"Rolling Stone" Gathers No Moss: A Personal Journey Through Magazine Readership (Part 1)

(This is the first part of a three-part article; Part 2; Part 3.)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of when I began reading "Rolling Stone" magazine, and the 19th year of my "Rolling Stone" subscription. As a high school freshman in the fall of 1986, my world practically revolved around the latest issues of "RS" and "Billboard" magazines. Then not yet an "RS" subscriber, I vividly recall spending many of my before- and after-school hours in the school library poring over the latest issues of both magazines, taking in the fascinating stories and information regarding the world of popular music. All that fall, and through most of 1987, I could almost literally recite the "Billboard" Top 10 each week, and came to know about the musicians and artists I listened to through the pages of "Rolling Stone."

It didn't take long for me to want to get my own subscription to "Rolling Stone." (I would have loved to have gotten a subscription to "Billboard" too, but as an industry trade paper, its subscription fees were too way too rich for my 15-year-old blood.) Finally, in early-1987, I managed to scrape enough money together to foot the bill for the annual fee (and I do mean scrape, as I had not yet had any real employment). My family moved to a new city that January, and I remember the first few issues being delivered with the yellow address-forwarding labels attached. This is not hard to remember, since I still have those first few issues. And even if I didn't, I could never forget the excitement I felt when they each arrived in the mail. It was, perhaps, the first time I'd ever gotten mail, outside of birthday cards, that was addressed directly to me--and I liked it.

The very first issue of my subscription featured a cover with Michael J. Fox in mid-air slinging an electric guitar, in reference to his rock-musician role in the movie "Light of Day" (see picture). The famous "Rolling Stone" title logo, as well as the print on the cover, was in orange. The second issue featured a portrait of the girl group the Bangles, and here the title and print was in purple. My third issue cover had a portrait of a "Radio Days"-era Woody Allen, and served as my first introduction to this great director. Beyond that, my memories of the exact details of individual issues grows fuzzy, although I do remember many distinctive cover images from over the years.

These include: the special 20th Anniversary issue in 1987 with two large, overlapping Roman numeral X's (only later did I discover that the 10th Anniversary issue had featured one large identical X); a 1989 Mick Jagger-Keith Richards cover with the two standing defiantly back-to-back; a "Voodoo Lounge" period cover of the Stones in which they all wore harlequinesque masks; Courtney Love, Tina Turner, and Madonna on the cover of one of the 1997 30th Anniversary issues (no X's this time); a late-1980s cover featuring a Bruce Springsteen photo that must have been taken about three minutes after he stepped off stage; two other 20th Anniversary special issues, one emphasizing famous concerts that had a picture of Jimi Hendrix and his flaming guitar, the other emphasizing style that had a close-up portrait of David Bowie; and, of course, the recent cover for the 1,000th issue, with the "Sgt. Pepper"-inspired holographic panorama of dozens of important popular culture figures from the last forty years.

As my life has evolved and changed in the twenty years since I first started reading "Rolling Stone," so too have my attitudes towards the magazine, my practices of readership regarding it, and my thoughts about its place in my personal history. I will go into these issues (no pun intended--really) in Part 2 of this account of "Rolling Stone."

(Photo source: www.rollingstone.com)

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