Up on the very top shelf of a closet in my study there’s a large pile of old music magazines – mostly Rolling Stone magazine. They’ve been there, oh, for at least 16 or 17 years. Sitting quietly, gathering dust.
About a week ago it suddenly occurred to me that there could probably be some Beatles-related treasure hidden away in there.
Really don’t know why I’d never thought of this before. And so I got them down from the shelf this weekend and had a browse. This post, in chronological order, is about what I found.
These are all the Australian editions of Rolling Stone, and back in 1979 it was still very much like a newspaper in appearance. No staples to hold it together and printed on flat, newsprint style paper. The cover story about Paul (above) is by veteran DJ, writer and rock historian Paul Gambacini. The cover portrait of Paul McCartney is by Julian Allen, June, 1979. Gambacini’s byline says: “The leader of Wings looks back at yesterday”, and he writes: “I have known Paul McCartney for over five years, since just before the release of ‘Band on the Run’…Not surprisingly, McCartney at that time was desperate to avoid talking about the Beatles, especially about the never-ending reunion rumors…In the years since, Paul has let down his defenses. Anecdotes about the Beatles now flow, in addition to reminiscences of the pre-Beatles days. He seems pleased with his past. This is a product of being happy with his present.” The article coincided with the release of Wings “Back to the Egg”.
Of course John and Yoko frequently made the cover of Rolling Stone, and there have been some striking images of them published. Who could forget the most famous Annie Leibovitz shot of the pair? But this one comes a close second I reckon. Its by Allan Tannenbaum and it is a beautiful contemplative study that perfectly accompanies an article by Chet Flippo (which was an extract from the book “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, first published by Rolling Stone Press in October, 1982) detailing the years from 1975 to 1980 when John Lennon dropped out of rock & roll, retreating to his white bedroom in the Dakota building in New York. Inside, the article is accompanied by another touchingly composed Tannenbaum photograph:
See more Allan Tannenbaum photographs from the same session here.
In November, 1987 Rolling Stone celebrated twenty years on newsstands with a 20th Anniversary Special Edition. In it they re-published a selection of Letters to the Editor from across the 20 years. This one, from 1974, is telling: “John Lennon has given more to America that Nixon and Ford….He fought for peace a long time before it came to the attention of the government that “the people of America” wanted peace. Lennon was concerned about America, and now they’re deporting him. Nixon has admitted he’s a crook; why don’t we deport him?” – Lynn Grubbs, Malvern, Arkansas. And then this, from 1981, sadly again about John Lennon: “We’ve come a long way in seventeen years, from shooting presidents to murdering musicians.” – Jon Grabill, Wayland, Massachusetts…..this was the cover of that special edition:
The special edition was comprised of a series of previously-published Rolling Stone articles. There’s one on Paul McCartney by Anthony DeCurtis, and one on Yoko Ono by David Fricke. There are some image galleries as well from across the twenty years, but they only include one photograph of John Lennon.
October, 1986 saw another Paul McCartney cover shot (above) – with very grey hair and an interesting heart-shaped ring on Paul’s wedding finger…? The Rolling Stone interview was by Kurt Loder, who begins: “It is Monday in London, two days before the royal wedding, and Soho Square is filled with flowers, sunshine and fresh-faced young tourists. Some loll on the grass, sharing joints. Others peer up expectantly at the etched-glass windows of an art-deco-style town house across the street, where, in an airy third floor office, Paul McCartney presides over the bustling affairs of MPL Communications, the company that manages the professional projects of the singer and his wife, Linda.”
The McCartney’s were doing publicity for “Press To Play”, the fifteenth album he’d released since he announced the breakup of the Beatles in 1970…..Loder observed “After eight years of largely lackadaisical releases on Columbia, he is back with Capitol – the Beatles’ old label – and he seems serious about rehabilitating his somewhat tattered artistic reputation.”
In 1988 George had a new record to push. “Cloud Nine”, his first record in five years, had just been delivered to Warner Brothers Records. The article, by Anthony DeCurtis, is a really good read about George, the production of the album (with ELO’s Jeff Lynne), his past, and where he was at in 1988. “After years of tending his garden, his movie company and his son, the elusive ex-Beatle has reemerged with a great album”.
The front page of Issue 424 has an image of John Lennon and the words “Lennon – A Special Photo Album and the inside story on Goldman’s book”:
Inside is a revealing article by David Fricke and Jeffrey Ressner called “Imaginary Lennon – The True Story Behind Albert Goldman’s Character Assassination of John Lennon”. That title pretty much says it all… Albert Goldman’s controversial book “The Lives of John Lennon” had just been released, and his publishers claimed it to be “…a startling and revolutionary portrait”. Fricke and Ressner write however that it is not “the definitive biography”. “In fact,” they say, “the book is riddled with factual inaccuracies, embroidered accounts of true events that border on fiction and suspect information provided by tainted sources.” The magazine devotes five and a half pages to taking apart Goldman’s work. The article is worth digging out if you can. As if to balance that, Issue 424 also has six pages of candid Lennon photographs from another book (“Imagine: John Lennon” by Andrew Solt and John Egan). Here’s a terrific, early shot of Lennon, Paul McCartney, drummer Pete Best and George Harrison – taken by Paul’s brother, Mike McCartney:
Issue 443, in April 1990 also contained a wealth of rare early photographs, though it was the B52’s who made it onto the front cover. You have to look pretty closely for the Beatles reference:
This contains never-before-published photographs that chronicle the Fab Four’s first American tour in 1964. They are all taken by Curt Gunther, and I think you’ll agree they are impressive. I’d never seen these before and will certainly be seeking out the book they come from. Here are just a few from the Rolling Stone eight page spread:
All the photos above were reproduced in Rolling Stone, but come from the book “Beatles ’64: A Hard Day’s Night in America” released in 1989. Photographs by Curt Gunther, text by A.J.S.Rayl. There are also some fantastic Gunther images here from the Genesis Books publication “Mania Days: The Beatles 1964 US Tour”
October, 1990 saw Rolling Stone release another special issue. This time it was The Sixties – The Age of the Beatles. And it was an excuse for a psychedelic-look, Beatles-inspired cover:
Mikal Gilmore in his feature article “The Sixties” spends a lot of time on the Beatles and their impact throughout that turbulent decade: “In short, the Beatles were a rupture – they changed modern history, and no less craftsman than Bob Dylan understood the meaning of their advent. ‘They were doing things nobody else was doing. But I just kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were just for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction that music had to go….'”.
The final magazine to pop out of the large pile was from November, 1992, issue 476, a 25th Anniversary Special Edition, subtitled “The Great Stories 1967-1992”.
Like the special Twentieth Anniversary edition (above) this one contained some of the all-time great articles ever written by Rolling Stone‘s staff writers and contributors over the past quarter of a century. There are pieces on Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Springsteen, Bowie, Van Morrison, REM, Madonna, Neil Young, Michael Jackson and (of course) Bob Dylan, but probably pride of place was given to the now legendary interviews with John Lennon by Jann S. Wenner – a 30,000 word verbal splurge in which the ex-Beatle spoke openly, fully and truthfully about the Beatles and announced their breakup:
Originally from Rolling Stone Issues 74 and 75 in 1971, this was Lennon talking about the demise and aftermath of the Beatles as he saw it – for the first time. You can listen to extracts and read transcripts at Jann Wenner’s own page.
So, that it. An accidental journey through the past through random editions of Rolling Stone magazine – mags that have been hidden away in a cupboard at home for over 17 years…..