Picked up a copy of Rolling Stone’s 1,000 issue over the weekend – the first time I’ve read the magazine in years.
Back in the 70s, I worked for a daily newspaper in Illinois across the river from St. Louis. The Mississippi River Festival on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville brought top rock acts to the area and I made some extra bread shooting photos and writing reviews for Stone. The mag gave writers a lot of freedom and paid well and fast – a freelancer’s dream.
Stone produced a raw, exciting editorial product back then: Edgy writing, new directions in photography. I worked with Annie Leibowitz when the Rolling Stones – the band, not the magazine – came to St. Louis.
Some 15 years later, I ran across Annie again in New York at an opening of a new show of her photography. She had left Stone and build a new reputation as advertising photographer and shooter of portraits of the famous. I had left journalism temporarily, leading an unhappy life as a suit for a national trade association in Washington.
We talked about the good old days with Stone. We both missed it.
“I guess we sold out,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I guess we did.”
I returned to journalism a few years later. Annie continues to shoot attention-getting covers for Vanity Fair and other glossy publications.
The 1,000th edition of Rolling Stone is also glossy. The retrospectives inside point back to a time when the magazine cared more about culture than celebrity and went for grit instead of gloss. Like the rest of us, it has gotten older, more successful, and less willing to take risks. Like the generation that grew up with it, Rolling Stone now represents the best of the past and the worst that may face us in the future.