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Power to the Pimple
Quotations from Greg Shaw's "Juke Box Jury," 1972-1974
(Compiled by Scott Woods)


The extent of my Greg Shaw knowledge resides in a relatively small stash of musty old magazines: four highly treasured issues of new wave-era Bomp!, one issue of Phonograph Record Magazine from 1973, and a dozen or so early '70s issues of Creem featuring Shaw's "Juke Box Jury" column--a monthly rundown of pop singles. The column is something I only discovered about ten years ago, and it's a terrific time capsule: a fast-paced, breezy conversation with and about the radio--which meant, necessarily, not just the Top 40, but all the stuff that Shaw believed should've been in the Top 40. He banged the drum hard for a stateside glitter revolt in '71, he reserved some of his highest praise for a mysterious entity named Instant Ralston ("single of the year, so far"--in January '72!), and he sprinkled his column with references to the Modern Lovers, Flamin' Groovies, and Big Star, all of whom he assumed were going straight to Number One. I think it's fair to say that this side of Shaw--champion of the underdog, discoverer of the obscure--is well known and highly regarded...and justifiably so, as dozens of tributes have made clear.

But there's another side, present in those early columns, I find just as endearing: Shaw the unrepentant believer in All Things Pop. "Juke Box Jury" ran in Creem from 1971 to 1974, smack dab in the era of classic album rock, and there was Shaw, at the back of the magazine, extolling the virtues of AM radio, thrilling to the latest Lobo single, losing his head over some upstart Swedes that reminded him of the Cowsills, and sidling up to the seductive veneer of "borderline MOR" (an idea as anathema to most rock critics now as it was then). This isn't to suggest that Shaw loved it all--not quite. In hindsight, one of the underlying themes of the column is that, as great and enjoyable as some of this stuff is, it's still never good enough. There's gotta be better and there needs to be more. Much, much more.

But let's turn it over to the man himself. Billy Preson fans, take a seat and pour yourself a drink.


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Side A Side A


The possibilities are endless...

  • "To hear this [Bullet's cover of 'Little Bit O' Soul'] on the radio would be enough, but when you realize that it could conceivably be followed by the Bay City Rollers' 'Keep On Dancing' the possibilities for good times becomes fantastic."
    --August, 1972

  • "You don't often see me this excited, seldom to the point where I collar people the minute they walk in the door and drag them over to the record player to hear some new single, pacing the room and grinning, saying, 'See, isn't it great? Isn't it?' Blame it on the Hollies, whose 'Long Cool Woman' has been driving me berserk since the day it came out. You remember the Hollies, limping along through unnoticed records that have varied from fairly good to nondescript. Who could have expected this? It sounds like Phil Spector got hold of Creedence Clearwater Revival or something..."
    --September, 1972

  • "...I'm beginning to wonder if another pop renaissance isn't just over the horizon. It's not just the number of good records, it's something about them and the way they fit together. There've been plenty of fine sounds all along, but where a Creedence single in 1970 was like an oasis in the desert, the best records now taste more like goblets of wine served in some pleasure palace of Baghdad--if you can follow that analogy. The standards are going up, too--already, 'Long Cool Woman' seems rather lame."
    --December, 1972


    Stop! Hey! What's that 'underground sound'?

  • "What this means, I hope, is that the best groups can once again record for AM without losing integrity in the public eye, and also that some of them have begun to see through the myth of 'underground' rock...I see AM as rock & roll's salvation because it is more open to change in many ways--its standards revolve around simple popularity, while FM is still dedicated to upholding an outmoded hippie orientation. Hippies are the squares of the '70s and the less they have to do with rock & roll, the better."
    --December, 1972

  • "A few months back I suggested a campaign to start thinking in terms of 'pop music' again, instead of all this 'underground rock' twaddle. It was a good idea, but unnecessary. Pop is coming back, the best rock is on singles, and as we've seen over the last few months these great singles are actually hitting the charts. And the snowball has hardly begun. I can cite Slade, the Raspberries, the Move, etc., but that stuff doesn't add up to much yet."
    --April, 1973

  • "Why don't we start a 'back to pop' movement like Spector's 'back to mono' crusade?"
    --August, 1972


    And the listening is easy...

  • "I'm getting so into pop that I'm even starting to like the borderline MOR stuff, like 'It's So Easy to Be Bad' by Tom Autry and 'Brand New Kind of Love' by Bobby Goldsboro. What is it about this gentle, carefully-produced pap I find so satisfying? Maybe I'm going nuts."
    --April, 1973

  • "I'm also real happy to hear Lobo's 'I'd Love You to Want Me' on the air. 'Me and You and a Dog Named Marijuana' was all right, sounded vaguely like the Byrds in places, but this is really fine, a shameless cop from B.J. Thomas' shameless Beach Boys/Phil Spector cop of not too long ago. Sooperdooper."
    --January, 1973

  • "I began the last column with a rant against inanities like 'Coconut' and the abominable 'Outa-Space' that were keeping great summer records like the Beach Boys' 'Marcella' off the air. 'Where is the spirit of summer,' I cried into the wilderness. Since then, I've mellowed, thanks to a number of fine pop records that have lately graced the charts. Like 'Alone Again (Naturally)' by Gilbert O'Sullivan which proves his mastery of lyrics if not his versatility. Or the Carpenters' 'Goodbye to Love.' Is that Procol Harum backing them? Sure sounds like it, and if so, they haven't sounded this good to me since their first album."
    --November 1972

  • "A new group called the Eagles, made up of ex-members of Poco and other Buffalo Springield splinter groups, gets off to a fine start with 'Take it Easy,' an instant country-rock classic. Any group that can open a song like the Who, and on their first record at that, bears watching."
    --August, 1972


    Waiting for the Big One

  • "Offhand, it looks to me like 1973 is gonna be a vintage year for car radios. Take one out for a ride today."
    --January, 1973

  • "Basically, I think the most significant thing that happened to rock in '73 was the solidification of the new Seventies pop sensibility that began its emergence in 1972. In the course of this year we have developed a sense of style, sound, and values unique to the Seventies, as distinct from all that's come before as the Fifties and Sixties rock cultures were. And it looks like '74 is gonna be the big one.

    "Except for a couple problems. The biggest being radio, which is currently controlled by a generation of programmers that discovered rock in '67, the same people who dismiss the best new music as 'bubblegum' while playing 'Ramblin' Man' and Billy Preston all day."
    --March, 1974

  • "Not one of these records will answer anybody's questions about the meaning of life, but they sure give meaning to a lot of otherwise ordinary minutes."
    --January, 1973

  • "[Rock and Roll Band' by Bjorn and Benny] is a brand new release that I've gone absolutely nuts over...This side came from Sweden, and if I'm not mistaken Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson are former members of Sweden's leading Monkees-like pop group of the mid '60s, the Hep Stars...This is one of those '70s pop creations I was talking about, with pounding guitars like the Sweet, teen harmony reminiscent of Lobo, and a clear sparkling production sound. A little like the Cowsills too. What a record!"
    --March, 1974


    Genius of Genre

  • "I used to love blues, but I'm sure getting sick and tired of The Blues. Even the self-parodying 'blooze' school bores me, almost as much as critics who spell it 'blooze' and think they're being clever."
    --January, 1973

  • "Also fun is 'I Just Want to Make Love to You' by Foghat. Blues purists would never agree, but the only way that stuff is gonna survive is by being turned into taseteless boogaloo music, and I think these guys have the right idea."
    --February, 1973

  • "'Rock and Roll Part 2' by Gary Glitter is the latest reggae smash to hit these shores. I'm biting my nails waiting for this stuff to catch on here--it's got so much vitality it could wipe all this other shit off the boards if only people could hear it. The record in question is just T. Rex grit chords and a lot of aimless double-echoed shouting. I think it's super."
    --November, 1972

  • "It's gonna be fascinating to watch the spread of reggae in this country. Thus far we've averaged about one reggae hit per year--last year it was 'Double Barrel' and now it's 'Rock & Roll Pt. 2.' Just wait til all the Trojan stuff starts getting released here--man!"
    --December, 1972

  • "It appears I was mistaken in my assessment of Gary Glitter as a reggae artist. Yeah, I'm familiar with the Maytals and all that hardcore Jamaican stuff, but ya know, there are English offshoots that concentrate on the echo and sound very much like his stuff. But it turns out Glitter is an oldtime British rocker nee Ben Hill, which makes him a little less unique musicologically but still a heap of fun."
    --February, 1973

  • "Whether you'd class reggae with R&B I don't know, but it too is getting ready for a strong push in the U.S., what with all the Trojan stuff and that amazing Jimmy Cliff album now coming out here on labels like Mango, Shelter, and Island. It probably won't ever be as big as it is in England, but I think it will become a major trend. One of the first Trojan releases here is 'Rock It Baby' by the Wailers, a typical reggae dance song. The best is yet to come, but this is a fine appetizer. Watered-down reggae a la Paul Simon is more likely to clean up, and that's all right..."
    --April, 1973

  • "One which might make it is 'All Together' by the Rowan Bros. Space-rock is another trend that's just breaking, and this is the finest example yet. Puts Hawkwind on a thoroughly commercial level, throwing every sound effect imaginable into the pot and mixing it up with heavy phasing to create a dense, roaring thrust of a sound that suits the arrangement and the song, about all of us joining together in cosmic harmony to dance around the sun, to a T. Those who know me don't need to be told how I feel about this kind of Marin County metaphysical claptrap, but when it's taken away from the Rainbow Band level and done like something the Monkees might be into if they'd stayed together (and for the shocker of the year go back and check their 'Porpoise Song'), then it approaches that Flash Gordon level I can relate to."
    --February, 1973

  • "Also cool from England is 'Free Four' by Pink Floyd who I think have finally found their groove in this form of teenie-bubble-pop."
    --November, 1972


    Hits and Disses

  • "I know some people who like Elton John's 'Levon' because they think it's about Levon Helm and others who dig 'Stay With Me' by the Faces because it sounds like 'It's All Over Now.' I like 'em because they're both good records, especially the latter. If Elton John gets much better he might even be tolerable."
    --April, 1972

  • "It wasn't until somebody pointed out that Elton John's 'Rocket Man' was bad science fiction that I realized it isn't science fiction at all. A better term for this stuff would be comic book rock, all stylized and romanticized. You could include Hawkwind and all those kinds of bands, and scattered songs by various groups, like the Kinks' 'Supersonic Rocket Ship.' Anyway now that Elton John is unabashedly on a comic book level, his songs seem a lot more honest. Honestly dumb, that is, which is okay with me."
    --September, 1972

  • "Here in the back of the magazine, past all of Lester and Robot's punkoid ravings, the original spirit of Creem lives on. We're into burgers too, in fact we just consumed a passel of 'em and some pizza too. Now it's time for some great music, god knows there's enough of it around, and I don't mean no Loggins & Messina either. Actually when I think about the outrageous injustices being perpetrated by today's radio programmers, I get downright MILITANT!"
    --August, 1973

  • "I truly think Todd Rundgren is a worse threat to rock & roll than James Taylor ever was. Here's a guy whose music is so hopelessly bland that trying to criticize it is like punching at a cotton candy fog, and because he sounds a bit like Carole King he can make ridiculous statements about being the next Elvis and manage to get all the so-called critics to believe him. If this pap is accepted as what rock & roll should be, we're in serious trouble. (Send all hate letters in c/o Greil Marcus.)"
    --September, 1972

  • "One guy they should send to England, and not bring back until he makes a decent record, is Elvis Presley. 'Raised on Rock' is pathetic, and believe me I tried hard to like it. But in the end it loses out to the DeFranco Family. 'Heartbeat It's a Lovebeat' is one of those great pop contrivances I always fall for."
    --December, 1973


    If a tree falls north of the 49th parallel...

  • "The softer side of this style is presented by a Canadian cat named Pagliaro, whose 'Some Sing, Some Dance' was brought to my attention by none other than Dave Marsh, via Marty Cerf. This record is so charming I can't restrain myself from playing it at least ten times a day. If you liked the way John Lennon sang 'oooh' in 1964-65, you'll love this, and that's only part of it."
    --January, 1973

  • "...same goes for the Montreal rock scene, which now boasts Pagliaro and the Wackers, and Toronto with Thundermug. The vintage Beatles sound is very big around those parts."
    --February, 1973

  • "My favourite record this month is a crazy thing called 'Africa' by Thundermug. After a killer opening from somewhere between 'Immigrant Song' and 'Trogglodyte,' it launches into a Move-like, fast-paced jingle about the glories of the jungle, featuring an electric kazoo solo toward the end."
    --April, 1973

  • "The Guess Who's 'Guns, Guns, Guns' is out on a single, and it's a protest song about recently liberalized hunting restriction in Canada."
    --August, 1972

  • "Sorry I can't say the same for Neil Young's 'War Song.' As a rock & roll record, it doesn't make it at all, and as a political statement it's pretty vague. Is this supposed to be a pitch for McGovern? If so (and I wish it were) he should say so, otherwise it just sounds like more mealy-mouthed America stuff."
    --September, 1972

  • "Even better is April Wine's newest, 'Just Like That.' It's the B-side of a dog stiff, but don't let that bother you. This group has always been good, and they're rocking in earnest now, having assimilated the Montreal Sound, and soon they might even be ready to take on the Raspberries."
    --December, 1973


    Dear Creem,

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