Sunday, July 16, 2017

Music Years of My Life: 1979

Rolling Stone magazine celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and they deserve all the accolades coming to them.  I say this as a 38 year subscriber who hasn't always loved every subject, review or layout of the magazine.  My subscription to Rolling Stone began in the Summer of 1979, after picking up an issue with Richard Pryor on the cover.  Of course I was aware of the magazine.  Skimmed through it at libraries and book stores.  Probably bought an issue of two.  But these are my teenage years and the only spending money I made was helping my Mom out at a hotel where she worked.

The Billboard subscription I got in 1978 was a Christmas gift, and I was able to maintain that for a few years before my own money paid for it.  The impact Rolling Stone had on my record buying can't be denied.  A good review usually pushed me over.  But I was still buying albums from popular icons of the 70's that critics hated (Barry Manilow) or panned (Barbra Streisand).  Also most albums that were just popular I'd buy.  A lot of this way of purchasing came from growing up with AM Top 40 radio as my main source of listening.  In fact, until Rolling Stone came along, my main source of music criticism came from Billboard album and single reviews.  And those weren't very negative.

Now along comes Rolling Stone and they are reviewing albums from artists that I've never heard of.  Because these acts barely charted on the Billboard album or singles charts, let alone got reviewed (and if they did it went over my teenage head).  Until I got the first Rolling Stone Album Guide and Robert Christgau's Rock Albums of the 70's in the early 80's,  the magazine's review section was a revelation.

And it had writers.  Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Paul Nelson, Timothy White, Stephen Holden, Ben Fong-Torres, Cameron Crowe, Mikal Gilmore, etc.  But not many women in that first decade.

Now in its 50th year, grabbing the cover is still a big deal, and it still makes headlines with its non-music writing.  Rolling Stone has always covered more than music.  Politics, Movies, TV Shows.  Maybe it doesn't have the relevance it once did, but it's still one of the longest-running music magazines in the U.S.  Nearly 40 years later it's still a kick to see it in my mailbox.
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