On Growing up and the Cover of the Rolling Stone

It’s been sitting on the family room table for a week… or is it two weeks?

Jon Stewart’s face has been staring up from issue 1140 of Rolling Stone dated September 29, 2011 for I don’t know how long. Having warranted only passing glances since it got here, the edition has been used mostly as a coaster for beverages I was drinking at the time. This morning, I realized that Rolling Stone isn’t salient to me anymore.

When the first issue in this subscription arrived at the house about six month back, we weren’t sure how we subscribed to it. About 3 years ago a colleague at work asked if anyone wanted a free subscription and I jumped at it, but that subscription lapsed and we didn’t renew. As it turned out, we received another free subscription as part of something trivial we did earlier in the year.

I picked up the magazine this morning and paged through it. The contents page had a picture of Jerry Garcia sitting with David Letterman. That picture got me excited and turning to page 74 where there was a seven page feature on the first year of the David Letterman show (don’t care). In exploring the rest of the edition, I saw that Tony Bennet has a new Duets album out. Apparently he and Lady Gaga knocked out a great version “The Lady is a Tramp”. Nirvana’s Nevermind is turning 20 years old and Perl Jam is celebrating their second decade together (yikes) . There is a also new version of Charlie’s Angels coming soon (really don’t care). Mostly unremarkable issue, just like the last edition.

I then came to the back page. You know, the page with the music charts. It struck me how much priorities have changed. I remember being a tween-ager growing up in Las Vegas and being so into the popular music. When Mom and I got in the car, putting on KENO AM 1640 was top priority for me (we didn’t use seatbelts back then). The top 10 songs of the week was a scheduled event on Sunday night. It was important to know what songs were moving up the charts and to say good-bye to songs were falling off the charts and would soon be gone from radio play forever, or so it seemed. Of course, back then the music was so much better than the crap these kids listen to now (curmudgeonly expression #26). Back then, comic books were more important to buy than Rolling Stone, but I would page through it in the bookstore. My first subscription to the magazine came when I was in College. The seemingly random arrivals were like a gift from the real world to be read the day they arrived.

On August 28, 1987,  at half the age I am today, I pulled into the Student Union at Boston University where I was to start grad school. Coming from a small liberal arts college,  I was overwhelmed by the size of the bookstore, let alone the school.  One of the shops in the bookstore had an issue of Rolling Stone and I paged through it and felt somehow at ease, like an old friend was there to greet me in this new place. I remember turning to the back page and looking at the top albums list. I always went from top to bottom noting which ones I had and which ones were country crossovers. Habitually, I would study the list to see  which ones were moving up and which were moving down.  I owned three CDs, In the Dark and Aoxomoxoa by the Grateful Dead as well as Simon & Garfunkel Greatest Hits. Everything else was on vinyl.

I still own vinyl records, but haven’t had anything to play them on in over a decade.  At 46 years old, I am no longer of an age that frequently purchases music. My only purchases of 2011 were the new CDs from Journey  and Paul Simon. I also purchased a Best of Foreigner CD on Ebay ahead of seeing them in concert.  Nothing I own is on Top 40 of the John Stewart edition of the Rolling Stone. Nothing I own is on the iTunes Tops songs and the College Radio Top 10 albums might as well be in a foreign language.

Instead, I monitor what my daughter listens to as best I can. The fact is she’s 14 and at that stage in life where the music on the radio is important. She has two buttons on the car radio and pushing them (after she fastens her seat) belt is a priority for her.


Post Script:  Within 10 hours of writing this piece, I purchased the Tony Bennett CD.

On Growing up and the Cover of the Rolling Stone

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