Rolling Stone issue #11 had a cover date of May 25, 1968. 24 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo by Baron Wolman.
For some reason they decided to label this as “Vol. II, No. 1 (Whole No. 11).” They kept that up through issue #14 (Vol. II, No. 4) and then abandoned the volume business and stuck with “whole” numbers. It’s funny to see them messing around with those kind of formalities.
This was the “rock fashion” issue and the cover featured chief photographer Baron Wolman’s wife. He later said, “For Rolling Stone Magazine No. 11 I had made some lovely photos of Johnny Cash and B.B. King, both of whom were featured in that issue. I had also recently shot one roll of pictures of my then-wife Juliana; I made a few prints and brought them into show Jann and Janie with whom we were social friends. For some reason I must have left the photos at the office because when the issue appeared a few days later, there was Juliana on the cover!”
There wouldn’t be many nobodies on the cover once Wenner realized the value of the placement. But they were still figuring all that out.
Rolling Stone issue #10 had a cover date of May 11, 1968. 24 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo by Linda Eastman.
This is the issue that proved beyond any doubt that Rolling Stone was having a clear impact on the rock and roll scene it was covering. This is the issue where Jann Wenner proved he wasn’t afraid to bite the hand that feeds him. This is the issue that made Eric Clapton faint.
Clapton was on the cover and it featured the Rolling Stone Interview with Eric Clapton as well as a full-page ad for Disraeli Gears and Fresh Cream. But there was also a live review of a recent Cream show in Boston written by Jon Landau.
Cream has been called a jazz group. They are not. They are a blues band and rock band. Clapton is a master of the blues cliches of all of the post-World War II blues guitarists, particularly B.B. King and Albert King. And he didn’t play a note that wasn’t blues during the course of the concert. […] Yet melodically, the improvisation was indistinguishable from the one that took place on their next number, “N.S.U.,” and rhythmically they never did anything more advanced than a 4/4. By abandoning the chord progression of the song they started out with and improvising solely around the root chord, (which, by the way, is a far cry from having abandoned a chord structure, which Clapton says he is prone to do) they insure the incompatibility of the solo compared with the song. And ultimately what I wound up hearing was three virtuosos romping through their bag, occasionally building it into something, occasionally missing the mark altogether, but always in a one-dimensional style that made no use of dynamics, structure, or any of the other elements of rock besides drum licks and guitar riffs.
Ouch! Years later, Clapton admitted how this review affected him: “All during Cream I was riding high on the ‘Clapton Is God’ myth that had been started up. I was flying high on an ego trip; I was pretty sure I was the best thing happening that was popular. Then we got our first kind of bad review, which, funnily enough, was in Rolling Stone. The magazine ran an interview with us in which we were really praising ourselves, and it was followed by a review that said how boring and repetitious our performance had been. And it was true! The ring of truth just knocked me backward; I was in a restaurant and I fainted. After I woke up, I immediately decided that it was the end of the band.” (RS #450, 1985)
Is it an exaggeration to say that Jon Landau’s review broke up Cream? There may have been other factors, but it’s pretty clear that it had an effect.
Rolling Stone issue #9 had a cover date of April 27, 1968. 24 pages. 35 cents.
Features: “Beatles Battle the Blue Meanies” (a synopsis of the Yellow Submarine plot, no byline); “Clapton Busted!” (the March 20 arrest of Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina on marijuana charges in Topanga Canyon, no byline); and a big article about the workers’ strike at radio stations KMPX and KPPC written by Jerrold Greenberg and a new guy named Ben Fong-Torres.
One of my favorite things about reading these old issues is when they get the facts wrong. The writers were probably misled by publicists or they misinterpreted something. For example, in the Yellow Submarine piece, the uncredited author claimed that the Beatles “have lent their own voices for the characters.” They didn’t. The article also claims that “You Know My Name, Look Up the Number” was one of the four new songs written for the film. That song wouldn’t be finished for another year. Regardless, it’s fun to imagine being a Beatle fan reading this and wondering about this unreleased song for two whole years before eventually hearing it on the b-side of “Let It Be.”
Columns: Jon Landau on The Notorious Byrd Brothers; Ralph Gleason gave some advice to bands on how to avoid getting ripped off by your manager and record label; Thomas Albright on the Beat Generation; Wenner used his “John J. Rock” gossip column to make bitchy comments about Cheetah magazine and the band Blue Cheer.
Issue #8 saw a price hike as it jumped from 25 cents to a whopping 35 cents. Still only 24 pages though. And subscriptions remained at $5 for 26 issues ($10 for 52).
Issue #8 also tweaked the layout with a 90-degree shift of the area above the fold. The first seven issues were laid out like a regular newspaper. This issue features the first “cover of the Rolling Stone” as we know it with a single image and a headline or two. Open it up and flip it sideways for page 1, which somewhat confusingly repeated the nameplate. (See below for what this looks like…)
This is the layout that Rolling Stone would maintain until issue #142 in 1973 when it expanded into a larger magazine format without the fold at all.
My favorite part of this issue is a letter to the editor from the drummer of a rather famous rock and roll combo whose new album had been panned in issue #5.
The idea that this little underground newspaper was being seen, read, and acknowledged by the very rock royalty it was covering must have thrilled the 22-year-old Jann Wenner. Then again, according to Joe Hagan’s Sticky Fingers, by this time Wenner had already received a cease-and-desist letter from the Rolling Stones’ manager, Allen Klein, claiming misappropriation of their name as well as violation of their copyright. But at least Charlie had a sense of humor about it!
Issue #7 had a cover date of March 9, 1968. 24 pages. 25 cents. This is the final issue with no real “cover of the Rolling Stone” as we know it. These first seven issues were formatted like a regular newspaper with an “above the fold” area containing the logo and a bunch of content: a photo, a headline, and the first few paragraphs of an article or two. Below the fold would be another article or two…or three. Jann Wenner was cramming as much stuff as he could get into those 24 pages.
Full-page ads: Spirit by Spirit on Ode Records, Rotary Connection by the Rotary Connection on Cadet/Concept, History of Rhythm and Blues on Atlantic, Something Else by the Kinks on Reprise, Young Brigham by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott on Reprise, and The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion by the Incredible String Band on Elektra. Plus one for the Billboard Bookshelf, a selection of books “for the musically-minded.”
Issue #6 had a cover date of February 24, 1968. 24 pages. 25 cents. It contained a five-page spread called “It Happened in 1967” wherein Wenner was already mythologizing the year his magazine would spend the next 50 years celebrating. It was presented as an annual news wrap-up/mock election/awards presentation. The “awards” given out:
• Southern Comfort Award: Janis Joplin
• Turn, Turn, Turn Award: The Byrds
• Great Moment Award: The Gathering of the Tribes
• Newcomer of the Year Award: The Doors
• Memories Are Made of This Award: Jim Morrison
• Truth in Advertising Award: Not Donovan
• Rock and Roll Group of the Year Award: The Who
• Crystal Set Award: Program Director Tom Donahue
• Big Things Comes in Little Packages Award: Cream
• Doing the Thing Award: Country Joe and the Fish
• Buy Now Pay Later Medal: Bob Dylan
• The Rolling Stone Rolling Stone Award: The Rolling Stones
• Up Creeque Alley without a Paddle Award: The Mamas and the Papas
• Jefferson Airplane Award: The Jefferson Airplane
• Livin’ Is Easy Award: The Grateful Dead
• The Woman of the Year Award: Aretha Franklin
• Double Barrel Shotgun Award: Michael Bloomfield
• Scene for a Season Award: San Francisco
• Great Moments Award (#2): Monterey International Pop Festival
• Great Balls of Fire Award: Jimi Hendrix
• The 1967 Soul Award: Otis Redding
• Plus, unawarded items about the Lovin’ Spoonful, dope busts, the Beatles, Eric Burdon, Motown, Stevie Winwood, and movies.
It’s pretty obvious that Wenner’s idea of the rock and roll canon was already established. For the next 50 years nothing could possibly compare to the greatness of 1967. Wenner would soon grow cynical about music, preferring to put celebrities on the cover over artists. But for the time being, he was still earnest and idealistic. And that’s what makes these early issues of the Stone so fascinating. It’s a snapshot of the moment in time when Rolling Stone was an underground newspaper, fighting against the mainstream…before it eventually became the mainstream.
Like the majority of people do, Wenner stopped giving a shit about new music after his early twenties; unlike the majority of people, Wenner created a platform with which he could celebrate his favorite era for the next 50 years and convince future generations that the music of their youth was not as important or meaningful as the music of his youth.
Issue #5 had a cover date of February 10, 1968. 24 pages. 25 cents.
This was the issue when Rolling Stone started giving away roach clips to new subscribers. (“Act now before this offer is made illegal.”) You can scoff, but for its entire first year the Stone remained a DIY organization, run by Wenner and a handful of cohorts. The only real grownup in the group was Ralph Gleason.
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.*
Metallica, Run-D.M.C. and the Stooges lead the list of nine acts up for induction next year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Five will be chosen in January for enshrinement during an April 4 ceremony at Cleveland’s Public Hall.
Also on this year’s ballot are Jeff Beck, Chic, Wanda Jackson, Little Anthony and the Imperials, War and Bobby Womack. Acts are not eligible for the Rock Hall until at least 25 years have passed since the release of their first single.
Does anybody even care if the Stooges get passed over for the third year in a row?
I love rockabilly as much as anybody, but you know you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel when Wanda Jackson gets nominated. This travesty of an organization has outlived its usefulness. Put a fork in it.
Jann Wenner is still a douche. The Monkees were far more important and influential than the Dave Clark Five.