Thursday, May 14, 2015

On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

But the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll getcha when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show
It used to be the reason why I would hurry home from school. I always wondered who would be on the cover of my Rolling Stone Magazine. It was one of the first magazine subscriptions I had, besides Highlights of course. But in those pages were the musicians I looked up to; artists I emulated; politicos that I wanted to work for one day. But what the hell has happened to Rolling Stone and is it even relevant to music anymore?
November 9, 1967 was the date of the first Rolling Stone. John Lennon and a story about the Monterey Pop Festival graced the cover. What was this magazine's main objective? Music? Found Jann Wenner wrote that Rolling Stone "is not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces." So how did we go from Lennon and Redding at the Monterey Pop Festival to making up stories?
At one point in my life, I would have been content working as a writer or photographer for Rolling Stone. The caliber of writers, artists, and the photography always stole my attention. The interviews were honest and the covers controversial. Being able to listen to music for a living - what a dream. But then I soon realized that Cameron Crowe has stolen my dream when I saw 2000's Almost
Famous. Crowe's fictional telling of his own experiences writing for Rolling Stone and getting to get up close and personal with artists like Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers also displayed the antics of groupies, the unassuming life of being famous, and the true fans who just want to talk to their idols.
Rolling Stone truly represented music for a large portion of the 1970's and 1980's. You wanted to be in and on the cover of the Rolling Stone. However, like many things, Rolling Stone began to become popular and political in its own right. Some blame founder and editor Jann Wenner himself who had also been spending time on his new project, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The world was changing and entertainment was its own industry. TV became more than just five channels and the movie industry was spawning hits like Terminator II and Titanic. Like a rolling stone not wanting to gather moss, Rolling Stone adapted to the changing times.
TV shows like Twin Peaks, the X-Files and Friends were the rage in the 1990's. Begging for a new audience, Rolling Stone began to feature the show cast members on the cover. While no abandoning music, more readers were now engaged in this magazine. It was also the time where fashion, super models, and going for broke were the norm. Herb Ritts and Anton Corbijn were moonlighting as fashion and rock photographers and videographers for Depeche Mode, U2, and Madonna. Fashion models were lip synching to George Michael songs.

But another trend that was happening at this time was the appearance of the Seattle scene: grunge. The through attitude of the 90's of extravagance and high end everything was being kicked in the shins by a momentous group of musicians who just wanted to make music. Suddenly, Rolling Stone was about music again. This music was new and captured the sentiment of a lot kids in the 90's.
For a while, it seemed as if Rolling Stone was becoming an obituary for some of our favorite artists. We were losing some who had been mainstays like Garcia. And others who seemed to be on top of the world, like Michael Hutchence of INXS. But then you had the ones that you sadly expected to see memorialized like Kurt Cobain and Lane Staley of Alice in Chains. Two noted absent in memorial covers: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Buckley (unless someone can prove me wrong).
The 1990's also saw our political landscape come to life. Between Clinton and Bush, Rolling Stone had enough powerful interviews to gain credibility as legitimate journalism. Even through the beginning of the 21st Century, war, corrupt politicians, scandalous affairs, and kept the interviews entertaining and educational. 
Seemingly with the advent of the Internet, social media, and more ways to find music without the persuasion of a reviewer, our post-9/11 world became one of shock and awe. While many don't remember, or didn't react similarly, both the terrorist / madmen behind the September 11th attacks, the  attack on the soldier in London, and even John Wilkes Booth had their face on the cover of Rolling Stone. It would be the Boston bomber who would begin the slow decent and relevance of Rolling Stone. My argument is you show these folks but memorialize Lennon and Marvin Gaye as opposed to those who killed them. Please explain.
While there are more magazines like Relix or Paste that go into detail, review of bands and their albums...there is a romanticized notion of what Rolling Stone was. It used to be the embodiment of the love of music and, even as Jann Wenner wrote: "the things and attitudes that music embraces." When you begin to stray from music and put of an emphasis on the shock value of persuading people to buy your
magazine - you can no longer be taken seriously. When you make up stories and try to pass them off as credible - you lose relevance as a journalistic platform. Maybe, you should just go back to your original idea because there are so many bands and so many musicians that grew up with the same love and respect for a magazine that catered to music lovers.

 **It's just a wish


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