50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Jann Wenner, Beatles Fanboy

I’ve been reading Sticky Fingers, Joe Hagan’s new Jann Wenner biography and it’s really fascinating. One of the things that has surprised me was how DIY those first several issues of Rolling Stone were. It really was a bunch of volunteers hustling to pull those 24 pages together. Granted, some of those volunteers might not have realized they were volunteering until they never got paid, but still. DIY.

It’s also interesting to read how provincial toward San Francisco bands Wenner was, balanced only by his fanaticism toward the Beatles and the Stones. Looking back at those early issues it’s not surprising that many of the ads were local. Television station KQED took out full page ads. So did Bill Graham, promoting shows at the Fillmore.

Local record stores advertised too, including one called “Music 5 is Alive” at 887 Market Street, who in issue #4 boasted a “Special Price on the New Beatles LP.” Although their ad doesn’t specify the price it does include a psychedelic illustration that I’d never seen before.*

There are more Magical Mystery Tour items spread throughout issue #4. On page two, there’s a guide to who’s who in a group photo of the cast of the film. On page 21, the same page as the “Music 5 is Alive” ad, almost an entire column is dedicated to photos from the LP booklet insert plus a John Lennon quote that says, “There are only about 100 people in the world who understand our music.” (Wenner surely considered himself among the enlightened.)

Finally, on page 22 there’s a column of news from the London desk including a bit about how the new promotional TV clip for “Hello Goodbye” was banned from being shown on “Top of the Pops” because the Musicians Union objected to the fact that the band is not singing into microphones.

Video: The Beatles – “Hello Goodbye”

From Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol, 1967)

Issue #4 had a cover date of January 20, 1968. It contained 24 pages, including five full-page ads from record labels: Wildflowers by Judy Collins on Elektra, Garden Of Joy by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band on Reprise, After Bathing at Baxter’s by the Jefferson Airplane on RCA Victor, Everything Playing by the Lovin’ Spoonful on Kama Sutra, and Journey Within by the Charles Lloyd Quartet on Atlantic. There were also full page ads for KQED, the Fillmore, and Rolling Stone subscriptions ($5 for 6 months). Hagan says Wenner sold the full-page ads for $100 but gave Bill Graham a deal at $25.

In total, about 9 1/2 pages of issue #4’s 24 pages are ads. By my calculations, including discounts, that probably brought in $750. No wonder Wenner didn’t pay anybody!

Albums reviewed in issue #4 were Something Else Again by Richie Havens on Verve, Disraeli Gears by Cream on Atco, Carnival of Life by Lee Michaels on A&M, and After Bathing at Baxter’s by Jefferson Airplane on RCA. No bylines. I.e., they were all still written by Wenner. Hagan quotes assistant editor Michael Lydon who says Wenner “wasn’t confident in himself as a writer” and that Lydon needed to convince Wenner to write the Otis Redding obituary himself to establish his authority.

For his “Rock and Roll Music” column, Wenner interviewed Pete Townshend.

Other features: Ralph Gleason on Donovan’s anti-drug stance, Michael Lydon on Capitol Records cashing in on Jimi Hendrix, Jon Landau on soul music, the second half of Bob Dylan’s unedited 1965 KQED interview, and a full-page astrology article by “Our Science Writer” Bennett Tarshish.

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* A little googling led me to this page that points out the artist is Bob Gibson who did the original illustrations in the MMT booklet and it actually even features the artwork in color.

Very cool!

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