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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Stone still Rolling 40 years on
By Damian Fowler
BBC News in New York

Iconic US magazine Rolling Stone celebrates its 1,000th edition this month, marking nearly four decades at the forefront of music journalism.

The 3-D cover is in the style of the Beatles' Sgt Pepper sleeve

Rolling Stone is a magazine that knows the power of its cover - and it has spared no expense to produce its latest.

The glitzy 3-D cover that graces its 1,000th edition - a pastiche of the Beatles' Sgt Pepper album sleeve - celebrates the great and the good from the last 40 years of pop music and culture.

And with a $1m (540,825) price tag, it may be the most expensive magazine cover in history.

The magazine - first published in 1967 by founder and owner Jann Wenner - is rightfully proud of enduring for nearly four decades.

Its humble origins in San Francisco are now almost legendary. But why did it become so important?

"It paid rock and roll the enormous compliment of taking it seriously," said Sean Wilentz, professor of American Studies at Princeton University.


"Rolling Stone was born in the late sixties, when there was a conceit that politics, music and counterculture all went together."

In many ways, Rolling Stone was a prototype general interest magazine about music and society.

Jann Wenner
Jann Wenner co-founded Rolling Stone in San Francisco in 1967
It was different from the bubblegum fanzines of the 1960s, managing to remain intelligent and mainstream as it profiled the era's major pop music personalities.

"At its best, Rolling Stone writes from the inside but not like an insider," said Anthony DeCurtis, a long-time contributing editor to the magazine.

"There's a sense of bringing readers into a world that they're really excited about. Some magazines think they're hipper and smarter than you, but Rolling Stone never had that tone."

As the times changed so did the magazine, evolving into a cultural and political bellwether featuring some of the best writers in the country.

Gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson made his name in its pages, while Tom Wolfe wrote The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities for it.

It was also an important forum for photographer Annie Leibovitz, who shot perhaps the magazine's most famous cover - of a naked John Lennon embracing Yoko on a bed.


The photo shoot took place on 8 December 1980 - the day that Lennon was murdered by a deranged fan.

If the magazine was energised by the counterculture of the sixties and early seventies, many believe it has recently regained its potency as a political engine.

Rolling Stone's Chinese edition
The magazine launched an edition on mainland China earlier this year
Issue 999 - which featured a cartoon of George W Bush wearing a dunce's cap and the headline 'The Worst President in History?' - was the most talked-about edition for years.

Rolling Stone faces competition these days in the form of other music magazines like Vibe and Blender.

But it remains the leader of the pack, with a steady circulation of around 1.3 million.

"None of the other pop music magazines are remotely close to it, in terms of quality or impact," said DeCurtis.

"At this point, part of its significance is that it's lasted as an independent magazine.

"It's not owned by Conde Nast or Time Warner, but by a single individual. It has more personality than most magazines do, and that's what makes it alive."

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