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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780810937970
Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date: 05/01/1998
Pages: 273
Product dimensions: 10.36(w) x 12.34(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

THIS BOOK, the complete collection of Rolling Stone's covers from 1967 to 1997, represents not just the evolution of a magazine but a record of our times. For three decades, no surer sign has heralded the arrival of a performer, artist or personality than a cover of Rolling Stone. Virtually every important rock musician and movie star, as well as many celebrated public figures, has appeared on one of the seven hundred twenty-eight covers reproduced here.

    Many of them willingly have turned up time and again: Mick Jagger, with nineteen covers — some alone and others with the band or Keith — claims the all-time cover-boy crown. Among the people we have chosen to celebrate, the shrewdest collaborated with us in the creation and refinement of their public images. Many of those powerful images have since grown to define an era. When I started Rolling Stone in November 1967, the magazine's initial charter was to cover rock & roll music with intelligence and respect. Even then, we knew that the fervor sweeping our generation encompassed more than just music. And so we gradually broadened the charter to include everything the music touched, embraced or informed: politics, movies, television, journalism, sports, Super Bowls, crime, kidnappings, astronauts, gurus, groupies, hippies, Jesus freaks, health clubs, narcs, pimps, drugs and all the other forms of American social behavior, pathological and otherwise.

    These events and personalities were captured for the cover of Rolling Stone by some of the finest photographers of the last three decades. A partial list wouldinclude Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger, Richard Avedon, Anton Corbijn, Albert Watson, Herb Ritts, Francesco Scavullo, Matt Mahurin and Matthew Rolston. In addition, a great roster of illustrators and cartoonists has conjured and invented for the cover: Matt Groening, Mike Judge, Garry Trudeau, Gottfried Helnwein, Ralph Steadman, Maurice Sendak, Paul Davis, Milton Glaser, Robert Grossman, Daniel Maffia, Andy Warhol and Anita Kunz, among others.

    Many of these covers have been controversial, even shocking, so here now is fair warning to those who are offended by flesh. Plenty of flesh has been artfully arranged and displayed beneath our famous logo. Rolling Stone probably pioneered the trend of nude "star" covers with John Lennon and Yoko Ono's full-body shots in November 1968. At the time, nudity was a political statement, health clubs were for the weird and obsessed, and I had yet to fully appreciate readers' insatiable curiosity about the naked bodies of their heroes and heroines.

    John and Yoko's self-portraits were taken in their London flat for the front and back covers of their Two Virgins, the album that Apple's distributor issued wrapped in brown paper — despite John's status as the leader of the Beatles. At the suggestion of Rolling Stone's cofounder, writer Ralph J. Gleason, I telexed our friend Derek Taylor, the Beatles' publicist and soul mate, in London with an offer to print said pictures in Rolling Stone. The photo wound up on the cover of our first anniversary issue (RS 22). This was the first sellout issue of Rolling Stone and the first time we went back to press. Although it may seem tame from today's perspective, the idea of someone so famous and so physically average standing stark naked for all the world to see was quite extraordinary — shocking to be sure, but above all, deeply revolutionary and deeply moving.

    Magazine making is a collaborative art, and I have worked with the most dedicated and talented people in publishing, including editors whose duties included writing the lines of text that tease the newsstand browser into a purchase. If you have the time and the patience to read the tiny lines of type on these collected miniatures, you will find some amusing footnotes to late-twentieth-century history.

    "Dial Om for Murder," the headline for an account of criminal behavior in a religious sect, and "He's Hot, He's Sexy and He's Dead," the headline for a story on Jim Morrison's posthumous success, are among my favorites. In these thousands of cover headlines, you'll catch clever literary allusions and puns of all colors and stripes, the profound. Looking back, most of what we put on the cover remains important, but some of it may seem as pointless, trivial and ephemeral as it gets. In seven hundred-plus covers, you're bound to strike out more than once.

* * *

IN 1967, when I started the magazine, I didn't understand the importance of a cover and all the things that a cover could do. I didn't understand that the cover not only defined a magazine's identity but greatly determined sales and also conferred a very special status to the cover subject. It wasn't until midway through year one that Danny Fields, an editor of the early and influential pop-music magazine 16, led me to see some of these possibilities.

    The cover of RS 1, November 9th, 1967, was a wonderful, revealing accident. The photograph of John Lennon is a publicity still from a mostly forgotten film called How I Won the War. (The logo was an unfinished draft of a design by San Francisco psychedelic poster artist Rick Griffin, who was planning to refine it until I ripped it from his desk to get it to the printer on time.) In hindsight, it was terribly prescient of me and Rolling Stone to have John Lennon on the first cover. That one little photograph speaks volumes about the marriage of music and movies and politics that came to define Rolling Stone.

    Back in those days, there was no tradition of rock photography. In London some good photographers -- Sir Cecil Beaton, among them — had shot the Stones, the Beatles and a few other bands. In San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, however, that hadn't happened yet. Photographs of rock stars were often bad publicity stills, snapshots or stage shots with a microphone in the performer's face. I decided to do better than that and took on a professional, Baron Wolman, as our first staff photographer. Bringing Baron into the mix, along with the feisty Jim Marshall and a few other West Coast photographers who were doing good work, instantly distinguished our tabloid. They didn't create a particular look or impose a particular style on the bands as much as produce clean, crisp photography, well composed and artfully lit, and, perhaps most valuably, they lived the life, knew the bands and understood what they wanted to say.

    Our first full-time art director was Robert Kingsbury, a wood sculptor and teacher who had never worked for a publication. Bob turned out to be brilliant at sifting through all the black and white stills we were accumulating to find a striking image. For the cover, he developed an alchemist's touch, transforming a dull photograph into something visually interesting: He'd turn it, crop it, shrink it, blow it up, silhouette it against a bold background or add a duotone color. It was still a few years before we were shooting photographs especially for covers, and he did wonders with what we had on hand.

    Those covers were done on the fly, without much deliberation, and yet many of them are spirited and good. The blue solarized cover of Eric Clapton (RS 10) was taken by Linda Eastman, later to become Linda McCartney. The first woman to shoot a Rolling Stone cover, Linda went on to take many memorable early shots, including some of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

* * *

THE REMARKABLE IMAGE of Bob Dylan reaching for a crucifix (RS 12), I tore out of a publication called Salut les Copains, a French rock magazine. To this day, the photographer remains unknown. The Band sent us their own photos, taken by Elliott Landy, one depicting them seated on a bench with their backs to the camera. We ran that one as the cover of our sixteenth issue in August 1968, thinking ourselves pretty hip.

    Another of our early lessons in publishing is that death draws people to the newsstand. When Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died within weeks of each other, our staff showed their sensitivity in each case: a simple, classic portrait on the cover, with type stating only the artist's name and date of birth and death. There was nothing more to say. And that began a form of tribute that we've followed for all of our thirty years. When somebody in the magazine's purview dies, the cover is created with dignity and respect, and the coverage inside is exhaustive, sometimes highly personal and in many cases brilliant.

    In 1970, a twenty-year-old art student named Annie Leibovitz came to the magazine with her portfolio. "She had just returned from a year in Israel," Bob Kingsbury remembers, "and I liked one of her pictures from the trip. I thought she showed a lot of potential, and she was just a kid. We hired her." While still attending the San Francisco Art Institute, Annie became the magazine's second staff photographer. Later that year, she went with me to New York on her first major assignment, a commissioned cover portrait of John Lennon to accompany my groundbreaking exclusive interview, "Lennon Remembers." We had fun that week, working as a team, traveling by limo and hanging with John and Yoko (who were at the time making their avant-garde film Up Your Legs Forever).

    It turned out that the cover shot was taken during a light-meter reading. John, who was "thinking nothing," as he later recalled, looked right through the lens at Annie. For her (and the magazine), this was a defining moment, what she has called her "first encounter" with a subject. It's John's humanity that comes through in the shot, which was not what she had wanted as our cover. To me this photo was so simple and so stark that it was a natural choice. I still have the picture on my desk, in a frame. I've carried it around with me for twenty-seven years. The directness of the eye contact, the-simplicity and the truth in it all presage the best of Annie's work.

    Over the next three or four years, her work began to mature, and the Rolling Stone covers became a series of portraits. Annie considered herself primarily a photojournalist at the time, working with a thirty-five-millimeter camera and, for the most part, natural lighting, which was the foundation for all her later work. And so for a while the covers are portrait after portrait; not all of them are Annie's pictures, but if they're not, they're in the mold we began to establish with John Lennon.

* * *

IN FEBRUARY 1973, we began regularly printing four-color covers, opening up new possibilities and challenges. A few months later, we went from a quarter fold to a tabloid, increasing the size of our covers from 8½ by 11 inches to 10½ by 15. As we shifted to color and a larger size, I brought in Michael Salisbury, the very imaginative and brash art director of West, the Sunday rotogravure magazine of the Los Angeles Times. He was a major score for us, our first professional art director — with a live-wire personality, raring to go.

    Michael brought us smack into the world of illustration and concept covers, and we started getting a little crazier. Michael's first cover for the magazine was an illustration for a fifty-thousand-word interview I'd done with Daniel Ellsberg, of "Pentagon Papers" fame. Michael showed it to me at the last minute (which would become a habit of his), so there was no chance of changing it if I didn't like it. But it was perfect: a patriotic, sculpted profile of Ellsberg to go with the cover line we took from the Declaration of Independence: "Let facts be submitted to a candid world." The image made the point exactly

    "Rolling Stone's identity was not only how it read, but also how it looked," Michael says. "And that was defined by the photography. The typography and newspaper format were intended to give a young publication legitimacy and credibility, but the pictures added personality and depth."

    In September 1974, Tony Lane became the magazine's third full-time art director. Tony, who came from Holiday and Harper's Bazaar, had a vision and a style, and he wanted badly to work with Annie. Tony proceeded to take the cover to a sparer, poster-type look. Annie was still learning, soaking up everything, getting her craft right and doing a great number of covers along the way

    The next year, I took Annie with me to lunch at the studio of the great fashion photographer Richard Avedon. I had begun discussions with him about photographic coverage of the 1976 presidential elections. I thought it would be fun for Annie to meet Dick, and I wanted her to explore new ideas and new directions for the magazine.

    That day we planned the heroic black-and-white cover photograph of Mick and Keith that appeared on our July 17th, 1975, issue (RS 191). I was trying to get Annie to imitate Avedon's more formal style of working: for example, posing people in a studio against a seamless backdrop. With the Stones, I suggested, make it real simple and do the two of them as partners. It worked brilliantly; it's still one of my favorites.

    It happened to be around the same time that Ralph Gleason died, and this was the cover of the issue in which he was memorialized, so the somber black-and-white cover was appropriate.

    In 1975, the story that put us on the map nationally was the Patty Hearst kidnapping. I called our exclusive report the "scoop of the Seventies." Rolling Stone had the story of her abduction, her travels, her conversion to "Tania." And, just as we were ready to go to press, after more than a year on the lam, she was captured.

    The cover treatment I took from the New York Times Sunday Magazine. In the middle of Watergate, the Times had published a recap of the events and testimony, with the simple headline "The Story So Far," the text of which began on the cover. Tony Lane conceived "Tania's World," the cover illustration showing Patty Hearst in her terrorist garb in an homage to the famous Andrew Wyeth painting "Christina's World."

    This was one of those occasions where you have a story so powerful it needs no explanation. It was international and dead on the mark, timing-wise. Our title: "The Inside Story." Rolling Stone made headlines around the world and led all three national network news broadcasts, and that issue sold like mad.

    Meanwhile, Annie busted loose with marvelous covers: Bob Marley in the throes of ecstasy (RS 219), Paul Simon in his window overlooking Central Park (RS 216), Jack Ford in front of the White House (RS 218) are all terrific. One of the most memorable to me is the portrait of Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson, reemerged after years of exile inside his house (RS 225). Annie shot a black-and-white photo of Brian as surf patriarch, in his bathrobe, holding a board. I had it hand-colored in that old pastel postcard style. It was perfect.

    The late Seventies stand as a true golden age of creativity in Rolling Stone covers, especially with Annie's work. Sometimes she and I would work on a concept, but most often she was talking with my wife, Jane. Annie was always bringing to the house books of other photographers' work, looking for new ideas, and talking, talking. Among my favorites is the Fleetwood Mac cover (RS 235). Brilliantly, Annie posed them on an unmade bed, which solved the perennial graphic problem of getting multiple group members in the frame in a new and interesting way. And Bette Midler on a bed of roses (RS 306): What a beauty.

    Annie's attitude was, Give me a great idea — who cares where it comes from. Our collaboration was nearly always happy. We were working together constantly, thinking up things to do with the cover, and our work was us.


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Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing 21 days ago
Oversize, but deservedly so. Excellent prints.