By Hans Ebert
One didn’t know them, but their writing drew us into the world they inhabited. They were teachers, they were guides and we learned and understood more about music and musicians and songs from them, because they were there- part of that inner circle. They knew the secrets. They were, to some of us, our Book Of Knowledge. It gave us a direction. We didn’t need Wikipedia and all the other online clutter. We needed a spliff and time to read every page. And then re-read it all again. It was about the MUSIC and the MUSICIANS.
These were writers like Cameron Crowe who hung out with Led Zeppelin and went on to write and direct and produce the semi autobiographical “Almost Famous”. And if you haven’t listened to the Soundtrack, do. It’s a wonderful lesson in music appreciation.
Lessons- that’s what many of us took outta reading Crawdaddy, to an extent, Spin, but especially, Rolling Stone. The covers alone seduced us. It wasn’t Instagram.
Founder Jon Landau and so-Founder Ralph Gleason, below, had shared the same vision, knew it was time to turn it into reality and published Rolling Stone- Landau, young and probably idealistic, Gleason, a student and teacher of Jazz much like Nat Hentoff. And like the Beatles did with their music, the publication turned us onto a whole new world we knew nothing much about. Rolling Stone took us beyond and what was behind the music. It was a trip.
Looking back, those early issues were as important as the music and the musicians who were changing the world because those telling us about this sudden explosion of creativity were not just reporters. They were journalists and writers and storytellers.
We learned so much from them about the Band, Dylan, Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Hendrix, Clapton, the Allman Brothers plus those brilliant parts who made up the whole in musicians like Jim Gordon, David Lindley, Andrew Gold, Waddy Wachtel etc with almost everything captured for posterity and staying a constant reminder of where music has taken us through the amazing photos of Annie Leibovitz.
Writers like Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Ben Fong-Torres, below, the occasional piece about punkdom and Lou Reed and Velvet Underground from Lester Bangs, took us behind the curtain. They took us on a ride through America with easy riders and flower children. Rolling Stone was the Rock and Roll bible.
In the UK, there was the more safe Melody Maker. It was ok. It the NME that was pushing the envelope further with a brilliant pool of writers. My favourite was Charles Shaar Murray, below, who belonged in a publication with a sense of the absurd in how it saw things and how quickly it could see through things. And artists. It was the original Popbitch.
While Rolling Stone was serious Rock and Music journalism, which, once the good Dr Hunter S Thompson came on board with illustrator Ralph Steadman, the power of music shone a light on the Fear And Loathing of a Nixon era America and everything else that came with it. Like Watergate. Like racism. Like what America has in the White House today. Music suddenly had power. It wasn’t a trending #hashtag.
NME in the UK was more irreverent. Memorable was a still from the mini series “Roots” of Levar Burton as Kunta Kinte. The caption read, “And what a Kunta he turned out to be.” Brilliant!
It’s been over thirty years and that caption still lives with me along with all the knowledge about music who were there and shared by Nick Kent, Ray Connolly and a handful of others.
It’s been all this time and there’s still a Rolling Stone but which I troll through on Twitter. It somehow has no soul. No direction of home. Just like the short lived Rolling Stone and the massive failure that was Rolling Stone China. Someone didn’t do their homework. There was no feasibility study.
Today, what some of us read when things were happening then are being rediscovered online. It’s not the same because the world has changed. Because music has changed forever and no one really knows shit.
There are online music news publications, but they’re all the same and more about Lucian and Marty and Lyor and their wannabe younger versions needing investors for their brave new worlds that really don’t make business sense. It’s more pissing in the wind and all about the US and UK markets.
Are these where the real money is? Really? Ever heard of Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing and the startups he funded? Ask Daniel Ek. Ask Zuckerberg?
Now for Asians to understand the power they have- financial power and people power in this numbers driven game.
Problem: Despite tuppence and Fiddy Cents and even ten cents, the senior executives are looking over the shoulder for inspiration. Standing there are the same old fools who never looked after their own backyards and let the dogs in.
As a very proud Asian, they’re toadies. They’re everything that’s wrong with the music industry in Asia- corrupt, riddled with nepotism and looked after by the very old “rule” by the majors that Australia knows how to make this region work better than those who actually work in this region- but without those and their cohorts wanting their palms greased. As usual no one’s minding the store. No one’s walking the line through that Ring Of Fire.
Wake up, Lucian before looking like a doddering old fool. But with that golden parachute strapped on, and Vivendi happy, guess the smoke and mirrors have worked for you.
It makes me quite ill.
#music #RollingStone #JonLandau #musicjournalism #CameronCrowe #BenFongTorres #LucianGrainge #Vivendi #Likashing #Spotify