Throwback Thursday: We Remember Rolling Stone Before It Was A Country Magazine!


'Twas a time when the arrival of the latest issue of Rolling Stone would send me flying to the mailbox and into the bath room (which had the best light in the house), where I would read the new issue in its entirety.  First stop was usually the two pages of "Random Notes", vaguely gossipy tidbits on who was recording a new album and pics of folks like Bowie and Debbie Harry at Studio 54 or some other hip joint.

Sure, I knew there were better rock mags (Musician, Mojo, Trouser Press, just to name three), but through much of the '80s, Rolling Stone admirably walked that line of appealing to a mass audience and still, you know, reporting.  I mean, where else was a thirteen-year-old kid gonna read Hunter S. Thompson's latest hilarious hi-jinx, or become immersed in America's seemingly endless string of foreign affairs debacles courtesy of P.J. O'Rourke.  And, yeah, there were a few folks who wrote about rock & roll, among them Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Cameron Crowe, Anthony DeCurtis, Kurt Loder, Ben Fong-Torres, David Fricke and Neil Strauss.


Sometime in the early '90s, though, with mall punk and grunge making the once-bigger-than-life rock scene look and smell like Beavis and Butthead's sock drawer, Rolling Stone fell into serious decline.  Part of the blame must surely fall upon the RS staff, which was now populated with writers who'd grown up dreaming of one day writing for the magazine.  They saw it as a finish line of sorts instead of the proverbial starter's pistol and stopped writing to impress.

Of course, by then, the musical subjects that these writers had to work with was also hilariously sub-par. Chris Cornell and Rivers Cuomo may be rock stars to some, but not in the sense that a thirteen-year-old kid is hanging on their every word.  After all, grunge and alt. rock had been an open rebellion against the bloated rock shenanigans of all those rock stars who, in hindsight, were a helluva lot more fun to read about.  Behind closed doors, Nirvana too rented their own planes and partied in high style, but it was never reported because it would have been "bad for their cred".


While it has been a year or so since I cracked open a print issue of the magazine, every few days, I check the RS website just to see what further concessions the magazine has made to the almighty consumer who, these days, is a blithering idiot with an attention span shorter than the average tweet.  The supreme lack of "new news" to report hasn't stopped RS from churning out an entire front page of, ahem, "old news" like Pearl Jam dressing up as Devo in '94 or Siskel and Ebert arguing about "The Big Lebowski".

Sure, Rolling Stone didn't report either "event" at the time that they occurred because, well, Devo wasn't seen as "hipster cool" in '94 and "The Big Lebowski" wasn't the universally-adored pop culture favorite that it is now.

Of course, that stuff is just to appeal to the magazine's remaining "older demo".  What are they doing to bring in new readers, you ask?  Well, for starters, they just unveiled Rolling Stone Country, which focuses entirely on the best country artists that today's hottest genre has to offer as well as top-shelf reporting on "hick-hop" and Justin Moore's cover of a Motley Crue song.

"Yep.  I'm a rock star."
The site also answers the musical question: How much Photoshop does it take to make Rascall Flatts not look like three random guys yanked out of a Wings Etc.

Answer: A lot, but it still ain't enough.

See, back in the day, Rolling Stone wouldn't go anywhere near a country artist.  Okay, they may occasionally do an article on Willie or Johnny because, well, they're Willie and Johnny, but their coverage of the genre back when Country meant "country and western" and not "hair metal with a pedal steel" was minimal at best.  So, why the change of heart?

Whatever the answer, it's sad to see a once-great magazine continue its slide into the knuckledragger's abyss just to keep the lights on, thereby raising the question yet again, "Why can't anything ever just ride off into the sunset gracefully instead of whoring itself out to the point that whatever good name it may have had is eventually tarnished beyond salvation?

With such hard-hitting journalistic achievements as "A History of Hick-Hop", the only thing left for Rolling Stone to do is print all future issues on toilet paper.  It's the only way this writer will ever take another copy of RS into the bathroom again.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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