hey crawdaddy!

335_335_May_1967-001

At first, Crawdaddy! billed itself as “The Magazine of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and you probably don’t have any idea how revelatory and necessary that was. Before Crawdaddy!, if you were rock-music-fixated and needed to read about everything that was happening, where did you go? 16 Magazine, maybe Dig or Teen Scene, but they weren’t serious, and there was too much coverage of pretty male TV stars. They served a limited purpose. I grabbed what information I could get. Then one day I was browsing at Spinning Disc, my go-to record store on the Grand Concourse in The Bronx, and on the counter were a few copies of issue #7 of Crawdaddy! (the last one with “‘n’ roll”), which promised articles on The Remains, The Animals, Simon & Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane (their photo on the cover), Raga Rock and ‘50s “rockhistory.” For 35 cents.

And so I read Jon Landau’s piece on The Remains, Peter Guralnick on Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt, and editor Paul Williams’ amazing — to me — column What Goes On, named after a line in a Donovan song, and filled with Stuff I Needed To Know: it was the first time I saw The Doors mentioned in print, there were items about Tim Hardin, and a Dion & The Belmonts reunion record, and The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Pete Quaife rejoining The Kinks, and an upcoming Beach Boys single called “Heroes and Villains,” and the Airplane’s new singer Grace Slick, and rumors that Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page might leave The Yardbirds…

This was how we listened to and felt about and talked about rock music, trading discoveries, wondering who was coming to town, what new singles and albums were coming out, and until Paul Williams started Crawdaddy!, there was no one who wrote about the music the way it was being experienced. It was where I first read Richard Meltzer, where I came to realize I should be paying closer attention to Otis Redding, where the idea of “rock writing” as a thing someone could do was planted in my head (it had actually been there since I was about 11 or 12, when I did a drawing of a Vee Jay single by The Four Seasons and attached it to a sort of “gossip column” about records on the radio). If Paul Williams mentioned it, or if an article made me aware of something (like The Blues Project), I knew I most likely should check it out.

The mag’s publishing schedule was erratic, and the people who worked at Spinning Disc got bugged by my asking when a new issue might come in. It was a magazine that gave us validation; it seemed scruffy and tossed-together, and sometimes the writing seemed too term-paperish, or tried too hard to be profound. And it could get silly (the guy behind the counter at the record store made fun of an article that discussed, in all earnestness, I think, whether Bob Weir or Dave Davies had the best hair of anyone in a rock band, and I can see where that would strike some people as trivial, but those are people who didn’t examine Rolling Stones covers to see what Brian Jones was up to sartorially: these things mattered). But it treated rock — even Motown “singles” artists like The Four Tops and The Supremes — as a subject worth examining. It was lively, and Williams found a writing voice that was conversational and engaging and personal. Always personal, because it had to be. There was no other reason to do this in 1966: the music was getting under our skin, taking hold of our souls, and this magazine was a place where, once in a while, we could find writers as crazy about it as we were. So we owe Paul Williams so much gratitude. R.I.P.

2 responses to “hey crawdaddy!

  1. That issue pictured started a reading habit and quest that defines my life, my livelihood and now that of my dear son. My first was found at a small record store in Jamaica, Queens, right near my bus terminal. Best “bus” I ever boarded.

  2. …and…I still wonder how anyone could consider the question when, in fact, it was…Dave Davies.

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