"Rolling Stone" Gathers No Moss: A Personal Journey Through Magazine Readership (Part 2)
(This is Part 2 of a three-part article; Part 1; Part 3)
All through high school, meaning the late-1980s, I was one of the most avid readers of "Rolling Stone" you could have found. Still the only regular and desired piece of mail I received, I eagerly anticipated the bi-monthly arrivals of the latest issues, anticipating who or what would be on the cover each time. I attacked each new issue with a fervor that I have probably met infrequently with any endeavor since. And I took the issues everywhere; I remember reading it in the car, at my family's lake cabin, and at school (one moment reading an issue with bluesman Robert Cray on the cover in study hall on the last day of school stands out).
The contents of the issues of "RS" in these years helped shape my music habits and my reading habits. That same Robert Cray issue also featured a story on the 20th anniversary of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" album, thus helping to turn me on to one of the greatest albums by the greatest rock group ever at the beginning of a summer when my Beatles fandom was born due to a cousin's loan of their "1962-1966" and "1967-1970" albums. Additional Beatles' articles later on helped to fuel that interest. By '87-'88, I was already a huge Prince fan, but the occasional articles and rare cover stories on the Purple One helped propel that interest too. I remember one of the first issues I received in the mail having U2 on the cover, a band that I had heard of but hadn't yet gotten into. After that issue of "RS" and the purchase of a cassette copy of U2's latest album "The Joshua Tree" (a purchase probably inspired by reading the "RS" article), I've been a big fan ever since.
"RS" influenced my reading habits as well. My reading grew somewhat more sophisticated as I took in political columns by William Greider and P.J. O'Rourke, in addition to the many hard-hitting investigative and analytical articles that "RS" featured in the 1980s. The short articles on rock music and the music industry, as well as the shorter items in the "Random Notes" pages, turned me on to subjects that I read about in other sources that I might never have otherwise known about.
The other, less erudite service "Rolling Stone" provided during my high school years was a ready source of images to cut out and paste all over my bedroom walls and school locker interior. I had an advertisement for a Berke Breathed "Bloom County" comic compilation book that decorated my walls into my first couple dorm rooms in college. And my senior year school locker had as its decorative centerpiece what I dubbed the "Paula Abdul shrine," the pictures for which came mostly from the pages of "RS."
Finally, as the '80s became the '90s, I graduated from high school, and my "Rolling Stone" subscription followed me to college. Now, in addition to having my own mail in the form of the magazine, I also had my own mailbox. As I've mentioned, the pages of "RS" continued to provide decoration for the walls and bulletin board of my dorm rooms. Throughout most of college, I consumed "RS" as diligently as I had in high school, reading every issue quite literally from cover to cover. There were a lot more of the yellow address-forwarding labels that had been on the first few issues I had ever received, as (like most people) I moved around quite a bit during my college years.
I got married the day after I graduated from college and moved out of state the following year for graduate school. As the subsequent years passed, and then as the '90s became the '00s, the significance of "Rolling Stone" in my life became less and less. But that is the subject of the third and final part of this article.
(Photo source: www.rollingstone.com)