Pay Your Rates at Rolling Stone by K A Laity

My practicality consists in this: in the knowledge that if you beat your head against the wall it is your head which breaks and not the wall … that is my strength, my only strength.

~Antonio Gramsci

Had a beard which was weird

Some time ago

Heard Ramones in ‘81

Has a Spanish guitar

~The Fall, ‘Mere Pseud Mag. Ed.’

The Rolling Stone has reached its logical conclusion: leveraging its accumulated prestige as an advertising billboard for those who can afford to pay its rates. They are seeking ‘Thought Leaders’ to shell out $2000 for the honour of gracing their glossy pages. This of course overlooks the fact that true ‘thought leaders’ seldom have that kind of dosh on hand because they are ahead of the curve.

The magazine’s first fame came from surfing the edge of that curve: catching the trends and milking them for every last bit of monetary value. Co-found Jann Wenner (better known locally for his irritation at not being able to add a heliport to his Hudson Valley property) made clear back in the day that this was a lifestyle magazine about ‘fun’—journalism arrived to attract readers, not through any deep-rooted need to speak truth to power. That may explain their soft porn photo shoots for the miniscule number of women featured on the covers.

The lack of artists of colour on the cover is striking as well as, but it has a lot to do with how majority white music mags defined rock-n-roll. Its very title offers a précis of the history of white appropriation of black music:

‘You’re probably wondering what we’re trying to do. It’s hard to say: sort of a magazine and sort of a newspaper. The name of it is Rolling Stone which comes from an old saying, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Muddy Waters used the name for a song he wrote. The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy’s song. “Like a Rolling Stone” was the title of Bob Dylan’s first rock and roll record. We have begun a new publication reflecting what we see are the changes in rock and roll and the changes related to rock and roll.’ [Letter from the editor, first issue]

In the 80s an advertising agency was brought in to revamp the ‘brand’ and turn it toward more celebrity gossip. In the noughties it took a hard turn into laddism by hiring an editor from FHM. Yet somehow it manages to live in the imagination of many as somehow ‘rock-n-roll’ (whatever that means anymore) and ‘counter-culture’ even though its readers seem to largely be the Baby Boomers who went Reagan/Thatcher in the 80s but still think they’re cool.

They were never cool.

I say this as the uncoolest of the uncool. That’s why punk rock persists. True punk is about truth. Mags like RS will always look at that truth and try to find a way to monetise it. Punk rock is dead, punk rock lives on because it is always living and dying, brought back to life by people who feel the need to punch it into existence. Most of the time it pops up like mushrooms in neglected places, dank and dark but free, growing in its own weird shapes. One place it will never be is on the cover of the Rolling Stone. If it costs, $2000 to be inside the mag, imagine what the cover charge is. Who could afford it?