Saturday, May 20, 2006

On the Cover of the Rolling Stone...

My copy of Rolling Stone #1000 came in last week--I'm one of those lifetime subscribers who paid $99 in the hopes that, over the course of decades, I might actually find enough material in the voluminous pages to give me almost a hundred dollars worth of entertainment.

#1000 has a stunning 3D cover that evokes Sgt. Pepper's Her Satanic Majesty's Request, and (of course) the magazine itself. Within, the magazine is filled with journalistic masturbation designed to give Jann Wenner and his crew a feeling of immense accomplishment. And that's the problem.

Rolling Stone has forgotten that it's a music magazine.

Every issue has a few pages of music coverage, complemented by page after page devoted to film, television, pop culture, and--inevitably--politics. The magazine's political viewpoints are about as diametrically opposed to my own as any magazine's politics could be; I read the magazine bemusedly, amazed that those who idolize, glamorize, and hope to emulate a profligate lifestyle can at the same time so hypocritically espouse a holier-than-thou political viewpoint.

What made Rolling Stone famous, of course, was insightful, investigative, no-holds-barred rock journalism, incisive reviews, and revealing interviews. The first cracks in Rolling Stone's foundation, as far as I was concerned, came with their idolization of Hunter S. Thompson, one of the least talented literary cleebrities of the past third of a century. Thompson was popular with Wenner and crew because he claimed to live the antisocial, self-indulgent, pretentious lifestyle that Rolling Stone idealized. He was a living, breathing cartoon from the very beginning, and Rolling Stone wanted to make him a superstar. They did so while ignoring the fact the he was one of the most talentless writers who ever earned a byline in the magazine.

Once they had made this persona non relevanta a star, the path was chosen; Rolling Stone was a political magazine that covered the media. And ever since then, that's the path they've travelled.

As I said, I still find some pieces on RS worth reading, although most of their music coverage is for crap nowadays. Of course, there's no reason to cancel my subscription; it's not like they're going to refund the remainder of my lifetime sub, so I'll keep getting RS and treating it like junk mail with an occasional interesting article included.

Even so, a thousand issues is an accomplishment; in a time when more and more magazines are having trouble paying their bills, their continued success shows that (a) I'm in the minority, or (b) a lot of people bought these lifetime subs and Wenner is coasting on the demographics and ad sales. I suspect it's the former...

3 comments:

Sven said...

A lifetime subsriber, I feel your pain! Or, what were you thinking, I gave up on this rag back in the 70's. I will admit that I have a few of those issues from the late 60's and early 70's packed away in a box somewhere. You know, when it kind of reported on music. Though, I did enjoy the Fear and Loathing( in Las Vagas and on the Campaign Trail) serials that Hunter S. Thompson wrote. I just took a look at their website, I wasn't disappointed it was boring. They did have an interesting piece on Video Blogs that featured Rockbottom, I've been following this trend for a little over a year and wasn't surprised to see their advertising revenue to be hitting 4-5 million this year.
Just remember to recycle.

Doug said...

I agree that Rolling Stone is pretty much birdcage liner. I got a free year of it from buying an acoustic guitar last year, so I've had several consecutive issues to pilfer through.

I have more issue with its glorification of pop culture in general and the editors' tendencies to write psudopolitics. They had a story several months about Andy Wachowski's transgender/S&M lifestyle that never had any ultimate point to it. Likewise was a story about Scientology, aimed at Tom Cruise, but hitting no real effective target in its approach.

I enjoy a good chunk of Hunter S. Thompson's work, just for the stream-of-superconsciousness way he wrote. He's always been more entertainment than journalism to me - RS's deification of him as 'journalism' is their error.

Doug said...
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