Feb 212012
Authors: Matt Miller

Rolling Stone Magazine is stuck between a rock and the past.

In 1967 when Rolling Stone published its first black-and-white edition, publisher Jann Wenner wrote that the magazine was, “Not just about music, but also about the things and the attitudes that music embraces.”

At first, the magazine had tapped into a musical revolution, and for the next two decades, Rolling Stone flourished.

The magazine built up a reputation as the hub of all music information. You weren’t famous until your face was on its cover; you weren’t good unless Rolling Stone said you were. Its reviews were scripture, and the magazine had the power to discredit musicians like Led Zeppelin and Queen.

But, even the best of us can’t stay young and hip forever.

The baby boomer generation started to age with Rolling Stone. Slow to transition to the Internet, and slower still to embrace rap music, the magazine watched the world pass it by.

Looking back in the Rolling Stone archives (you’ll have to use Safari or another browser because their archive system doesn’t yet work with Google Chrome), you can see a magazine trapped in the past.

In 2011, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Steven Tyler and a cast of long-dead or now-irrelevant artists graced the front page of a magazine that supposedly covers the cutting edge of music and culture.

Take a look at the most recent, March 1 issue of Rolling Stone to see the sad, aged remnants of a publication that once characterized the youthful haze of a generation decades ago.

Paul McCartney graces the front page of the magazine and has 27 times since 1967.

His hair, unnaturally dark, is styled to emulate someone 40 years younger. The skinny tie around his neck mocks the style of his day that has had a recent comeback. The veins in his arms and the wrinkles on his face –– that not even a computer could reverse –– scream irrelevance just as much as the bold headlines around him do.

“Van Halen’s Fast, Furious Comeback,” is set across the top of the page. “Joey Ramone’s Lost Album,” reads down the right-hand edge. And on the left of the page, Rolling Stone asks the question, “Is the CD Finally Dead?”

According to Rolling Stone, the majority of their audience is males ages 18 to 34. If that’s the case in 2012, does that age group care, or want, Van Halen to have a comeback? Does a forgotten Joey Ramone album still matter? And doesn’t that age group know already, more than anyone else, that the CD is dead?

When I first saw the 2000 movie, “Almost Famous,” about a teenage writer who goes on tour with a band for Rolling Stone Magazine in the ‘70s, I got the idea that I wanted to be a music journalist. I got a subscription to the magazine and would read, cover-to-cover, every issue.

As I began to get engrossed into the modern music scene, I started to realize how disconnected the magazine was from any generation since the baby boomers. The musicians I liked –– if mentioned at all –– would appear in its pages years late.

Rolling Stone needs to be setting the bar of what is cool. It needs to be telling its readers what to listen to before they have even heard of it. It needs to be in touch and cutting-edge.

So, let’s rewrite Rolling Stone’s front page for what it should say. Across the top it should say, “The Shins’ Not-So-Simple Comeback.” On the right it should say, “Jack White’s lost collaborations.” On the left it should ask the question, “Is the iTunes store going to die?”

Now who should be on the cover? There are countless musicians who would fit better on the front page of the magazine that Rolling Stone wants to be. In front of that classic font could be upcoming rap group, Odd Future. Even though his first album came out five years ago, it could be Bon Iver, who has been largely ignored by the magazine. It could be Animal Collective, who broke out of indie scene with 2009’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion” and have a much-anticipated album coming out this year.

In that first edition in 1967 Wenner also wrote that his new publication reflects, “what we see are the changes in rock and roll … Because the trade papers have become so inaccurate and irrelevant … we hope we have something here for the artists and the industry, and every person who ‘believes in the magic that can set you free.’”

Somewhere along the way, Rolling Stone lost that magic and instead retreated to the comforts of the 1960s and ‘70s. The magazine needs to take charge, take chances and connect with the next generation of music, or else become nothing but a relic replaced by websites and bloggers.

News Editor Matt Miller is a senior journalism major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. He can be reached at letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 1:24 pm

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