Rolling Stone magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and it’s up for sale.
When I was a journalism student in the early ‘80s, I aspired to be a writer for Rolling Stone. My dream job. My instructors at Centennial College gave me the skills to be newspaper reporter and while I may have also seen myself as a small market Woodward or Bernstein what I really wanted was…
I’ve been listening to the Volume channel on Sirius/XM and longtime RS writer Alan Light participated in a radio roundtable with Brian Hiatt and Dave Marsh on the magazine’s history, legacy and influence.
What Rolling Stone had was access. To Janis, Jimi, John Lennon, Fleetwood Mac, U2, Springsteen, Taylor Swift and the Rolling Stones. Not just a 20-minute phone interview or a media scrum but hours and even days alone with famous people and, had I been able to interview Stevie Nicks in her home, I would have been in heaven. I had a huge crush on Stevie.
I did start down that path.
At 22, I volunteered at a weekly hometown newspaper called the Scarborough Mirror and ended up writing the Pub Crawl feature. Compiling the weekly bar listings and letting readers know what acts were playing at Tony’s East or the Knob Hill Hotel. Santers, Teenage Head, Goddo and Lee Aaron.
The Metal Queen.
During this period I also set up an interview with Aaron. Wherever you are, Ray VanDoorn (Aaron’s road manager and former keyboard player in her high school band), thanks!
Ray and Lee agreed to meet me in manager Bob Connolly’s office at Jarvis and Wellesley, (Bob was out of town) with the idea of using Aaron as the subject of an article for my college magazine writing class, and having the feature run in the Centennial College newspaper. The latter never happened because the editor was a fan of new wave rock and thought metal was for idiots.
The Scarborough Mirror nearly derailed my journalism career. Apparently, while I was providing my services for free, and riding two buses and the subway to get to their office in the northern part of Scarberia, the editor felt I wasn’t gung-ho enough to be a reporter. Too quiet, didn’t beg and plead for assignments.
This guy agreed to my co-op placement at the Mirror, with reservations, and cut me loose after two weeks. To this day, I blame my program coordinator. Why send me there when I had two strikes against me?
YOU’RE GOING TO THE JUNOS
Thank heavens for David Farrell at The Record.
I contacted The Record on my own, no help from the college, and David agreed to let me spend the semester at what was, at the time, Canada’s version of Billboard. News about the music trade, free records and concert tickets (thanks Nick Krewen for passing along the Jethro Tull tix way back when, great show!).
David also bought me a ticket for that year’s Juno Awards where I ran into Lee Aaron and nodded at the likes of Carole Pope, Gil Moore of Triumph, Luba and Kim Mitchell.
After graduation, I found employment at a nationally distributed arts and collectables magazine called Insight on Collectables. In Durham, Ontario. When I answered the ad in the Globe & Mail, I thought it meant Durham Region…Oshawa, Whitby…but no, the Durham that’s 30 miles south of Owen Sound, where I settled.
One of Insight’s contributors was Howard Ferguson, who had obviously read Rolling Stone because he fancied himself as the Canadian collectables industry version of RS legend Hunter S. Thompson. Howard would write profiles of artists and devote the bulk of his pieces to the journey, in a nod to Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and gonzo style of journalism.
In the radio roundtable I mentioned earlier, Light spoke with pride about Rolling Stone’s tireless efforts to fact check every piece (yes, they ran embarrassing articles that turned out to be bogus but those were the exceptions) and paraphrased Thompson in saying if you’re going to call someone a pig fucker, you’d better produce the pig.
Thank you, Rolling Stone. For Hunter, P.J. O’Rourke, William Greider, Dave Marsh, Matt Taibbi and scores of journalists that continue to inspire me.
By the way, I fell into radio by accident and, due to my association with 97.7 the Beach, I’ve become friends and tennis buddies with Santers bass player Rick Lazaroff and, at the Wasaga Blues Festival a few years back, I chatted with Kim Mitchell (we have a mutual friend here in the beach).
Rolling Stone Founder Jann Wenner has said it’s time for younger folks to take the reins, hence the magazine being up for sale.
I still read Rolling Stone on my Flipboard app and hope it continues to publish for many years to come, in whatever form. I’ll be reading, and hey, if my byline can ever appear in the magazine, Jann and the editors know where to find me.