Creep #2

Fantastic 1979 second issue from one of San Francisco’s more revered punk fanzines, Creep, which I’d long known was helmed & stewarded by one “Mickey Creep” (in actuality, Dean Sampson, sometimes known as Mickey Sampson). Sampson and his band of contributors capture the frenzied zeitgeist of 1979 punk and of San Francisco writ large better than nearly any other publication I’ve read, and unlike the jaded first-wave scenesters who were already crying punk-is-dead around this time, Creep #2 is very much about helping to document and further its vitality or rebirth, however it is you want to cut it. 

I really learned some things, too! First, all these years I thought the Maximum RocknRoll Radio show, which I used to listen to religiously on KPFA on Tuesday nights, started in 1980 or even 1981. It was started in 1977, folks – and was originally a combination of the new “punk rock sound” that was sprouting up and 50s rockabilly & oldies (!). There was even a dude named Al “Professor Pop” Ennis on the show who ran the 1950s portion; he was long gone by the time I started listening – a time of Jeff Bale, Ruth Schwartz, Tim Yohannan (of course), Ray Farrell and sometimes Jello Biafra (blah). Ennis can barely be found & connected with this show online at all, but hey, that’s why I accumulate these old fanzines, to get the real fuckin’ story.

I also learned via an advertisement about Portals to Music, a new wave record store at Stonestown Mall, now home of Target, Whole Foods and multiple Asian-themed restaurants and boba places – and a place two miles from my home that I find myself in weekly. Absolutely incongruous and baffling. Another world entirely. One final new thing I learned was that the worst bit of music writing I’d ever read had been hiding all along right here in Creep #2! One Thomas Sinclair, with his Freshman English classes surely barely in hand, writes about MX-80 Sound:

“As perchance this brisk July eve in the Bay Area, I was to experience a delightful musical and aesthetic encounter. As unpretentious and undistinguished as the visual accoutrement of the band may have been, the sound of MX-80 Sound was brilliantly polished and pulsated as rhythmically as could be expected for their indigenous brand of semi-eclecticism would allow…” – and it only gets worse from there. It’s truly mind-bending, and I’m glad to know where to find the worst piece of music writing of all time should I ever need it!

Creep #2 takes us on a tour of the state of it all, circa 1979. Jello Biafra is running for mayor. Punk violence is threatening to close down The Deaf Club, because some drunken knucklehead decided to take a chain to three parked cars outside of the club after a show. The Canadians have just come to town, and locals are hopped-up about D.O.A. and the Pointed Sticks. (D.O.A. were always hugely popular in the SF Bay Area; when I first started hearing punk for the first time, my perspective was that the biggest bands in the entire North American scene were the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and D.O.A. pretty much in that order). And there’s a terrific interview with Craig Lee from LA’s Bags. Lee wasn’t just a shredding punk guitarist; he was always one of the good guys, and a man who shuffled off this mortal coil far too early.

I think my favorite thing in Creep #2, though, is the respectful and just-enough-noose-to-hang-himself interview with Joel Selvin, who was then, and for a long time afterward, the chief rock music writer at the San Francisco Chronicle. I grew up reading Selvin, because I read the newspaper every day, and just like the old man that I am, I still do. It was definitely de rigeur for punks to hate the mainstream rock critic; Selvin got a ton of vitriol over the years; his counterpart Robert Hilburn at the LA Times got just as much if not more. I’ll say right now that I recently read Selvin’s book about early 1960s Los Angeles pop music, Hollywood Eden, and while no masterpiece, it’s quite entertaining and very effective at calling up an ephemeral time and special place in music’s history, with his Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” chapter at the end being especially well-put-together. 

But here, in Creep #2 – wow. This photo they ran is really the epitome of the late 70s, coked-out, record-industry sleazeball; I don’t think Selvin was really that guy, but I can only imagine what the sneering punks reading Creep in ‘79, the ones who had to suffer through his weekly writings about Journey, the Doobie Brothers, Elvin Bishop and Maria Muldaur, had to say about it. Selvin himself gets off some pretty self-damaging zingers; to wit:

“Over the past few years the quality music in the local clubs has plummeted. In 1975, the Longbranch – unbelievable. It was everything a nightclub should be….I haven’t seen a show at the Mabuhay that I thought was good. I’ve checked these places out. They’re just not happening the way a club should be happening.”

“One time the Eagles were really good. It was the time that they opened for the Doobie Brothers that they were spectacular.”

“However important or significant The Clash may be, it’s “Sultans of Swing” that’s gonna be remembered from 1979….I have no doubt the American public wants the Knack and not the Clash. And certainly the sales figures reflect that.”

I guess on that last point he’s not wrong; I mean, I disliked The Clash as much as he did. And I suppose it is “Sultans of Swing” that I hear inside of Safeway or Chipolte, not “Guns on the Roof”. But oh for those days at The Longbranch, watching Sammy Hagar, Earthquake, Eddie Money and Commander Cody! 

One final note, a thing that got a lot of hearts racing here in San Francisco: Penelope Houston of The Avengers works at the San Francisco Public Library, and she helped establish a “punk rock collection” there of zines, flyers, videos and other ephemera that I’ve had the good fortune to go check out, albeit only once, and albeit only in brief because her snotty co-worker was bogarting so much of the material on a day she wasn’t working. Here’s a 90-minute panel discussion the library put on with the folks who put out Search and Destroy, Ripper and Creep – including our boy Mickey! You can learn more about the library here.

3 thoughts on “Creep #2

  1. John Silva, of SAM (Silva Artist Management) – Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Foo Fighters et al – was Jello’s room mate and campaign manager for Jello’s mayoral run back then. John had the nickname of “pink socks” in those days because well he wore a pair of pink socks (?) which Ray Farrell corroborated when Ray was at SST and had to deal with John in regards to Sonic Youth signing to SST. Ray hadn’t seen John since those day in SF and met him by saying “how’s it going, pink socks?”. creep and ripper and damage and breakfast without meat and search & destroy were the bay area voices for sure!


  2. Good god, the Joel Silver baby boomer vibes are clear in his Clash description!

    THANK YOU for including this SF Library piece; checking it now!


  3. Gonna need you to type in the rest of that MX-80 review, Jay. That was just enough to cause lingering pain so I need to read the rest to induce projectile vomiting to clean it out of my system. Like cure like, right?


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