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Rolling Stone is an American based magazine devoted to music, politics, and Popular Culture that is published bimonthly.

Beginnings in San Francisco

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Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner (who is still editor and publisher) and music critic Ralph J. Gleason. To get the magazine off the ground, Wenner borrowed $7500 from his family members and from the family of his soon-to-be wife, Jane Wenner.[1]

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 Berkeley Barb, 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 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 a contributing editor until his death. In the 1970s, the magazine also helped launch the careers of many prominent writers, such as Cameron Crowe, Joe Klein, Joe Eszterhas, P. J. O'Rourke, and Kurt Loder. 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, "The 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.

Today

In the 1990s, facing competition from lad mags such as 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.[2] Since then, however, the magazine has resumed its traditional mix of content, including in-depth political stories, and has seen circulation (currently at 1.4 million) and revenue rise. In 2007, the magazine won a National Magazine Award for general excellence and was a finalist in reporting for Janet Reitman's article "Inside Scientology."[3]

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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. 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. It also published The Rolling Stone Immortals, a list of the 100 greatest artists of our time.

On May 7 2006, Rolling Stone published its 1000th issue.[4] The cover, which was influenced by the cover art of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, featured some of 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 Joe Klein, 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.[5][6] 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 by Jann Wenner, the Rolling Stone record reviews section is regarded by many sources as still one of the most influential around.[7]

Criticism

One major criticism of Rolling Stone involves its apparent generational bias toward the 1960s and 1970s. One critic referred to the Rolling Stone list of the 99 Greatest Songs as an example of "unrepentant rockist fogeyism." [8] In further response to this issue, rock critic Jim DeRogatis, a former Rolling Stone editor, published a thorough critique of the magazine's lists in a book called Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics (ISBN 1-56980-276-9), which featured differing opinions from many younger critics. [9]

In more recent years, Rolling Stone has been criticized for reconsidering many classic albums that it had previously dismissed. Examples of artists for whom this is the case include, among others, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana. The former band was largely written off by Rolling Stone critics during the band's most active years in the 1970s.[10] [11] However by 2006, a cover story on Led Zeppelin honored them as "the Heaviest Band of All Time." Nirvana's album Nevermind was awarded three stars out of five by Rolling Stone upon its release, with the reviewer writing that "If Nirvana isn't on to anything altogether new, Nevermind does possess the songs, character and spirit to be much more than a reformulation of college radio's high-octane hits." [12] Years later, the magazine ranked the album number 17 out of its top 500 greatest albums of all time, surpassing hundreds of 4-star and even 5-star albums. On the other hand, the 3-star review for the album was the opinion of one reviewer, while the Top 500 list was the result of a survey of over 250 musicians and critics.

Another criticism of Rolling Stone is that it failed to acknowledge both the newly emerging hard rock movement in the 1970s, as well as early hip hop. One critic writes, "Some argue that Rolling Stone had began to lose touch with rock's vital pulse as early as 1971, when the magazine put its weight behind folk rock singer-songwriters such as Carly Simon, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell and largely ignored the heavy rock acts then filling arenas across America." [13] Rolling Stone has reconsidered many of its reviews of early hip hop and rap albums, most of which had previously been dismissed. The magazine has since upgraded its original reviews of albums by artists such as Jay-Z, the Wu-Tang Clan and De La Soul. [10] A critic for Slate magazine described a conference at which the 1984 Rolling Stone Record Guide was scrutinized. As he described it, "The guide virtually ignored hip-hop and ruthlessly panned heavy metal, the two genres that within a few years would dominate the pop charts. In an auditorium packed with music journalists, you could detect more than a few anxious titters: How many of us will want our record reviews read back to us 20 years hence?" [8]

Like MTV, Rolling Stone has been criticized for "selling out" in order to succeed financially. Longtime readers have complained that the magazine has strayed from its traditional focus on music toward a new focus on film stars.[14] The hire of former FHM editor Ed Needham further isolated critics who alleged that Rolling Stone had lost its credibility.[15]

Website

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[16]. 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. In March 2008, Rolling Stone started a new message board section once again.

Famous staff

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In popular culture

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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.

In Stephen King's 1980 novel Firestarter, the young heroine takes her story (of her very demonstrable psychic powers) to Rolling Stone. Because she is fleeing the government, or rogue elements of it, the choice of Rolling Stone is a clever way of choosing a national venue respected by the growing younger demographic that is also unlikely to cooperate with government censorship or suppression of her story.

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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. Another controversial cover and, perhaps one of the Magazine's most famous, is of Janet Jackson who was photographed topless with her then husband's hands covering her breasts.

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 Gass notices 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.

In the pilot episode of the CW series Gossip Girl, a fictional Rolling Stone cover story on "forgotten bands of the '90s" is a repeatedly referenced plot point.

Celebrities who have appeared on the cover

Main article: List of celebrities who have appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine

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 {source}. 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.[17] The first ten who have appeared on the cover are:


Lists

Rolling Stone often publishes lists which include:

Reference works

  • Rolling Stone Album Guide. Four editions with varying titles, c. 1979, 1983, 1992, 2004.
  • The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Random House, 1980. ISBN 0-394-73938-8
  • Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. 1985.
  • Rolling Stone Cover-to-Cover: The First 40 Years. Bondi Digital Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-0979526107

See also

Notes

  1. Salon.com People | Wenner's world
  2. Literary 'Rolling Stone' sells out to male titillation
  3. "National Magazine Awards Database". Retrieved on 2007-11-06. 
  4. Rolling Stone: Our 1000th Issue
  5. "National Affairs" Daily blog
  6. "Rock and Roll" Daily blog
  7. New York Times article
  8. 8.0 8.1 May 9, 2006. Does hating rock make you a music critic? Jody Rosen. Slate. Article charging "RS" with "fogeyism."
  9. July 4, 2004. Idle worship, or revisiting the classics. Jim DeRogatis. Chicago Sun-Times.Article discussing intention of book
  10. 10.0 10.1 Documentation of attempt to change reviews
  11. Note: Although album reviews from this time are available, www.rollingstone.com does not show its original reviews of Led Zeppelin albums
  12. Note to Editor: I encourage you to review the quote from Rolling Stone, it actually says, "If Nirvana isn't onto anything altogether new, Nevermind does possess the songs, character and confident spirit to be much more than a reformulation of college radio's high-octane hit." This is means something completely different as you can see. "Original "Rolling Stone" Review of "Nevermind." utm_source=Rhapsody&utm_medium=CDreview
  13. Simon Reynolds. Soft Rock. Encyclopedia Britannica. Critique
  14. Michael Simmons: An Open Letter to Jann Wenner - The Huffington Post
  15. The death of Rolling Stone - Salon.com
  16. RS.com Castaways - Troll Tribunal
  17. Wenner, Jann (2006). "Our 1000th Issue - Jann Wenner looks back on 39 years of Rolling Stone" RollingStone.com (accessed September 21, 2006)

External links

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