Rock-Critically Correct: “Rolling Stone” Keefs On Truckin’

May 30th, 2007 // 12 Comments

keefjohnny.jpgAnd now it’s time for another installment of Rock-Critically Correct, in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe and Spin are given a once-over by an anonymous writer who’s contributed to several of those titles–or maybe even all of them! After the click-through, he/she examines the most recent issue of Rolling Stone:

So here was your correspondent, ready to assess the May 31 issue of Rolling Stone, and trying not to harp too much on the magazine’s pro-baby-boomer, anti-Bush tendencies. But who do we have staring at us on the cover?

Why, it’s Johnny Depp, with his arms around Keith Richards, a charter member of the magazine’s “extended family,” and the actor’s role model for his Jack Sparrow character. Somewhat admirably, there appears to have been no retouching applied to Richards’ visage whatsoever–and your correspondent doesn’t give a good goddamn if it’s not original to note that he looks like Gollum.

The pair’s interlocutor is one David Wild, an L.A.-based writer long associated with Rolling Stone. Surely you’ve seen him making remarkably obvious, unfunny observations on many VH1 programs. Wild here acquits himself similarly in the feature interview, competing with Depp as to who can kiss Richards’ ass with more slavish obeisance, and hitting as many “rock stars are kinda like pirates, aren’t they” clichés as humanly possible. Richard’s responses, of course, run along the lines of “heh heh huurrgh raarrrgh heh heh marrrgh whaagghh jhurrghh!!” Evidently, the interview took place in on the set of the film, so Richards’ quip last month that he had snorted his father’s cremated ashes is only alluded to in the piece’s intro–although it would seem advisable to secure a follow-up interview to have him address it, wouldn’t it? No dice!

So, it turns out, it may be impossible to assess Rolling Stone without confronting the self-evident truths that musicians that editor Jann Wenner idolizes are the ones that truly matter, and that President Bush sucks. After all, speaking to the New York Times for an article regarding nostalgia for the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, Wenner says that “it’s our youth for a number of people, especially for those of us who now control things.” And the “thing” he controls definitively is RS (which will publish its own Summer of Love special issue this summer), so it seems that readers can go suck it if they aren’t partial to boomer exceptionalism.

And boomer exceptionalism penetrates every iota of the mag. There’s a little trick editorial drones can avail themselves of when negotiating the vicissitudes of an overlord with a limited attention span or narrow interests. Let’s assume said overlord is only vaguely aware of Linkin Park, Maroon 5 and Arcade Fire, and will likely be unmoved by a story concerning those bands. All you have to do sprinkle references that are likely to please said overlord in the copy, and voila: s/he’s off your back.

Thus, in both of Austin Scaggs’ front-of-the-book Q&A’s, we learn that Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight and Maroon 5′s It Won’t Be Soon Before Long contain vague anti-Bush references. We also learn that M5 frontman Adam Levine recently met Billy Joel, a noted pal of a certain overlord, and, in Gavin Edwards’ Arcade Fire profile, that Win Butler ascribes his band’s Springsteen influence to his “biggest influences,” Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan. Your correspondent doesn’t doubt the sincerity of these statements, but merely notes that such references accrue with stunning, compulsory
regularity in RS.

It seems that, as long as Wenner’s preferences are dutifully cited, nothing much else matters. Just about every editor of your correspondent’s acquaintance, when presented with an article about a new, Starbucks-affiliated album from the world’s richest musician, would reject the following headline, one that has been used countless times since 1970: “Paul McCartney Gets Back.” Can’t RS do better than “Linkin Park’s New Direction”? Then there’s the magazine’s ’80s-era fixation on “hot.” Coachella? “Hot Fun in the Desert.” “Spector Trial Heats Up.” And–sigh–”the Hot List.”

By the way: a word about young master Scaggs’ Smoking Section, a column appended to the now very Us Weekly-ish Random Notes section. SS generally finds Scaggs chummily discussing drugs and booze with boldface names. For instance, he discloses in this issue that the Beastie Boys considered putting rolling papers in the group’s upcoming The Mix Up. It’s all very “hey man, forget how corporate the MTV show made RS seem! We still fuckin’ party with rockers, just like they did in the ’70s.”

Oddly enough, Scaggs also reports that Lindsay Lohan was rude to him and his friends at Coachella, and that she ran away before she could “get slapped across the face.” Unless Scaggs is suggesting that the slap was to be administered by a woman, this is perhaps not the most gentlemanly sentiment YC has read recently.

Now, your correspondent pledges to the Idolator visitors kind enough to read and comment upon his musings that in subsequent postings regarding RS he will do his level best to leave aside the subject of baby boomer exceptionalism. Unless he just can’t help it! Specifically, he’ll have a look at the Rolling Stone review section–and the two writers that have come to dominate it in the past few months.


  1. JudgeFudge

    Kudos to the guest commentor and idolator for another great instalment of this feature.


    On a side note, although I am loathe to admit that I saw the new pirate, I will say that Keith Richards’ cameo in the film is about as uninspired as the RS cover article about his cameo in the film.

  2. Chris Molanphy

    The Keef cover re: Pirates was a foregone conclusion, no less than the 1998 Johnny Depp cover timed to the megaflop Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; or the 2000 Kate Hudson cover timed to the shoulda-been-a-hit-but-wasn’t Almost Famous. Bottom line, any movie that’s somehow connected to the RS family is going to get a cover, full stop.

    Looking forward to the review-section followup piece. To bridge the topics between this piece and the next one, you might talk about the backstory on the single most embarrassing review in RS history,
    the five-star review by Jann himself of Mick Jagger’s 2001 insta-flop Goddess in the Doorway.

  3. The Mozfather

    Oh, it’s always so charming when people think women should be slapped, for you know, talking.

  4. Anonymous

    are you suggesting there’s an RS equivalent of the Sports Illustrated cover = sports-star-injury curse?

    if only they took a poll as to who readers want on the cover….

    le sigh. it’s tough being a dreamer.

  5. Anonymous

    the only thing more annoying than Rolling Stone is someone bitching about how annoying Rolling Stone is.

  6. Lax Danja House

    @dennisobell: Foregone conclusion or not, those covers are the closest the magazine has come in the last few years to intersecting with actual youth culture. And maybe I’m just one of those naive young people who gets excited over stupid pirate flicks but I can’t believe that despite all the criticism, RS has refused to even throw a bone to that entire demographic except through coincidences like this.

  7. Breliant

    Did Keith do the decent thing and name-check Johnny Kidd and the Pirates?
    A few years ago Keith related that being in a band is like being a whaler. Pick a side Keith.

  8. Chris Molanphy

    @hypnotyza: Actually, I kind of am suggesting that — over the last couple of years, making the cover of RS has been something of a curse.

    Nevermind what it’s done to political candidates — Howard Dean got the cover minutes before getting trounced in Iowa; we all know how well the John Kerry cover turned out. And as for movies, that super-foxy Grindhouse cover looked dated on the newsstand about one week after the movie bombed.

    Where it’s really been bizarre is with music stars.
    RS has only put Mariah Carey on their cover twice,
    and the second time was in early ’06, when Grammy night was expected to go her way — and it didn’t. The Grammys didn’t go Kanye West’s way, either, but that same month, he was on the cover in that famous Jesus Christ Pose.

    I’m not saying it’s a one-to-one relationship, but if a rock star ever has some contested achievement on the line, the RS cover can be the kiss of death.

  9. Anonymous

    @dennisobell: don’t forget when they put Heath Ledger on the cover around Oscar time and he didn’t win.

  10. C.R.E.A.M.

    Rolling Stone is an ossified nightmare: a tomb for vastly overpaid, aging, fat, balding, white, male hacks. Do they have ANY writers or editors who primarily cover dance music and hip-hop? No! They are out of touch with today’s most essential youth music! They’re too busy giving five stars to Mick Jagger to know what’s up!

    Most of the editors and writers are so old (40s, 50s, even 60s!) and burnt-out that they don’t even go out – do you know ANYONE who hangs with a “Rolling Stone staffer” on the NY scene? They are not part of the scene!

    Don’t worry: Blogs like Idolator and Stereogum will render these jobs obsolete within 5 years.. Magazines will fall, blogs will rise, and no one will be a “professional” writer anymore.

    There will be good writers and there will be bad writers. And you know which category those nightmare Rolling Stone monsters will fall into! (Not to mention most other “professional music critics!!)

    I hope their old-ass, married, out-of-touch cracker asses enjoy unemployment.

  11. PotatoSticks

    Scaggs is so unabashedly proud of his drug use that it makes me ashamed of my own.

    It’s like he’s late to the pot party and trying to prove to all the older kids he’s cool because he “toked up” with Jack Johnson.

  12. Chairman_Cow

    Next time how bout nailing quote-ho Peter Travers while you’re at it? While luke warm on Pirates, he still managed to offer up a sloppy bj for Disney’s marketing department: “You won’t find hotter action, wilder thrills or loopier laughs this summer.” Hotter action indeed!

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