“Rolling Stone” Still Has An Appetite For The Past

rscover.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:

Your boy has remarked several times now that he intends at some point to appraise Rolling Stone without regard to nostalgia, but damn if that hasn’t been nearly impossible. Since this feature began, RS’ covers have gone like this: The 1960s were great part 1; Johnny Depp and his BFF Keith Richards; British Trainwreck that your mom might like; The Dude everyone can’t stand but likes just fine when his old band reunites; and the ’60s were great part 2.

And so it is with the Aug. 9 issue, which features a vintage image of Guns N’ Roses. For here we have a salute to the 20th anniversary of Appetite for Destruction, and RS sure does like them some anniversaries. You can’t chalk up this fondness purely to an institutional predilection for the past. It may be that when RS put Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco on the cover earlier this year, it was not at all clear that the bands’ fanbases, ones not known for their print media habit, were going to bite. But in a declining marketplace, it’s a much easier call to go with artists who mean something to people who do have said habit, ain’t it?

Thing is, in 1987, Rolling Stone didn’t see Guns N’ Roses coming. The mag, like most others outside of the metal press, did not review Appetite at the time (nor, incidentally, did it review It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back). It’s pretty clear that the reviews editor then would have taken one look at a publicity still, said “Oh great, another one of these Sunset Strip louts!” and continued sitting shiva for a promo of Tunnel of Love. That said, a year later RS published a superb cover story on the band, one with a level of reported rigor unmatched by, say, RIP magazine. Afterwards, RS and GNR entered a cozy relationship that yielded little of interest.

As for the story itself: It’s titled “Filthy Sexy Cool.” Near as Your Correspondent can tell, it’s a play on the title of TLC’s second album, although RS seemingly long ago concluded that readers respond to the words “sexy” and “cool” under most circumstances. Writer Brian Hiatt’s piece proceeds with a fairly hoary gambit: depict fucking, and the reader will be similarly hooked.

To Hiatt’s considerable credit, though, he located drummer Steven Adler’s then-stripper girlfriend, now a 40-year-old mom, and got her to recount her role in the recording session for “Rocket Queen.” Indeed, the final track on Appetite finds her groaning into a microphone while none other than Axl Rose was, not to put too fine a point on it, balls deep inside of her (does Adler not seem ever more pitiable by the day?). Remember folks: this is no pop star, able to summon the wrath of a multinational corporation behind her when annoyed. This is a woman who probably risks much in wherever she lives when relaying such an anecdote, so hats off to her and Hiatt.

Every member of the original band save Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin is interviewed in the main story. So, tit for tat, it’s followed by a Velvet Revolver story, which is good deal better than others YC has read: therein, the dudes admit they return to rehab frequently and that the band is less of a brotherhood than a marriage of convenience. If the band was to implode, poor old non-rock-legend rhythm guitarist Dave Kushner says he’d “have to figure out what to do next.”

Elsewhere, in the Live Earth rundown that leads the Rock and Roll section, YC is pleased to note that writer Evan Serpick includes a dissenting view: “‘It’s very misleading to that if we change our light bulbs and drive Priuses we could solve global warming,’ says Chris Miller, director of the Global Warming Campaign at Greenpeace.” Your boy guesses it was determined that Al Gore wouldn’t mind such a demurral. We also learn, in the FOB space devoted to “breaking” artists, that Canadian Klute-hairdoed twin sisters Tegan and Sara are, two years after “Walking with a Ghost” was heard on Grey’s Anatomy and seven years after their first record, “breaking” artists.

Finally, YC would like to take stock of this issue’s Random Notes column “Smoking Section.” Therein, writer Austin Scaggs informs us that he had a great time at Bonnaroo, then went to London for Live Earth at Wembley Stadium, followed by some “rolling with Will.i.am…so each night ended in a club with us sucking down goblets of Dom Perignon.” He then goes to Paris, where “at 4am,” he drinks “more bubbly with Jessica Alba and Terrence Howard,” and then its off to Ibiza where he “raged all night with James Blunt.” “How twisted did it get?” Oh, do tell us, Mr. Scaggs! It’s edge-of-seats time! “We hit a post-disco party that kicked off at 9am.”

How is it, precisely, that Ultragrrrl was the one that caught all the shit for the “look at me and all famous people I drink with” song and dance? YC doesn’t wish to begrudge Scaggs what certainly seems to be a fun lifestyle. But what insights does the Smoking Section’s participatory “new journalism” impart? How often does the column report that something interesting happened, other than the mere fact that Scaggs socializes with celebrities who have a project on the horizon? Is the column supposed to evoke the intimate “this is what I did recently” effect of blogs, MySpace and Facebook? Are readers supposed to wish they were in Scaggs’ shoes? Do back-office bean counters at Wenner Media ever wonder at the higher purpose of what must be his astounding expense reports?

For that matter, why the fuck didn’t MTV abandon the premise of I’m From Rolling Stone, with its dreary nattering about journalism and work ethic, and just follow Scaggs around? People would watch that shit!