sales accompanying them. Blondie opened.
Imagine my surprise when I found this Iggy poster in the mid-1990s at a record store in Pasadena. At least they credited me!
I paid $15 and tax. Then reached out to the designer Gary Grimshaw. He claims that he and Creem tried to get hold of me for permission for the photo. We didn’t have email, cell phones or voicemail. I think I had an answering machine, but most did not. This poster is now in a book celebrating 500 of the greatest all-time rock posters. A book I can’t afford to buy. With MY Photo.
I had to sneak my camera into the Santa Monica Civic because they had this asinine rule no cameras. The Civic reached out to me a few years ago for photos because they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the venue. They were stunned when I told them the reason they had a hard time finding rock photos. The man in charge didn’t like photography. I was actually thrown out of the Patti Smith concert because of having my camera. But for Iggy, I managed to sneak in my camera. And somehow get close to the front row.
I recall two folding chairs with the three of us: Mary Rat, Hellin Killer and I. They were bouncing up and down as I was taking photos. I did not have a very good lens. I certainly could not use flash. But I managed to take absolutely lovely photos. Although I never got paid, at least I got credited.
Guess who benefitted from my Screamers photos? Not I! The Screamers became the first unsigned band to play LA’s Roxy, in no small part due to MY photos of them in Creem. Creem was a major magazine with international distribution. Yeah, but I had to beg and beg for a photo pass. Typically cost $3/show. I spent $30 most nights on film and developing. I found out later MY photos helped them get the gig. Fun times, eh?
Screamers on the bus bench is by far one of my most beloved images. I gave away prints to many friends back in the day. I still hear from people, thanking me. So many say this is their all time fave LA punk photo.
My beloved color slide was not returned, despite my requests. Guess someone took it. Ya think?
Screamers debut, May 28. 1977. Centerfold in Metropolitan Museum of Art’s big catalog for “Punk: From Chaos to Couture.” Now that was a thrill!! It’s also highly bootlegged. As are many of my photos.
One of my most beloved photos is Dueling Guitars, Joan Jett and Lita Ford, Runaways, August 27, 1977, Whisky.
A great color shot, Whisky backstage, summer 1977 [this from Music Life, a Japanese rock mag. But the Creem photo was similar]. I took photos of some of the Nuns with their New York buddy Joey Ramone and their LA buddies, Joan Jett and Rodney Bingenheimer.
The Nuns were a band of New Yorkers and others including a lot of Jews, who were a major early San Francisco punk group. I mention Jews because that comes into play with their songs.
The Jam, October 7, 1977. I licensed one image for an editorial to their record company. It was Mercury Polydor, now UMG. They used it for ads, quite illegally. The ad was in Creem. Here’s another version, which I prefer. I like landscape or horizontal to show the whole stage.
I included other personalities predominant in Creem. I can’t recall if these were published … Darby Crash, Germs, Masque, November 23, 1977. The Clash, 16 Ton Tour, England, June 1980.
Started with the Ramones, August 1976 and ended with the Clash, June 1980. Sweet!! Doesn’t get better than that!
If anybody thinks all this was so glamorous, think again. I worked around the clock. While partying. Teaching adults for LA school district. I was very loosey-goosey about the business end. I was more concerned about spreading the word. I wanted to help these bands and this punk movement by taking photos so that people could see what they were missing.
It was hard. No money, often missing or wrong credit, little appreciation, long hours and all that jazz.
Some incredibly fine transcendent hugely memorable once in a lifetime moments. When the bands played: was and remains nothing like it.
I’m sure there’s many more but my tear sheets are buried away. You get the picture that some of my most vital photos were published first and often by Creem magazine.
It is vital we honor and remember Creem magazine. World culture was affected by what WE and Creem created. Many of us who were involved would love to know more about Creem.
We’d love also be able to again show our photos. For the first time, share our stories. And be acknowledged.
Nothing worse than being constantly written out of OUR own life stories! Been there, done that. The lies, distortions, fabrications about my involved in punk is sadly debilitating. Let us tell OUR truth. WE took photos. Geez.
More than that, FANS are eager for more info!! More photos! More stories. Do tell the Creem story. Boy Howdy!
Please support this great project. If you love rock ‘n roll, that’s the very least you can do.
I’m quite frankly fed up with lip service. I get all these fans who tell me that my work has changed their life. All kinds of being nice emails, Facebook messages and whatnot. But when it comes time for them to open up their wallet and actually help us so we can actually preserve our work, then somehow they are MIA.
Don’t tell me you don’t have a few bucks to invest in this worthwhile project. I’m not having it. WHAT kind of rocker are you? Poseurs.
I don’t know how many people actually made money being involved with Creem. Most of us did it for the love of rock ‘n roll. I certainly gave Creem thousands of dollars worth of my time, energy and photos.
The least you can do is fork over $5 or $10 or more. Plus spread the word. IF anyone thinks I’m too much in your face, you don’t understand what it means to be a real punk.
I’m also fed up with the co-opting of the word “punk.” Fine. Use it however you want. BUT do not take it away from REAL PUNKS.
Give credit credit is due.
Support this film. Spread the word. Open up your wallets. Or you’re not a rock ‘n roller. Don’t even think the phrase “rock star.” Delusional poseur.
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS. OR STFU.
That, my friends, is what rock ‘n roll is all about. Speaking truth to power. Laying it all on the line. You’re either part of the problem or solution. Be the solution. Help create this Creem documentary.
Get some cool swag while you’re at it. Thanks. Now OPEN your wallets and rock out! SHARE. Now. tell EVERYONE. Again and again. Thank you! Rock on!