On the covers of the Rolling Stone

On a recent visit, my mom brought along a box of Rolling Stone magazines that she’d found in the attic of my childhood home. The issues were from the 1980s, when I subscribed to the magazine as a high school student and would-be music critic.

Nearly 30 years on, I am enjoying looking through these magazines. Here are some things I have observed:

  • Mick Jagger was on the cover a lot, and so was U2.
  • Phil Collins, Jack Nicholson and Sting had hair. John Oates had a moustache.
  • Julian Lennon looked like an erstwhile member of Duran Duran.
  • Ads for cigarettes and alcohol were common. Joe Camel and Two Fingers Tequila appeared often.
  • Record clubs were going full bore. Who would pass up an offer of 12 records or cassettes for a penny? Maybe there was a catch.
  • Cocaine and herpes were frequent topics of coverage.
  • Pages of the magazine were gray, and type was smaller. Big caps were BIG.
  • Short poems were used on occasion, perhaps to fill gaps in the layout.
  • Longer fiction pieces by the likes of Jackie Collins, Stephen King and Tom Wolfe consumed many pages.
  • Writers of headlines and captions often used puns, just as they do now. For example, the Cars were “in high gear” with Ric Ocasek “behind the wheel.”
  • Speaking of the Cars, drummer David Robinson was miffed when he was “replaced by a computer” on the “Heartbeat City” album.
  • CD players used “lasers and computers” to play music flawlessly, and there was “even an infrared remote control” to switch tracks instantly.
  • Record companies sold collections of music videos on VHS. One called “Primetime Cuts” included songs by Cyndi Lauper, Quiet Riot and Bonnie Tyler.
  • Rolling Stone’s pages were big, and issues were thick. That’s not true anymore, as the magazine has shrunk physically.

I stopped reading Rolling Stone sometime in college, switching to Spin magazine for a bit and picking up the now-defunct Musician on occasion. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I read British music magazines like Q.

Now, I rarely read music magazines, getting most of my news and reviews online, and in The News & Observer. And I never became a music critic. So it goes.


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