I have since 1969. And I still haven’t gotten over the lack of a fold, never mind moving to New York and ultimately going slick.
But this binding issue is the last straw.
So what killed Rolling Stone?
The refusal to regenerate – it got old with its audience – as opposed to MTV, which jettisoned the VJs and continued to play to the same 12-24 demo. You could still pay attention after aging out, but MTV was no longer targeting you.
Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner was the techie of his day, a Jeff Bezos-like figure who instead of starting an online bookstore started a magazine. He figured he could do it better than the established outlets which featured a few reviews if they had space for the music revolution at all. And in Rolling Stone you found all the news you were interested in – not just about musicians, but politics, about culture. It was the bible of the younger generation.
And with its peaks of Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and his and Timothy Crouse‘s coverage of the 1972 election the magazine earned respect. And with the breaking of the Patty Hearst story Rolling Stone toppled the establishment, it was where you went to find out what was going on.
And then Wenner took his eye off the ball.
The magazine had gone through financial ups and downs, but now Wenner was more interested in being a man about town than an outsider poking those set in their ways.
Happens all the time.
Once you gain approval you go for the victory lap, but the truth is there’s no there there. The rich and famous club is a deep dark canyon where everybody’s looking over your shoulder to see if there’s someone more worthy and looking back over their shoulder to see if they’re gonna be replaced. And they are, fame never lasts. Oftentimes the riches don’t either, and the truth is the parties and people are frequently just as boring as those in your own neighborhood, the only difference being you can’t get in.
This is a dirty little secret of society, which you think Wenner would want to reveal.
But then he purchased US and that took care of his financial problems and then he turned his publication over to people without names who carried on the tradition.
The game was always the same.
A little gossip, some music news, some reviews and some features. It’s just that it became formulaic, like a band recording the same 10 tracks over and over again, only with different titles.
Then certain artists were canonized and nothing bad could be said about them.
Yet the fans of these bands had long stopped reading and the younger generation couldn’t care less. And then Blender lied about its circulation and Rolling Stone cut the length of its reviews in response and all the gravitas was thrown out the window. Rolling Stone was the Howard Stern of its day – there was enough room to stretch out as long as you wanted to.
And you read the stories.
Sure, the music changed, it became a lot less interesting. Players no longer drive the culture.
Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg raised a ruckus, but the artists were silent, because not only are they uninformed doofuses, they’re afraid of alienating a potential audience member. The stars of yore were alienating entire communities willy-nilly, that’s what being a rock star was all about!
Then came the UVA rape story controversy. Credit the WaPo for poking holes/breaking the story, it just didn’t sound right. From here on in when it sounds too good to be true, when it just doesn’t add up, I’m gonna question it, that’s what Snopes is for! Not that this is a badge of (dis)honor for RS, but what’s worse is no heads rolled – certainly not at first. Winner supported the writer and it wasn’t until months later that the editor was ousted.
And now there’s shrinkage.
Rolling Stone is only one downsizing away from becoming a pamphlet.
Must be an advertising crisis. Then again, magazines go into death spirals all the time, they hemorrhage readers, cut costs, lose advertisers and go down the drain.
As will happen to the Stone. It ceased being a must-read years ago. It missed the internet completely. Seems that every established brand in the music industry did, the labels and MTV included. Revolution comes from outside.
I don’t think anybody in the younger generation relies on Rolling Stone, if they read it at all.
It’s probably unsavable.
First they came for the record stores.
Now they’ve come for Rolling Stone.
As for the vinyl revival, there’s an over-trumpeted phenomenon if there ever was one. It’s like saying there’s a furniture revival because of Antiques Roadshow. What next, the return of Stanley Steamers? Vent windows? Why is it the media always lauds revivals of the past when the truth is no one’s got a deck to play a cassette, never mind an 8-track, and what’s in the rearview mirror is there for a reason.
Rolling Stone lost the plot.
But to see it fade away in front of my very eyes is sad and creepy.
It won’t be long before it’s a website like Paste, a vestige of what once was, when music drove the culture and it was us versus them…before everybody wanted to be them – just like Jann Wenner.
Let that be a lesson for you, once you sell out it’s only a matter of time before you become irrelevant and die.
So, so long to long afternoons spent mesmerized by the words of musicians.
So long to the belief that music ran the world.
And so long to the canard that Rolling Stone matters.
If only it took their vaunted Robert Zimmerman‘s advice.
He not busy being born is busy dying.