ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE: The Uncensored History by Robert Draper

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE: The Uncensored History

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The story of Rolling Stone is inescapably a character study of Jann Wenner, the magazine's apparently megalomaniacal, opportunistic founder and editor. Free-lance journalist (Esquire, Billboard, etc.) Draper's fine history functions also as a record of the times, musically and culturally. Wenner made no secret of his motivation in the fall of 1967: he sincerely believed in the music and saw his new magazine as his ticket to the ""scene."" Rolling Stone would fill the void between the teeny-bopper fanzines and the unreadable psychedelic rags. But more than anything else, Draper makes clear, Wenner, a dumpy, grating, but willful 21-year-old, wanted to hang out with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Mick Jagger. He befriended the respected writer and critic Ralph Gleason and surrounded himself with knowledgeable and talented editors and reporters--and anyone else enthusiastic and naive enough to work for almost nothing while Wenner led the high life. From the beginning, he was criticized for accepting ads from the record industry and for pandering to his rock-and, roll heroes. It was not unusual, Draper explains, for Wenner to slant a review or an article to curry favor or repay a slight. But the magazine also produced some of the finest investigative journalism of the day--in particular, the brilliant coverage of the post. Woodstock tragedy at the Altamont Speedway and David Dalton and David Felton's extraordinary articles on Charles Manson. More than any other periodical, Draper emphasizes, Rolling Stone kept pace with and spoke to its generation. Wenner, however, had few qualms about purging his staff of the more politically radical shortly after the Kent State murders--while, over the years, renowned writers such as Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson have found a national audience in what remains essentially a pop-music magazine. Wenner shocked his staff and readership in 1977 by moving his headquarters to Fifth Avenue. The magazine became glossier, more slickly ""hip,"" and the focus was now unabashedly on celebrity, on the current ""star"" on the cover. Written with wit and style, audacity and perception--much like the best of Rolling Stone in its heyday.

Pub Date: June 29th, 1990
Publisher: Doubleday