Saturday, March 30, 2013

Crawdaddy! editor Paul Williams: "the total budget was less than $40"

Paul Williams (1948-2013)

A year before Rolling Stone published its first issue, a Swarthmore College freshman named Paul Williams created Crawdaddy! on mimeographed pages in January, 1966. The entire first issue was written by Williams, and he would go on to write 25 books and write extensively  on Bob Dylan, Philip K. Dick and Neil Young. Williams passed away March 27 from complications dating back to a bike accident he suffered in 1995. 

From The Crawdaddy! Book, his memoir of a life in rock journalism, Williams remembers the point at which his focus shifted from a Top-40 tip sheet to the deepening rock scene happening mostly off the charts at that time.

. . . I’m still embarrassed by the fact that most of the reviews I wrote to fill the pages of those earliest issues of Crawdaddy! were concerned with whether or not this particular 45 would be a “hit.” Although my vision was of a magazine where young people could share with each other the powerful, life-changing experiences we were having listening to new music in the mid-1960s, I was heavily influenced by the trade magazines I was reading at the college radio station, Billboard and Cashbox; and since I didn’t have a way to get my new magazine into the hands of thousands of young music lovers immediately, my short-term focus was to get the attention of the radio station and record company people to whom I planned to mail complimentary copies of the first issue. 
And in truth I really was interested in whether a record would be a “hit” or not and whether that was something I could predict or influence. I had been fascinated by Top 40 artists since I was 10-years-old and impatiently bicycling to the record store every week on the day the local radio station’s new Top 40 handout sheet would be available. (“Where’s ‘Charlie Brown’ by the Coasters this week?”)
 Page & Burroughs discuss cosmic forces, 1975

We printed 500 copies of that first issue, on light brown mimeographed paper (8 ½ by 11 inches, standard magazine size). I carried the sheets in a cardboard box on the subway back to David’s place, and assembled and stapled them (three staples down the left side).
The first copies were mailed from New York (five cents apiece for first-class mail then) on Monday before I hitchhiked back to Swarthmore carrying the rest of the magazines, many of which I soon mailed to music business names from Billboard magazine’s annual directory. The total budget for the first issue, including postage, mimeograph stencils, paper, ink, 15-cent subway fares, peanut butter sandwiches, and the one album I bought and reviewed (Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence), was less than 40 dollars.
The most noteworthy response to the new magazine came later in the week when Paul Simon called me at the freshman dormitory to say that my review was the first “intelligent” thing that had been written about their music. Perhaps he also gently corrected my false idea that Garfunkel was the guitar player of the duo (I’d figured he had to be, since Simon wrote the songs and sang the leads). I was invited to meet them on my next trip to New York. They introduced me to their manager and brought me along to a concert and a radio interview.

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