Article 1976-06-07 Public Theater, New York City, NY

Crawdaddy Party Mirrors Magazine

Promises, promises, crawdaddy magazine, which with some justification thinks of itself as the first magazine to take rock music seriously, threw a 10th anniversary party for itself Monday night at the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater on Astor Place.

“Stevie Wonder, Jack Nicholson. Judy Collins, Henry Winkler. Janis Ian, Jack and Micki Scott, William S. Burroughs, Bob Marley and the Beach Bogs cordially invite you to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Crawdaddy Magazine,” the invitation read.

Of that list, only Mr. Burroughs, who writes a column for Crawdaddy, and two Beach Boys—Brian Wilson, the reclusive leader of the band, was the subject of a two‐part Crawdaddy interview, but wasn't there—showed up. On the other hand, a number of other luminaries did make it—Marilyn Chambers, Milos Forman, Joseph Heller, Eugene McCarthy, Diane Keaton, Robert Palmer (the British singer), Philippe Petit, Deborah Raffin, Phoebe Snow, Tom Wolfe, and Link Wray, to name some.

And Bruce Springsteen. Earlier on, the music had been provided by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, an emerging Asbury Park, N.J., outfit with close Springsteen connections. Superstar jamming had been rumored, but the only person who actually joined the Jukes was Dave Prater of Sam and Dave—which was wonderful, actually, but not quite the same as Mr. Wonder.

Springsteen Tunes Up

But then, shortly after 1 in the morning, when many had gone home, Mr. SpringSteen and most of his E Street Band made it on stage and knocked out a half‐hour's worth of songs that put the seal on the party. The room was echoey and littered, but the spirit was superb.

In a sense the party—a pleasant but rather inelegant affair, full of glamorous, not entirely fulfilled ambitions and a nervous degree of selfcongratulation — symbolized Crawdaddy itself, and it was only fitting that Mr. Springsteen brought things to such a nice climax. Peter Knobler, Crawdaddy's editor, has long been miffed at how little credit he has received for “discovering” Mr. Springsteen more than three years ago. And Monday's party was designed overtly to call wider attention to the magazine.

“That's what we're trying to do with this party,” Mr. Knobler admitted. “We're trying to attract a consciousness in the media and in people around the country that Crawdaddy 1) exists, and 2) is valuable and important.”

Whether the party will achieve those goals remains to be seen. Crawdaddy dates back to early 1966, when it was written, mimeographed and distributed at Swarthmore College by Paul Williams, then a freshman, who soon after moved himself and his magazine to New York.

Eclipse Began in 1968

When Mr. Williams went on to other things in late 1968, Crawdaddy entered into an eclipse of erratic production schedules, declining quality and, in Mr. Knobler's words, “a series of shady managements.” In the meantime, Rolling Stone, founded in 1967, had begun its quick and steady ascent to the top of the rock‐press hierarchy.

Mr. Knobler, who is now 29 years old, had edited a rock and counterculture magazine called Zygote before he came over to Crawdaddy five years ago. At the same time his father, Alfred E. Knobler, a successful engineer, glass manufacturer and businessman, became publisher.

Five years ago Crawdaddy was a tabloid; now it is a slick magazine‐format monthly. It has taken the entire five years to reach a breakeven point, the senior Mr. Knobler says —“which is a major achievement of my life. But we're still very much in debt from the past.”

“We're largely overshadowed by Rolling Stone,” Peter Knobler willingly confesses. Jann Wenner's publication currently claims a circulation of 475,000, to Crawdaddy's 160,000. But almost more to the point, articles in Rolling Stone are taken more seriously by the country at large. “That Brian Wilson interview,” Mr. Knobler goes on, “if it had been in Rolling Stone, it would have made a much bigger splash. Crawdaddy's been doing a lot of things that would have had a big influence if only people had been aware of them.”

Partly Liable for Insularity

Possibly so, but one has to conclude that Crawdaddy's insularity is partly of its own doing, and not up to now just a matter of insufficient attention to self‐publicity.

Part of the myth of the 60's counterculture that Crawdaddy so avidly perpetuates is the independence of young people fom their parents, so Alfred Knobler is especially concerned that the relationship between him and his son will not be misunderstood. “Peter's no daddy's boy,” he insists. “Editorially, he's independent.” Peter Knobler in turn says the re lationship is an efficiently amicable one, because he and his father share editorial and political (“We both have a leftist viewpoint”) philosophies.

But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Crawdaddy would be a better magazine if it had been tempered more rigorously by the realities of commercial capitalism. The senior Mr. Knobler's wealth has allowed his son the room to experiment in ways he could not have had he been forced to build circulation rapidly to survive. The result has been that sometimes Crawdaddy has seemed as much the Knoblers’ toy as their crusading voice. The editors and the generally illpaid writers are not always able to justify the freedom they enjoy from normal commercial realities with articles of consistently remarkable depth or sensitivity.

Loss of Focus

Crawdaddy's editorial policy includes even more articles of political, sociological and nonmusical artistic interest than Rolling Stone; in a sense, the magazine's real competition is New Times, rather than the rock journals. But that breadth can lead to a loss of focus, too. Crawdaddy lacks a firm image, tone and sense of self, and Peter Knobler's selfconfessed difficulties in thinking up a nickname for his publication (like Creem's “America's only rock ‘n’ roll magazine”) only symbolizes that lack.

Still, the party had its moments and so does Crawdaddy itself. The magazine does have its bright spots, after all—a short play by Joseph Heller adapted from his “Catch‐22,” poetry by Anne Waldman and Ed Sanders, articles by William M. Kunstler, Paul Krassner and assorted hippies and yippies and a continual, sometimes rewarding attempt to maintain a fresh view of popular music. For all the Knoblers’ self‐indulgence and intellectual provincialism, they must be allowed their periodic feisty triumphs as well.

by John Rockwell for New York Times, June 09, 1976.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License