Back in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s, I poured over Rolling Stone Magazine. Didn’t a lot of music lovers? The articles and interviews were pure escapism, but I especially loved the cover photography; often capturing many of my musical idols in their glory. It seemed there were a lot of great entertainers; and in my mind, to really make the ‘Rock and Roll dream’ come true, as I naively perceived it, you had to land ‘on the cover of the Rolling Stone’. I enjoyed that misperception.
My impression then was, to even have the chance of getting on Rolling Stone one had to come equipped with an exceptional talent; for not everyone in music got exposure. Thousands of prolific songwriters, musicians and vocalists never received that prestigious distinction. You had to have that edge, that ‘thing’, if you were to realize the dream. I still remember discovering the 1974 issue with Tanya Tucker, which headlined: “Hi I’m Tanya Tucker. I’m Fifteen. You’re Gonna Hear from Me.” It was like “Whoa!” My mind was blown that someone so young could go there based on their vocal talent… It inspired. The years gave amazing covers, featuring The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young – the list goes on and on and on. Annie Leibovitz in particular, shot a lot of my favourites; with assignments like the John and Yoko cover, or Bette Midler or Steve Martin…. Various images became a youthful ideal for what rock and roll was; to me it incorporated the ability to write and perform entertainment (music, acting, comedy) in such a way that the ‘high-ups’ at Rolling Stone even deemed you ‘worthy’. Ha!
Back then of course, we did not have the internet; so I’d wait patiently for bi-weekly issues; combing through each one from front cover to back. If the cover art appealed to my ideal, I’d keep it tucked away on my bookshelf along with any others. Still have a lot of them today. Why I keep them still? Nostalgia.
I loved singing and writing, and because I was a loner who spent a majority of time doing these very things (including much daydreaming); I too, fantasized of what it might be like to live life creating music. Being on the road. I wondered how I might one day get that cover shot on Rolling Stone. By the Annie Liebovitz. What would that look, sound and feel like? Maybe this dream was the same fantasy of thousands of kids across the world?
As time went on though, I became less and less dedicated to following the musical and political publication; I think primarily because I also began to a) grow up and chase life instead of dream about it and b) lose interest in whatever was going on in ‘mainstream’ pop culture as I cultivated my own pathway. They say in life you have to stay true to yourself, whatever that means to each of us. There is no offence to the artistry out there today per se, but even now I can’t appreciate the featured artists or the cover photography itself, not as I did back then. Who was it recently used the word ‘reductive’? Along with that loss of appreciation of the art of Rolling Stone – I have also long since put away those daydreams. Too busy writing – trying!
In the late 90′s I used to work at a Winnipeg Blockbuster Video (an experience in itself) – I’d see the issues coming in over time, more and more featuring Brittany Spears and X-tina, or Backstreet Boys. Less and less did things hold my interest; girls and boys of all sorts just standing purposefully naked with breasts and bums tooched out so unnaturally. I mean, I suppose it was ‘sexy’; and sex sells, which I really could appreciate, from an aesthetic and horny perspecitive . However it registered that you didn’t really have to be all that prolific; you didn’t even have to have anything interesting to say about your music. It appeared however, have to turn people on. Make money. ‘Edge’ as I was familiar, was replaced with sex appeal, in my mind; which is absolutely fine. I just no longer subscribed to it, pun intended.
Why do I choose to write about this today? The old dream re-occurred to me recently – that reverie of my Liebovitz cover shot and the accompanying story of my aspirations and schemes of artistry and success. I had to smile; the youthful self and my previous conceptions verses my own current views on entertainment, media and Rolling Stone Magazine itself. Fame.
In the end I think that Rolling Stone Magazine is forging on as it should; representing what is trending in music, as it likely did since its birth in 1967. I don’t know exactly what has changed or what is even important to the mass public. Perception has evolved. Oh, I still dream and I still desire recognition if I’m being totally honest. I remain a dreamer! Maybe the difference is – I’m grateful enough today; just knowing that I can sing and write and perform. That I’ve experienced it and continue to. Music is my first love. The recognition and the ‘Rolling Stone Cover’ aspiration itself, no longer holds weight; nor does my attraction to ‘fame’, as I understood it to be. I don’t need Rolling Stone or stardom to write and sing or do whatever it is I do. I want to say what’s real to me weather its sexy or appealing to the mass public or not. Regardless I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do.
The nostalgic in me will still keep those old issues though. :-) Props to the past!