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Rolling Stone is a United States-based magazine devoted to music, politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner (who is still editor and publisher) and music critic Ralph J. Gleason.

The magazine was known for its political coverage beginning in the 1970s, with the enigmatic and controversial gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Rolling Stone Magazine changed its format in the 1990s to appeal to younger readers,[1] often focusing on young television or film actors and pop music. This led to criticism that the magazine was emphasizing style over substance.[2] In recent years, the magazine has resumed its traditional mix of content, including in-depth political stories, and has seen circulation rise.

Beginnings in San FranciscoEdit

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To get the magazine off the ground, Wenner borrowed $7500 from his family members and from the family of his soon-to-be wife, Jane Schindelheim.[3] Rolling Stone Magazine was initially identified with and reported on the hippie counterculture of the era. However, the magazine distanced itself from the underground newspapers of the time, such as Berkeley Barb, embracing more traditional journalistic standards and avoiding the radical politics of the underground press. In the very first edition of the magazine, Wenner wrote that Rolling Stone "is not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces." This has become the de facto motto of the magazine.

In the 1970s, Rolling Stone began to make a mark for its political coverage, with the likes of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson writing for the magazine's political section. Thompson would first publish his most famous work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas within the pages of Rolling Stone, where he remained a contributing editor until his death in 2005. In the 1970s, the magazine also helped launch the careers of many prominent authors, such as Cameron Crowe, Joe Klein, Joe Eszterhas, and P. J. O'Rourke. It was at this point that the magazine ran some of its most famous stories, including that of the Patty Hearst abduction odyssey. One interviewer, speaking for large numbers of his peers, in saying that upon arriving at his college campus as a beginning student, he bought his first copy of the magazine, which he described as a "rite of passage".[2]

The magazine was so influential in shaping pop culture in the 1970s that a song dedicated to it, "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show (written by Shel Silverstein), became a hit single. Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show eventually did end up fulfilling their wish and ended up on the cover of Rolling Stone.


In the 1990s,  facing competition from lad mags such as FHM, Rolling Stone reinvented itself, hiring former FHM editor Ed Needham. The magazine started targeting younger readers and offering more sex-oriented content, which often focused on sexy young television or film actors as well as pop music. At the time, some long-time readers denounced the publication, claiming it had declined from astute musical and countercultural observer to a sleek, superficial tabloid, emphasizing style over substance.[2] Since then, however, the magazine has resumed its traditional mix of content, including in-depth political stories, and has seen circulation (currently at 1.4 million) and revenue rise. In 2007, the magazine's revenue was up 23.3 percent. [4] Also in 2007, the magazine won a National Magazine Award for general excellence and was a finalist in reporting for Janet Reitman's article "Inside Scientology."[5][6]

Leading up to what it called the 50th Anniversary of Rock in 2004, Rolling Stone published a series of all-time greatest lists to recognize historic achievements in the field. The Rolling Stone's 100 greatest guitarists of all time [7] and the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time appeared in 2003, followed by 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock & Roll and The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004. It also published The Rolling Stone Immortals, a list of the 100 greatest artists of our time.

On May 7 2006, Rolling Stone published its 1000th issue.[8] The cover, which was influenced by the cover art of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, featured some of the most influential celebrities whom RS had covered.

Rolling Stone has evolved over the years, but certain features regarded as the hallmarks of the magazine have remained intact. Features such as "National Affairs" which has been around since the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Joe Klein, and "Rock and Roll" are still published in the magazine today. In a bid to react to the advent of the internet, these two features have been made available in the forms of blogs.[9][10] Rolling Stone also publishes "Random Notes," a section which mixes photos with tabloid like headlines. Another regular feature printed next to "Random Notes" is the "Smoking Section" which is written by Austin Scaggs.

Today, four decades since its founding by Jann Wenner, the Rolling Stone record reviews section is regarded by many sources as still one of the most influential around.[11]

Beginning with issue #1064, October 30th 2008, Rolling Stone Magazine abandoned their large 10X12 format for a "classic magazine" shape which features glossy paper and "perfect binding". A self-adhesive mailing address label replaces the large white box previously on a bottom corner of the cover. Rolling Stone Magazine is printed on 100% carbon neutral paper.[12]

A 4 dvd box which contains all published issues from November 1967 to spring 2007 is available.


One major criticism of Rolling Stone Magazine involves its apparent generational bias toward the 1960s and 1970s. One critic referred to the Rolling Stone list of the 99 Greatest Songs as an example of "unrepentant rockist fogeyism." [13] In further response to this issue, rock critic Jim DeRogatis, a former Rolling Stone editor, published a thorough critique of the magazine's lists in a book called Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics (ISBN 1-56980-276-9), which featured differing opinions from many younger critics. [14] Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg criticised the magazine saying that "Rolling Stone has essentially become the house organ of the Democratic National Committee." [15]

Hunter S Thompson, in an article that can be found in his book "Generation Of Swine", criticized the magazine for turning on marijuana even though the magazine embraced it in the 60s and 70s when Thompson was a frequent contributor.

The website Shoutmouth criticised Rolling Stone Magazine for reconsidering many classic albums that it had previously dismissed. Examples of artists for whom this is the case include, among others, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Beach Boys, Black Eyed Peas, Nirvana and Radiohead. For example, Led Zeppelin was largely written off by Rolling Stone Magazine critics during the band's most active years in the 1970s. However by 2006, a cover story on Led Zeppelin honored them as "the Heaviest Band of All Time." [16] A critic for Slate magazine described a conference at which the 1984 Rolling Stone Record Guide was scrutinized. As he described it, "The guide virtually ignored hip-hop and ruthlessly panned heavy metal, the two genres that within a few years would dominate the pop charts. In an auditorium packed with music journalists, you could detect more than a few anxious titters: How many of us will want our record reviews read back to us 20 years hence?" [13]

The hire of former FHM editor Ed Needham further enraged critics who alleged that Rolling Stone had lost its credibility.[17]

The 2003 "Rolling Stone's 100 greatest guitarists of all time" article's inclusion of only two female musicians forced Venus Zine to answer with their own list titled "The Greatest Female Guitarists of All Time [18].


Rolling Stone has maintained a website for many years, with selected current articles, reviews, blogs, MP3s, and other features such as searchable and free encyclopedic articles about artists, with images and sometimes sound clips of their work. There are also selected archival political and cultural articles and entries. The site also at one time had an extensive message board forum.

By the late 1990s, the message board forum at the site had developed into a thriving community with a large number of regular members and contributors worldwide. Unfortunately, the site was also plagued with numerous Internet trolls and malicious code-hackers who vandalized the forum substantially[19]. Rolling Stone abruptly and without notice deleted the forum in May 2004. Rolling Stone began a new, much more limited message board community at their site in late 2005, only to remove it again in 2006. Rolling Stone now permits users to make follow-up comments to posted articles in a blog format. It also maintains a page at MySpace. In March 2008, Rolling Stone started a new message board section once again.

Famous staffEdit


In popular cultureEdit

Rolling Stone is largely regarded as a predominant music promotional force in American culture, alongside the likes of MTV. It has been frequently referenced in other forms of media, such as in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous where Crowe's character worked as a teenage reporter for the magazine and the cult classic music-oriented movie High Fidelity where becoming a Rolling Stone journalist is cited as the lead character's ambition. In the 1985 movie Perfect, John Travolta made an appearance as a Rolling Stone journalist. Wenner had cameo roles in both Almost Famous and Perfect.

In Stephen King's 1980 novel Firestarter, the young heroine takes her story (of her very demonstrable psychic powers) to Rolling Stone. Because she is fleeing the government, or rogue elements of it, the choice of Rolling Stone is a clever way of choosing a national venue respected by the growing younger demographic that is also unlikely to cooperate with government censorship or suppression of her story.

The magazine also had made some of the most controversial covers in pop culture; eyebrows were raised when a then-17 year-old Britney Spears was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in a sexually suggestive Lolita-themed photo shoot which triggered widespread speculation (denied by her representatives) that the singer had had breast implants. Another controversial cover and, perhaps one of the magazine's most famous, is of Janet Jackson who was photographed topless with hands covering her breasts.
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The Rick Griffin logo for Rolling Stone and magazine cover were used as the basis for promotional images for the film School of Rock.

At the end of The Wedding Singer, Drew Barrymore is reading a copy of Rolling Stone (Issue 440, January 31, 1985) with Billy Idol on the cover, while going to Las Vegas with Glen on the plane.

In the movie, Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, copies of Rolling Stone are seen in a scene where Jack Black and Kyle Gass are contemplating what they need to be great musicians, and Gass notices that several great guitarists wield the same pick.

In the movie Iron Man, Tony Stark is pictured on a fictional cover of Rolling Stone.

In the movie Music and Lyrics, fictional Rolling Stone magazine reviews from various eras play a major role.

In the video game Rock Band 2, players are recognized on Rolling Stone as Rock Immortals after beating the final song set.

In the pilot episode of the CW series Gossip Girl, a fictional Rolling Stone cover story on "forgotten bands of the '90s" is a repeatedly referenced plot point. Supermodel Gisele Bündchen, on September 2000 issue, was named the most beautiful girl in the world.[20]


Some artists have graced the cover many times, some of these pictures going on to become iconic. The Beatles, for example, have appeared on the cover over thirty times, either individually or as a band.[21] The first ten issues featured the following:

Lists Edit

Rolling Stone often publishes lists which include:

Reference worksEdit

  • Rolling Stone Album Guide. Four editions with varying titles, c. 1979, 1983, 1992, 2004.
  • The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Random House, 1980. ISBN 0-394-73938-8
  • Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. 1985.
  • Rolling Stone Cover-to-Cover: The First 40 Years. Bondi Digital Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-0979526107
  • George-Warren, Holly. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Revised and Updated for the 21st Century). Pareles, Jon. Fireside. ISBN 978-0743201209. 

International editionsEdit

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