Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rolling Stone

The latest edition of Rolling Stone magazine arrived in the mail yesterday. The cover is a photo of two of the stars of Gossip Girl, licking an ice cream cone together. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the intent…

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey (a word my father used to indicate anyone older than him who was also rigid or moronic in behavior), what happened to the good ol’ days of the tabloid Rolling Stone, featuring photography by Annie Leibovitz, writing by Cameron Crowe and Ben Fong-Torres, and the wacked out stylings of Hunter S. Thompson? In its place is a magazine that is now glossy, standard size, and way too often focused on non-rock and roll editorial content.

Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason. In the 1970s, the magazine was known for its political coverage and launched the careers of prominent writers like Thompson, Crowe, Joe Klein and Joe Eszterhas. Others who have served at Rolling Stone include P.J. O’Rourke, Lester Bangs, Timothy Ferris, Ralph Steadman and Jon Landau.

During the early 1970s, I knew the exact date, each two weeks, when the magazine would appear at the local newsstand and was there to buy it—a subscription to our home was utterly out of the question. I would read the tabloid cover to cover, share the good stuff with a friend who was also into rock and roll and then stash away the magazine in a secret place where I could refer back to the album reviews, stories and editorial columns.

To be on the cover of Rolling Stone was to have “made it.” In fact, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show had a catchy hit in the ‘70s, “On the Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Famous photos have graced the cover of the magazine since its origins--the very first cover featured John Lennon.

So, forgive me if I rant a bit, but the latest incarnation of the magazine does a disservice to the effect the original staff and publication had on the culture of the time. It’s sad to see a magazine, which was so important during its heyday, now serve as one more gossip rag with content, and covers, that are intended more to titillate than to provide thought leadership in areas like politics and music.

Kids, this isn’t your daddy’s Rolling Stone

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