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.