Monday, February 2, 2015

The Cover of the Rolling Stone

Well, we're big rock singers
We got golden fingers
And we're loved everywhere we go...(That sounds like us)
We sing about beauty and we sing about truth
At ten thousand dollars a show...(Right)
We take all kinds of pills that give us all kind of thrills
But the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll getcha when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rollin' Stone
~Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show

It was one of the fun songs of its time. There are no deep thoughts buried in its lyrics. The band was out to have fun, and why not? Those were the days.

What's interesting is how quickly Rolling Stone magazine moved to center stage as a vehicle for reflecting popular culture. Jann Wenner was barely drinking age when he co-founded the publication with Ralph Gleason, an established music critic who had been covering the San Francisco scene for two decades. Gleason, who had been a friend of Lenny Bruce and other controversial figures, helped bring jazz and the fledgling rock scene into the public eye. Hunter S. Thompson, who covered the political scene, became a staple of the magazine.

This all came to mind when I saw an article touting a show at the Reading Public Museum featuring 35 iconic Rolling Stone covers. The exhibition, titled Backstage Pass: Baron Wolman and the Early Years of Rolling Stone, will be on display through May 10. The covers show the power of a photographer's lens to shape perceptions of an entire generation.

There's no getting around it... the magazine not only reported on the scene, it also helped define it. Gleason believed that nothing is more revealing about who were are than our music.

Jim Morrison expressed a similar sentiment when he was writing songs for The Doors. He wanted to be a poet, but who reads poetry? A great poetic verse, set to music, will be listened to a hundred times and can reach millions.

There's more to say... but this is enough for now. Keep pressing on.

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