Rolling Stone issue #24 had a cover date of December 21, 1968. 32 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo of the Beatles.
This is the final issue of 1968. By this time the magazine had firmly established its identity. It was now a professional publication with a copy editor (Charles Perry) and at last a managing editor in John Burks who would run the magazine while Wenner “focused on expanding the business and procuring the big interviews,” according to Joe Hagan’s Sticky Fingers. Burks was a real journalist, a former Newsweek correspondent whom Wenner hired to placate Ralph Gleason, who was “furious at [Wenner] for letting Rolling Stone come out late and riddled with errors…and leaving behind a trail of angry and unpaid writers” (pg. 119).
Over the next two years John Burks, with support from Greil Marcus and Gleason, would turn Rolling Stone into a serious journalistic enterprise, exemplified in 1970 by the in-depth coverage of Altamont in January and Kent State in May. (Of course, Wenner being Wenner, by the end of 1970 he fired almost everybody, including Burks and Marcus, and took back control.)
The opinions and priorities that he presented in these first 24 issues would continue to shape the rock and roll canon for the next forty years, although over the past ten years or so this canon has started to be questioned and re-evaluated. There was a lot more going on during the sixties than what was featured in the pages of Rolling Stone. But Wenner’s provincial attitude about the superiority of the San Francisco rock scene and his blind deification of John Lennon remains intact for a lot of people to this day. And not just Boomers!
One surprising thing about this first full year of Rolling Stone is how much coverage black music received. Throughout the 70s it got way, way whiter but at first there was a lot of coverage of soul, jazz, and R&B.
It also surprised me that there were woman on the masthead this whole time. Sue C. Clark was the New York Desk the whole year. The editorial assistants were mostly women from the get go including sisters Janie and Linda Schindelheim. (Jane was Wenner’s girlfriend whose dad gave her the money to help found the company.) Susan Lydon, Henri Napier, Elizabeth Campbell, and Catherine Manfredi all had early bylines. Not to suggest it wasn’t a total sausage fest, but Rolling Stone got a ton of support (and column inches) from women.
Features: “Beatles” by Jann Wenner (White Album review); “A Short Essay On Macrobiotics” by John Lennon; “Dion: Today I Think I Got a Chance” by Ritchie Yorke; “Three Short Short Stories” by Richard Brautigan; “Lou Adler” by Jerry Hopkins.
News: Beatles’ Record-Busting LP May be All-Time Biggest; Stones Plan World Tour, Xmas TV Show in Works; Doors New Riot-Concert Tour A Smash in Phoenix, Arizona; Graham Nash to leave the Hollies; New Motown Suit; Detroit Scene; Burdon Quits to make Flicks, Animals Hassled in Japan; Zeppelin Signs; King Elvis Figures the time is Right, Does Big TV Special; More Hassles for Family Dog.
Columns: Perspectives by Ralph J. Gleason (“So Revolution is Commercial”); Soul Roll by Jon Landau; Visuals by Thomas Albright (“The Portable War Memorial Commemorating VD Day”); Cinema by Roger Ebert (“Two Virgins and Number Five”); “Yoko Talks About It” by Yoko Ono; Random Notes on Aretha Franklin, Grace Slick, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Rush, and Johnny Winter.
Full-page ads: Steppenwolf on Dunhill; Mother Earth on Mercury; “Discover the NEW and the NOW…on Atlantic/Atco Records”; “Know who your friends are” (Columbia Records 2-page ad); Epic Records.
More ads: The Soft Machine on ABC; Cher on Imperial; Cruising With Ruben & The Jets on Verve; Limelight Records; Graffiti on ABC; the Turtles on White Whale; Calliope on Buddah; Miami Pop Festival; Ian and Sylvia on MGM; The World of Rod McKuen on Random House; Wichita Fall on Imperial; the Ventures on Liberty; Blues on Imperial.
Reviews: Cruising with Ruben and the Jets by the Mothers of Invention (by Greil Marcus and Jeff Rappaport); Stone Blues by Charles Musselwhite Blues Band (by Kenneth Wulff); Give Me, Take You by Duncan Browne (by John Smothers); Avenue Road by Kensington Market (by David Butcher); Living With The Animals by Mother Earth (by John Burks); Open by Julie Driscoll (by James Pomeroy); Bee Gees’ 1st/Horizontal/Idea/Rare, Precious & Beautiful by the Bee Gees (by Jim Miller).
Subscription offer: “The Christmas Turn On.” For $10 readers would receive a copy of Hunter Davies’ Beatles biography, a gift card (“hand lettered by Linda the Subscription Lady”), and a one year subscription to Rolling Stone.