Rolling Stone's 40th Anniversary

Rolling Stone magazine (which, to be clear, I think is still a really good magazine, and these days a much better one than it was for most of the 1980s and 1990s--its political stuff is almost always worth the time, the general longform journalism pretty uniformly great, and its entertainment/music features usually the best coverage of whatever they are covering you are apt to find--not to say they cover everything I think a music entertainment mag should--with only the reviews section a clear decline vs. its storied past) is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a huge package of interviews with a cross-section of its icons from music, politics, and movies. Mostly it's a somewhat tedious bunch of boomers and boomer heroes complaining about the absolutely unprecedented evil of George Bush and the decay of modernity, but a couple of quotes leapt out that amused and somewhat heartened me.

First, from the hard-to-pin-down Bob Dylan. After Jann Wenner asks what of course anyone would ask Bob Dylan if they had the rare chance to chat with him--"Do you worry about global warming?" (Dylan: "Where's the global warming? It's freezing here")--Dylan goes on to say: "I don't expect politicians to solve anybody's problems....We've got to take the world by the horns and solve our own problems. The world owes us nothing, each and every one of us, the world owes us not one single thing. Politicians or whoever."

And Stewart Brand, bless 'im, refuses to take the "isn't this the worst period in history?" bait that almost every interview subject gets dangled. Those who believe that, he says,

They're either young or they don't have very good memories. Apart from climate, where we are now is a walk in the park compared to the Great Depression, a walk in the park compared to the Second World War, a walk in the park compared to the Cold War...and partly because of that lack of perspective, it seems to me that we're overreacting sometimes.

Music history notes: the downgrading of the reputation of the Who continues, as both Jagger AND Richards, both McCartney AND Starr, make the interview cut, while Pete Townshend, who always had a (mostly deserved) rep as among the more thoughtful and deep of rock stars (and who, as he and his acolytes will truthfully remind you, predicted the Internet with his collapsed 1971 mega-project Lifehouse) gets ignored. Similarly, I felt for the Jefferson Airplane's fall from grace as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead makes the cut while the always more outspoken and interesting characters Paul Kantner and Grace Slick languish in obscurity.

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  • ||

    Well we are big rock singers, we've got golden fingers
    And we're loved everywhere we go

  • Guy Montag||

    Leaving Pete-the-beak out of this is so wrong. I am continuing my boycott of that rag.

  • ||

    Lemme guess, Guy:

    You read "Spin."

  • ||

    I have not read that rag regularly since the late 80s. The music and movie reviews strike me as incredibly inconsequential now. For good music reviews I hit MOJO. MOJO had a great feature on/interview with Pete & Roger a few months back. And MOJO comes with a great CD every month.
    Maybe I'll go back to check out the political writing. They did introduce me to PJ O'Rourke. For that I will always be grateful.

  • ||

    RS is now a sham . . . almost all "music" venues are, no matter the medium/media are. MTV, VH1, RS . . . all, sadly, deviated from their original freshness and exciting discoveries. Now, bland corporatism. While not wholly to blame, these outlets can be pinned with part of the decline of genuinely good music in the mainstream of America. Blah.

  • ||

    True Libertarian,

    I think you've identified a symptom of the underlying disease. The quality of music is inversely correlated with the strength of copyright.

  • ||

    Oh, and:
    We sing about beauty and we sing about truth
    At ten thousand dollars a show

  • ||

    Highnumber,

    You are right, MOJO is 10 times the mag that Rolling Stone ever was, at least in my lifetime.

    What is up with downgrading of The Who? The older I get, the more I appreciate them.

  • ||

    Yes, Warren, thou art correct . . . seems that anything stamped with copyright protection simply MUST suck. Pardon the seeming artsy snobbery, but the Top 40 used to have at least 3 or 4 good songs ... now, shit. Watered-down, formulaic shit.

  • ||

    Wow...113 words to begin this posting and not a single period to be found...RS-style rambling for sure.

    RS is like a blog...except without the comments part...and the timelines...or the humor...oh, and the relevance.

  • ||

    TTL,
    I went to billboard.com to see if I could pull something tasty off the charts to prove you wrong. I was sorely disappointed. I did not know one damn song. Not to say that it's all shit, I don't know any of it. I thought maybe the new NIN would be on there, or something I knew. Nothing.
    Bah. I'm old.

  • ed||

    The quality of music is inversely correlated with the strength of copyright

    It's barely noon and that's the dimmest thing I've read today. Please enlighten us music and property-rights fans, Warren, with your list of the best uncopyrighted music. Not that this has anything to do with RS.

  • ||

    What is up with downgrading of The Who?

    John,
    Could it be that they haven't quit?
    I know the Stones are still going too, but they were always more popular than the Who (fka the High Numbers). Unlike the Stones, the Who, even at their creative nadir, have always tried to create something new.

  • ||

    ed,
    How about everything composed by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven for starters. If you want something more American, think Jazz Standards.

    Actually, come to think of it, most jazz standards aren't especially good. BUT there are versions of them that are exquisitely good. Particular arrangements and individual vocalists elevate a given recording to timeless status. And that would be my point. The lack of copyright allows anyone to cover a jazz standard, and therefore is conducive to the creation of great music.

  • ||

    And also;
    We take all kind of pills to give us all kind of thrills
    But the thrill we've never known

  • ||

    I think Bob Dylan is a genius but the whole "what global warming? it's freezing here" thing is beneath him. Though the quote after that is quite nice.

  • ||

    I gotta freaky old lady 'name-a Cocaine Catie that embrodries on my jeans.

    I got my poor ol' greyhaired daddy
    Drivin' my limousine...

  • Jim Bob||

    That's entirely too much praise for a magazine that ignores the wider world of music in favor of drooling ass-kissing to the dim stars of yesteryear, leeches on to flavors-of-the-month for cool points, and in general takes itself way to seriously to be taken seriously. My favorite bits are the arbitrarily ranked "Top 100" lists they do every few years; they're astoundingly predictable and about as bland as plain white rice. Really?! You mean to tell me that JIMMY PAGE is the NUMBER THREE GREATEST GUITARIST OF ALL TIME!

    It's not exactly as bad as Blender or Spin, but it's bad enough.

  • Brian Doherty||

    Sr. Totale--While Dylan's comment re: gobal warming certainly lacks serious policy and scientific heft, it strikes me as a perfectly Dylanesque response to a reporter trying to force him to embrace an agenda ("please do a concert for Gore, Bobby!") he wants no part of. And what would Mark E. Smith say?

  • ||

    I'll never forgive them for the way they lambasted Bob Dylan's Street Legal album.

  • ||

    ...what would Mark E. Smith say?

    Do you have a WWMESS bracelet, too?

  • ||

    HEY,
    Not the real Warren. I don't mind you taking the torch (I'd prefer a little more distinct moniker) but you skipped right over the chorus.

  • ||

    All right now:
    Is the thrill that'll get you when you get your picture
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

  • ||

    Mr. Doherty,

    Who is this Mark Smith of which you speak? He sounds Grotesque.
    Regarding Dylan, yes it was Dylanesque but why is that so admirable? It's just a typical evasion. I personally like it when he gives an opinion because it is usually interesting e.g. in his book, saying Goldwater was his favorite politician.

  • ||

    Rolling Stone's irrelevance is symptomatic of the general irrelevance of cultural criticism.

    With production and distribution methods as cheap and widely accessible as they are, new media can reach their audiences without having to win the approval of the so-called experts. A good review in RS is no longer what it once was. In some circles its a sign that a band/director/writer/politician has sold out.

  • ||

    "The quality of music is inversely correlated with the strength of copyright."

    Is that why Uzbekistan is turning out all the great music of today?

  • ||

    Rolling Stone sells glamor, and Pete Townshend is not glamorous.

  • ||

    Dakota,
    That might be relevant if lack of copyright = lack of rule of law.
    Let me introduce you to a useful phrase that comes in handy in a wide variety of situations; Necessary but not sufficient.

  • ||

    OK everybody now;
    Rolling Stone
    Wanna see my picture on the cover
    Rolling Stone
    Wanna buy five copies for my mother
    Rolling Stone
    Wanna see my smilin' face
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

  • ||

    My favorite bits are the arbitrarily ranked "Top 100" lists they do every few years; they're astoundingly predictable

    Jim Bob, if the rankings are arbitrary, how are the results predictable?

  • ||

    Warren,

    Stop it. Stop it right now.

  • ed||

    The lack of copyright allows anyone to cover a jazz standard, and therefore is conducive to the creation of great music.

    Covering a song isn't creating a song. I was taking issue with those who lament the story state of popular music (in their opinion) and somehow blame it on copyright laws, as if the legal protection of one's work somehow diminishes the overall quality of contemporary music.

  • Rhywun||

    I haven't read Rolling Stone in about 20 years, but I heard they called Weezer's Pinkerton "worst album of the year". That's just unforgivable.

  • VM||

    High#:

    my agents have just sent Warren to a 24 hour concert featuring "Outfield".

    And he'll have to sing along.

    that is all.

    (good trip?)

  • ||

    Ed,

    Before the days of copyright, musicians lived at pleasure of wealthy benefactors. The truth is that people like Beethoven, Mozart and Bach and the like despite being famous throughout Europe were not particularly wealthy people. They were at best well paid tradesman. With the exception of Paganini, who made his money performing, I can't think a composer before the 20th Century whom I would describe as wealthy. Yet, amazingly, there still was plenty of great music produced.

    Copyright benefits the musician not really society. Look, I would much rather be Sting living in my country house counting my millions than Mozart living at the pleasure of the Holy Roman Emperor. But, a societal point of view, I don't see how we are any better off for Sting and his like being millionaires rather than just middle-class tradesman.

  • ||

    How did this turn into a copyright rant?

    John, your post only tells 1/8th of the tale. Numerically, most musicians were traveling 'minstrels' who brought news and culture to the people throughout the realm. These people made a living from their "live performance" which was part musical act, part newscast and part mail courier.

  • ||

    Covering a song isn't creating a song. I was taking issue with those who lament the story state of popular music (in their opinion) and somehow blame it on copyright laws, as if the legal protection of one's work somehow diminishes the overall quality of contemporary music.


    Huh??? Of course "Covering a song isn't creating a song." but that's the whole point of copyright, to keep you from singing my song. The sad state of music is a direct consequence of hamstringing artists with copyright laws. The quality would be much better if the law wasn't crafted to provide rents to large corporations. Far better to have no copyright at all and let artists use each others work at will.

  • ||

    But Warren, what if I as an artist don't want to use other people's songs, nor want them to use mine?

    I would think the first time I heard Mayday doing a shitty cover of my music, I'd stop making it altogether.

  • ||

    True enough Lamar. Why can't they be again? What is the societal benefit of Sting or Bono being worth 10s of millions? Since we still had loads of qualty music before copyright, I don't think you can agrue that such protection is necessary for there to be music produced. It just seems necessary to support rock stars having country houses and record execs to have the money to have great parties and buy lots of coke.

  • ||

    John,
    I don't see copyright benefiting the musicians. A handful of rock stars do very well (and I would argue that success and talent are not well correlated, but I don't know how to fix that). Without copyright, performers would still do well. Musicians would see their income coming from performance not record sales.

    It may be true that a few other people are making a living as composers today that couldn't without copyright. But I there wouldn't be any shortage of composers without it. I'm confident that better music would be more available, if the recording industry had less influence.

  • ||

    Aw, crap. I sent my agents to disrupt that 24 hour concert with constant requests for "Freebird."
    Ach, Either way, Warren's in for a world of pain.

    Good trip. We had lovely weather from here to the home of the Mayo Clinic. La Crosse is gorgeous. Next time we'll have to stop to see the world's biggest six pack. (La Crosse is the ancestral home of Old Style.) Rochester does not seem to offer much but good people.

  • ||

    Hugh,
    Maybe you would, but hundreds of thousands of others would not.

  • ||

    Warren,

    The truth is that only a few establish acts make any money from selling records. The record deals for a new act are so lopsided and most successful pop careers so short that the acts never see any money from their first hit and never have enough hits to get out from under their initial lopsided contract. Thus, only established acts like U2 or Paul McCartney are able to wrench fair deals out of record companies. Further, with recording technology getting cheaper and cheaper, I don't see why you need a multi million dollar studio to make a good record, and distribution virtually free via the internet, there really isn't a reason for their to be record companies anymore. An act could make their own records in their own studio, distribute them via internet download and then hit the road to make a living. Yeah, it is not the stuff of "Hammer of the Gods" and trashed hotel rooms, but it is a way to make a nice even better than nice for some living as a working musician. If it really is all about the art, what is so bad about that?

  • ||

    What I laugh at most about RS is how in the reviews section the newest album by whomever is the featured interview that week always gets a fawning review. I'm sure no "promotional considerations" changed hands whatsoever.

  • ed||

    It's funny in a sick sort of way how easily nonartists give away the rights of artists and other creators, as if they themselves somehow are entitled to the products of someone else's mind.

  • ||

    An act could make their own records in their own studio, distribute them via internet download and then hit the road to make a living. Yeah, it is not the stuff of "Hammer of the Gods" and trashed hotel rooms, but it is a way to make a nice even better than nice for some living as a working musician. If it really is all about the art, what is so bad about that?

    A lot of bands are very close to doing just that. Bands signed to indie labels don't get raped the way major-label acts do, but they still make way more money from the merch table at concerts than from CD/download sales. Basically, the days of the big rich rock star are slowly drawing to a close, I think.

  • ||

    Just try to steal, uh I mean borrow, a melody from a blind beggar ansd insert it into a symphony today.

    Copyrights protects the blind beggars from the likes of Tchaikovsky and the interests of Big Music.

  • ||

    "Just try to steal, uh I mean borrow, a melody from a blind beggar ansd insert it into a symphony today."

    See the song "Bittersweet Symphony" as an example. The song sampled a BBC Radio Orchastra plays the Rolling Stones record from the late 1960s without permission. That is where the violin riff in the song came from. The Rolling Stones then sued and said "thank you very much" as they collected every penny the song, a considerable hit, made.

  • ||

    John,
    Just so.

  • ||

    "Bands signed to indie labels don't get raped the way major-label acts do."

    True enough, but usually this is because they pony up their own money up front. They still lose their $$ most of the time.

  • ||

    Just try to steal, uh I mean borrow, a melody from a blind beggar ansd insert it into a symphony today.

    Copyrights protects the blind beggars from the likes of Tchaikovsky and the interests of Big Music.



    Due to the existance of the mechanical license, anyone can cover a song without permission from the original copyright holder provided that holder gets paid royalties.

  • Jim Bob||

    parse,

    The content is predictable, the rankings arbitrary and meaningless.

    Worse magazines than RS are guilty of the same thing, I suppose.

  • ||

    [tiptoes in]
    Uh hello? Anybody here?
    ...
    heh heh heh
    [retrieves karaoke stack and speakers]
    [turns amp up to 11]

    TEST TEST
    Sibelence Sibelence

    [presses play]

    ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR,
    Well we are big rock singers, we've got golden fingers
    And we're loved everywhere we go
    We sing about beauty and we sing about truth
    At ten thousand dollars a show
    We take all kind of pills to give us all kind of thrills
    But the thrill we've never known
    Is the thrill that'll get you when you get your picture
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna see my picture on the cover
    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna buy five copies for my mother
    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna see my smilin' face
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

    I've got a freaky old lady name o' Cocaine Katy
    Who embroiders on my jeans
    I've got my poor old gray-haired Daddy
    Drivin' my limousine
    Now it's all designed to blow our minds
    But our minds won't really be blown
    Like the blow that'll get'cha when you get your picture
    On the COVER OF THE ROLLI'N STONE

    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna see my picture on the cover
    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna buy five copies for my mother
    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna see my smilin' face
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

    We got a lot of little teenage blue-eyed groupies
    Who do anything we say
    We got a genuine Indian guru
    He's teachin' us a better way
    We got all the friends that money can buy
    So we never have to be alone
    And we keep gettin' richer but we can't get our picture
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna see my picture on the cover
    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna buy five copies for my mother
    Rolling Stoooone
    Wanna see my smilin' face
    On, the, cover, of, the, Rolling-Stone

  • ||

    You called me sick?!
    I may revive the list just for you.

  • ||

    Warren, is this your Pynchon impersonation?

  • ||

    [whips head around]
    [blushes]
    uhhh.

    ROCK AND ROLLLLLLLL!
    Thank you Milwaukee!
    GOOD NIGHT!
    [runs out of room]

  • ||

    Rolling Stone's irrelevance is symptomatic of the general irrelevance of cultural criticism.

    RS hasn't been relevant since Nixon resigned.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Warren, that was just, well, you know, it was great. I wanted to use another modifier but the old lady might read this.

    Brian, Cheers! Tell Nick to give you a got dang raise.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Jim Walsh, relevant is overrated. TWC hasn't been relevant since Nixon resigned either. Prolly wan't relevant before he resigned neither. Besides, isn't the term relevant a throwback to the days of Ramparts Mag and the truckin' dude?

  • ||

    TWC,

    Don't feed the Warren.

  • Dave W.||

    Doherty got the Fall ref!?!?! Now that is pretty rad for a capitalist.

  • Dave W.||

    Oh and to answer Doherty's question:

    http://invereskstreet.blogspot.com/2006/11/get-yr-bank-account-fitter.html

  • ||

    I never forgave RS for putting Nirvana on the cover when Frank Zappa died, but then giving Jerry Garcia and Kurt Cobain the whole magazine to commemorate their deaths.

    For the record, Tommy, Live At Leeds, Who's Next, and Quadrophenia are better albums than anything the Stones ever came up with.

  • ||

    Is that why Uzbekistan is turning out all the great music of today?

    Don't you mean, "Glorious Nation of Uzbekistan"?

  • ||

    "They're either young or they don't have very good memories. Apart from climate, where we are now is a walk in the park compared to the Great Depression, a walk in the park compared to the Second World War, a walk in the park compared to the Cold War...and partly because of that lack of perspective, it seems to me that we're overreacting sometimes."

    Yay Brand! There's so much 'Apres Moi Le Deluge' in news coverage today that the perspective on today's problems are lost. It doesn't mean they aren't significant, just in comparison with last century's they're small beer, IF we take the right actions now. Frex, AGW will create greater security threats from movement of populations if CO2 concentrations stabilize at 650 ppm than 550 ppm.


    "Is that why Uzbekistan is turning out all the great music of today?"

    Used to have a great album from Soviet-era Afghanistan of Islamic chants.

  • ||

    "Is that why Uzbekistan is turning out all the great music of today?"

    If they don't have attractive breasts in Uzbekistan, how could they have decent music? Haven't you learned anything from the USA?

  • ||

    take romero for instance hes not a businessman directed and wrote night of the living dead didnt think to protect it and its a multimillion movie and his greatest film and he regrets it today still

  • ||

    40TH Anniversary issue!
    Brian pretty much hit the nail on the head. I must add that thru out the Dylan interveiw, jann wenner switched tactices like a lawyer in court, trying to get Dylan to answer her set ups about the current administration. When he wouldnt bite, She came out and accused the guy of not being cooperative. ha! Honey, you showed your hand way before you had an ace up your sleeve. From that point on you could tell the interveiw was ruined. Nice job Jann.

  • Nike Dunk High||

    thanks

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