Friday, June 25, 2010

"On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone"

So Barack Obama cashiers his top general in Afghanistan for mouthing off to the press. That is a big yawn for me. But what really piqued my interest was the medium through which the general chose to voice his opinions: Rolling Stone Magazine. Like many old actors and singers you see pop up on Larry King, I assumed the magazine died a natural death years ago. The last time I read it was 1979 while buying some drug paraphernalia in the back room of a head shop in Philadelphia. But I remember it very well as a quintessential reflection of a slice of a part of the American landscape post Woodstock and pre Reagain. I first stumbled upon the magazine while making a pit stop in an upper end Jewish neighborhood circa 1974 to cop some quality Colombian Gold from some kid named Horowitz. Rolling Stone readers smoked good pot or hash, had liberal/left political views, owned the latest and greatest stereo equipment, watched Saturday Night Live went it was still an underground pilot, and listened to the trendy progressive rock stations that dotted the FM landscape back then. And oh yeah, they wore painter's pants (without real paint stains of course) and earth shoes. In other words, they excelled at one of the great art forms of the 1970's and 1960's: pretending to be a member of the proletariate while living the life of a bourgeoisie. Rolling Stone was a great window to watch the spectacle. While it felt good to feel ideological solidarity with some oppressed farm worker in some third world country (right wing of course), it felt even better to have the most expensive Pioneer receiver on the market sitting on your bedroom dresser or front row seats when David Bowie was in town. Because let's face it: the goal of every pseudo revolutionary was the same as every conservative firebrand: using every means at your disposal to get that damn bra off of that girl who was dumb enough to go out with you. The symbolism, though, was more a function of the readers as opposed to the editors. If you looked beyond the fancy cover page, the magazine contained some quality writing. Hunter Thompson was a great writer who cut his teeth there. Ditto William Greider. As much as I disagreed with the magazine's political perspective, the writing was top notch, especially during an era when the mainstream media did not give much credence to the music tastes of the younger generation. But then, like its readers, it moved into the mainstream and thus, complacency. I guess most of its readers when on to Vanity Fair and The New York Times as irreverent hipness lost its panache. Irony is what makes life funny and I have to laugh that Rolling Stone Magazine is the forum that a four star wartime general used to voice his opposition to his commander in chief's policies.

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