Rolling Stone magazine celebrates its 40th anniversary

Jim Farber
New York Daily News (MCT)

The echoes of the boomer generation reached a new crescendo Friday as Rolling Stone published an issue celebrating 40 loud years of life.

So long a run surprises no one more than owner/founder Jann Wenner. "I had no vision for what the magazine would become," he says. "It was just a slow build."

The climb began back on Nov. 9, 1967, with an issue that splashed John Lennon on its cover. Other magazines had tried to nail the sounds and sights of the boomer generation's rise to power before, including Crawdaddy, which preceded Rolling Stone in the marketplace by more than a year. But only Wenner's publication found the right tone and image for the era.

Everything from Annie Leibovitz's iconic photographs to the probing writings of critics like Paul Nelson and Greil Marcus reflected the shifting values of the emerging culture. As staid and established as the magazine has become since it moved from San Francisco to New York at the end of the `70s, before that it glided on pop culture's cutting edge with unerring grace.

Early on, Rolling Stone became what Wenner calls "a tribal telegraph. We were the ones covering one of the biggest stories of the 20th century - the baby boomers and the emergence of rock `n' roll and technology - from the inside. We were it."

If the magazine is no longer quite "it" - as no print magazine can be in the age of the Internet - Rolling Stone has still managed to shake off enough of the moss of time to remain culturally on-point and commercially potent. According to Wenner, that's because "popular culture is ever-changing and renewing. So long as you cover the beat, it's going to continue to be fresh."

Yet to mark the mag's anniversary, there's enough looking back to give some readers whiplash. The new issue, titled "Where We've Been," offers new interviews with all the biggest rock war-horses of the `60s and `70s, from Dylan to Paul McCartney to Mick Jagger. Wenner argues "these artists are still putting out some of their best work. Dylan just put out a brilliant album, and the Stones are still the world's best performing act."

Come this summer, Rolling Stone will offer more rear-view ruminations, starting with a second anniversary issue that commemorates 40 years since the Summer of Love. A DVD box set arrives in September, featuring the first digital archive of everything ever published in the magazine. That will be chased on Nov. 2 by a third anniversary issue that looks to the future to examine "Where We're Going."

If Rolling Stone has to remain committed to the future of pop to retain its audience, Wenner isn't self-conscious about declaring the boomers as the defining influence, and reference point, for everything that happens today. "The changes (this generation) made to society are permanent," he says, "even if there are some reversals during the Bush administration."

As a result, Wenner says, certain core aspects of the magazine's philosophy will never change. "We have a sensibility that stands," he says. "We have very liberal politics, in terms of social justice and sexual freedom and the idea that peace is better than war."

"Peace and love," he says. "What's wrong with that?"





Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.


2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.


Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez


Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.


"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.


The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.


Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.


'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.


2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.