“Your Rolling Stone Subscription Has Expired”
I am a creature of habit with an addictive personality. It takes not much to get me hooked on something be it good or bad. And I won’t pretend that it was easy to finally let my subscription to Rolling Stone expire this month.
I began reading Rolling Stone with issue #2 in December 1967 and for the first twenty or so years I believe it served me well. In a time where there was no internet, only three television networks and maybe just one underground FM station with a weak signal on the left side of the dial, if you were a music and political junkie you had to work hard to get the news. I probably bought as many periodicals as I did record albums on my weekly trips downtown, where I’d hit every bookseller, magazine stand, guitar shop and record store.
Back in my bedroom on Saturday nights I’d try to tune in WWVA or spin Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Moby Grape, Gabor Szabo, Buffalo Springfield and the Mothers while reading stuff like the East Village Other, Berkeley Barb, Different Drummer, Ramparts, The Realist, Evergreen Review, Downbeat and Help (the “adult” MAD knock-off). And after I was finished with those, I’d pull out Rolling Stone because it was the one that I treasured the most. At first it was mostly about the music, and they covered everything from rock to jazz to blues to folk. Soon they began to feature more about cultural events and societal changes, and eventually it was the political writing that was both brilliant and daring.
It’s hard to look at Rolling Stone today and think of it as something other than public relations fluff, media conglomerate promotion and slick ads for crap you don’t need. Yeah..there was that recent article that brought down our military leader in Afghanistan for dissing the pres…but that was probably the first time since Britney Spears posed as a schoolgirl in her underwear that anybody paid notice to the magazine. Like Bono in his leather pants and wraparound shades, Rolling Stone became a parody of itself.
For the past six months I’ve been receiving official looking brown envelopes in the mail each week warning me that my subscription needed to be renewed. In bright red text the words URGENT and FINAL NOTICE would scream out for me to send in the card. And then the emails started to come. While in times past I simply just renewed, this time was different. Feeling like the guy Michael Douglas plays in Falling Down I just wanted to take a stand. So I threw them away.
Last month I polled my friends and asked what they thought about me canceling the subscription. It turns, out, I’m the last man standing. Nobody I know still reads Rolling Stone. Not of my generation, the one after nor the one after that. It’s not even that they’re no longer relevant or of interest, the magazine has morphed into representing all that I can’t stand about manufactured popular culture. They became plastic…those of you old enough will know what that means.
After reading 1111 issues of Rolling Stone, I think I can bypass the intervention and I’m ready to kick this habit.
My last issue…#1112…features three people I don’t know covered in blood on the cover. The headline reads: TRUE BLOOD: They’re Hot, They’re Sexy, They’re Undead. There’s a puff piece on Wyclef Jean’s bid for the presidency of Haiti, something about Taylor Swift and a small but interesting (I’ll admit) piece on Chuck Berry. While I used to spend hours reading it cover to cover, after ten minutes it was in the recycle container.
So roll over Ralph J. Gleason and tell Jann Wenner the news: I’m out of here.