ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE
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Rolling Stone is an American based magazine devoted to music, politics and popular culture that is published biweekly.
John Lennon - Rolling Stone issue 1 November 9, 1967
'How I Won the War' Film Still
Beginnings in San Francisco
Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner (who is still editor and publisher) and music critic Ralph J. Gleason. The magazine first started when Wenner stole a list of record label contacts from a nearby radio station and borrowed money from the family of his wife, Jane Wenner.
Rolling Stone was initially identified with and reported on the hippie counterculture of the era. However, the magazine distanced itself from the underground newspapers of the time, such as Crawdaddy!, embracing more traditional journalistic standards and avoiding the radical politics of the underground press. In the very first edition of the magazine, Wenner wrote that Rolling Stone "is not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces." This has become the de facto motto of the magazine.
In its earliest versions, Rolling Stone published a box by its letters section which invited readers who felt that they were qualified to write for the magazine, to send in their work. This drew in many of Rolling Stone's most illustrious writers in its earlier days, from Greil Marcus who would go on to edit its reviews section and still contributes regularly today, to Lester Bangs who famously sent an obscenity-filled essay to the editors before getting hired.
In the 1970s, Rolling Stone began to make a mark for its political coverage, with the likes of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson writing for the magazine's political section. Thompson would first publish his most famous work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas within the pages of Rolling Stone, where he remained as a contributing editor until his death. In the 1970s, the magazine also helped launch the careers of many prominent writers, such as the writer-director Cameron Crowe and Kurt Loder, who now works for MTV. It was at this point that the magazine ran some of its most famous stories, including that of the Patty Hearst abduction odyssey.
The magazine was so influential in shaping pop culture in the 1970s that a song dedicated to it, "Cover of the Rolling Stone" by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show (written by Shel Silverstein), became a hit single. Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show eventually did end up fulfilling their wish and ended up on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner welcomes the audience during the 22nd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York March 12, 2007
In the early 2000s, facing declining revenue and competition from lad mags such as Maxim and FHM, Rolling Stone reinvented itself, hiring former FHM editor Ed Needham. The magazine started targeting younger readers and offering more sex-oriented content, which often focused on sexy young television or film actors as well as pop music. At the time, some long-time readers denounced the magazine, claiming it had declined from astute musical and countercultural observer to a sleek, superficial tabloid, emphasizing style over substance. Since then, however, the magazine has resumed its traditional mix of content, including in-depth political stories, and has seen circulation (currently at 1.2 to 1.3 million) and revenue rise.
Leading up to what it called the "50th Anniversary of Rock" in 2004, Rolling Stone published a series of all-time greatest lists to recognize historic achievements in the field. These lists provoked considerable discussion from other music critics as to who or what belonged on such lists and in what order; moreover, the strong bias towards British and American artists was underlined. "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" appeared in 2003, followed by "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock & Roll" and "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2004. They also published The Rolling Stone Immortals, a list of the 50 greatest artists of our time.
On May 7, 2006, Rolling Stone published its 1000th issue. The cover, which was influenced by the cover art of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, featured some the most influential celebrities whom RS had covered.
Rolling Stone has evolved over the years, but certain features regarded as the hallmark of the magazine, such as "National Affairs" which has been around since the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and, and "Rock and Roll" are still published in the magazine today. In a bid to react to the advent of the internet, these two features have been made available in the forms of blogs. Rolling Stone also publishes "Random Notes," a section which mixes photos with tabloid like headlines. Another regular feature printed next to "Random Notes" is the "Smoking Section" which is written by Austin Scaggs.
Today, four decades since its founding, the Rolling Stone record reviews section is regarded by many sources as still one of the most influential around.
Rolling Stone Zac Efron
While Rolling Stone is an entertainment magazine, throughout its four decade run it has consistently interjected political and social commentary of various kinds. Loyal to its hippie roots, the magazine has traditionally taken a center-left editorial perspective. For example, it was often very critical of the Richard Nixon administration. The famed Hunter S. Thompson was the main political correspondent for Rolling Stone, writing the National Affairs section. After his death, investigative journalist Matt Taibbi took over. The magazine has been extremely critical of the George W. Bush administration.
Like MTV, Rolling Stone has been criticised for "selling out" to succeed financially. Longtime readers have complained that the magazine has strayed from its traditional focus on music and politics toward a new focus on film stars. Because of this, the magazine seems to have lost touch with many of its readers. The hire of former FHM editor Ed Needham intensified critics who alleged that Rolling Stone had lost its credibility. Rolling Stone also generated controversy when its website ran a blistering critique of Lester Bangs by one of its latter-day writers, Anthony DeCurtis.
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For a period of time in the 1970s, Rolling Stone published negative reviews related to hard rock and metal, panning albums by Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Boston, The Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden, Queen, and Rush. In his book Traveling Music, Rush drummer Neil Peart wrote that a writer for Rolling Stone recently told him that Rush was the single most requested band to be featured in a cover story by the magazine, but was not featured due to the editors feeling that Rush was "uncool". These criticisms were lampooned in the film Almost Famous by the lead singer of the band Stillwater.
Some bands were also initially written off by Rolling Stone reviewers, and then revered by the magazine in retrospect years later. Among these bands are Led Zeppelin and Nirvana. Led Zeppelin was often bashed by Rolling Stone critics during their active years in the 70s; years later in 2006 however, there was a cover story on Led Zeppelin and their legacy, honoring them as "the Heaviest Band of All Time." Similarly, Nirvana's album Nevermind was only awarded three stars out of five by Rolling Stone upon its release, with the reviewer claiming that "Nirvana isn't onto anything altogether new." Years later, the magazine ranked the album number 17 out of its top 500 greatest albums of all time, surpassing hundreds of 4 and 5 star albums. The Pixies' album "Surfer Rosa" was also on the list, althought it originally received only three stars as well.
However, in recent times the magazine has regained some nostalgic favor by running long interviews with the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, who announced that the interview he did with Neil Strauss for Rolling Stone would be his last. The aforementioned articles received praise in the letters section for the magazine, even from older readers of the magazine. As former writer David Dalton noted, "to be fair, in almost every issue of Rolling Stone is at least one article that would fit quite seamlessly into the original magazine."
Rolling Stone has maintained a website for many years, with selected current articles, reviews, blogs, MP3s, and other features such as searchable and free encyclopedic articles about artists, with images and sometimes sound clips of their work. There are also selected archival political and cultural articles and entries. The site also at one time had an extensive message board forum.
By the late 1990s, the message board forum at the site had developed into a thriving community with a large number of regular members and contributors worldwide. Unfortunately, the site was also plagued with numerous Internet trolls and malicious code-hackers who vandalized the forum substantially. Rolling Stone abruptly and without notice deleted the forum in May 2004.
Rolling Stone began a new, much more limited message board community at their site in late 2005, only to remove it again in 2006. Rolling Stone now permits users to make follow-up comments to posted articles in a blog format. It also maintains a page at MySpace.
Britney Spears on the April 1999 cover of Rolling Stone
In popular culture
Rolling Stone is largely regarded as the predominant music promotional force in American culture, alongside the likes of MTV. It has been frequently referenced in other forms of media, such as in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous where Crowe's character worked as a teenage reporter for the magazine and the cult classic music-oriented movie High Fidelity where becoming a Rolling Stone journalist is cited as the lead character's ambition. In the 1985 movie Perfect, John Travolta made an appearance as a Rolling Stone journalist. Wenner had cameo roles in both Almost Famous and Perfect.
The magazine also had made some of the most controversial covers in pop culture; eyebrows were raised when a then-17 year-old Britney Spears was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in a sexually suggestive Lolita-themed photo shoot which triggered widespread speculation (denied by her representatives) that the singer had opted to have breast implants.
The Rick Griffin logo for Rolling Stone and magazine cover were used as the basis for promotional images for the film School of Rock.
At the end of The Wedding Singer, Drew Barrymore is reading a copy of Rolling Stone (Issue 440, January 31, 1985) with Billy Idol on the cover, while going to Las Vegas with Glen on the plane. The movie is set in 1985.
In the movie, "Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny," copies of Rolling Stone are seen in a scene where Jack Black and Kyle Gass are contemplating what they need to be great musicians, and Black sees that several great guitarists wield the same pick.
In the movie Music and Lyrics, fictional Rolling Stone magazine reviews from various eras play a major role.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono RS 335 (January 22, 1981)
rated "Best Cover of the Past 40 Years" by the American Magazine Conference
Celebrities who have appeared on the cover
Appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone has become something of a milestone in the career of many famous artists, and remains the aspiration of many up-and-coming musicians. Some artists have graced the cover many times, some of these pictures going on to become iconic. The Beatles, for example, have appeared on the cover over thirty times, either individually or as a band. The first ten artists who appeared on the cover are:
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Christina Aguilera on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine
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Avril Lavigne on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine
Britney Spears did it again for Rolling Stone
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