Classic Rock Crate Digger: Dearest 'Rolling Stone,' What Were You Thinking?!?
by Justin Farrar | January 4, 2012
I recently acquired a leather-bound book that contains every issue of Rolling Stone from June 25, 1970, to February 4, 1971 (issues 61-75). It's large and blue, with gold embossed print on the front. I can find very little information about such a unique item on the Internet. Did the magazine produce it back in the day? Was it once a part of a library's magazine archive? It's definitely an awesome chunk of rock-criticism history. There are articles, interviews, essays and reviews from many of the field's pioneers, including Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, Robert Palmer, Robert Christgau, John Mendelssohn, Jon Landau and Ed Ward. It also contains groovy-looking advertisements and lots of photographs of hippie mamas in scrumptiously short shirts and buckskin fringe.
The reviews section in particular is a hoot to geek out over, primarily because it offers a revealing look into Rolling Stone's evolving tastes, opinions, and views on rock 'n' roll as both pop music and youth culture. The mag for better or worse was the tastemaker in the early 1970s. Pitchfork can only dream of wielding so much hipster power when it comes to making (or breaking) albums and singles. Artists, even.
The reviews that are the most enjoyable to read now are those that haven't aged well. Most revolve around a critic falling on the wrong side of history, like Bangs lambasting Black Sabbath's debut LP as if the young group was nothing more than a Cream clone with absolutely no future. There are then those reviews containing opinions and scraps of thought that aren't necessarily negative; time has just rendered them kind of... odd. A good example is Ward comparing Jesse Winchester's debut album -- a nice but ultimately pedestrian slice of post- Big Pink folk-rock -- to Van Morrison's Astral Weeks in terms of artistic excellence. And this was in a review of John Cale's Vintage Violence!
For my fellow rock nerds, I've compiled excerpts from the best of them. I've also put together a playlist for you to check out: Classic Rock Crate Digger's Dearest Rolling Sone, What Were You Thinking?!?