For the Record Early on, ‘Rolling Stone’ saw its Records section as home to a crucial, ongoing dialogue about rock & roll. It helped launch careers – of key critics and artists they championed n e n ight i n the spr i ng of 2001, ja n n s. dent at UC Berkeley and already contributing reviews to Rolling Wenner visited Bob Dylan backstage. The two men Stone when he was introduced one night to the magazine’s manhad known each other since the late Sixties, but even aging editor, Charles Perry. Marcus complained that the Records so, Dylan’s greeting was a bit familiar – he began section had no sense of what to cover. “All anybody ever does is patting Wenner down, rooting around for somewrite about lyrics,” he told Perry. “It’s like a bunch of folk-music thing in his jacket. “I said, ‘Bob, what are you doing?’” Wenner rereviews.” A day or two later, Wenner called and offered Marcus members. “He said, ‘I’m looking for that extra star. What pocket $35 a week to solve the problem. have you got it in?’” The pages blossomed with new voices and fresh approaches. For those keeping score, Rolling Stone’s review of 1997’s Marcus believed “rock & roll was writing its own history in the Time Out of Mind was four stars; the album Dylan released in moment.” His sections were carefully curated. Some focused on fall 2001, Love and Theft, would get ﬁve – and even Dylan might reissues of early rock & roll, and others on women’s voices, from agree with these ratings, as after Time Out of Mind he began Fifties girl group the Chantels to Dusty Springﬁeld’s new classic, producing his albums himself to better realize the sound he was Dusty in Memphis. “It was the past and the present all mixed up, after. More important, for the world’s greatest songwriter to tease as if there was no such thing as ‘oldies,’ ” he says. Rolling Stone’s editor and publisher about holding out on Marcus took chances on experimental albums – his ﬁrst sechim was a sign that the magazine’s Records section was function featured a Lester Bangs rave about Captain Beefheart’s Trout tioning as Wenner had always hoped. He Mask Replica – and on experimental writsaw Rolling Stone’s reviews as “part ers. “There was this guy who was sending of that feedback loop – that big circle that in short stories,” he remembers of J.R. “The ring of truth knocked was part of the creation of music: artists Young. “Those were his reviews.” The ﬁrst me backward,” Clapton and audiences and criticism.” was an appraisal of the irresistible erotic When Rol l i ng Ston e began, in effects of the Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead said of one ‘Rolling Stone’ 1967, Wenner wanted the magazine’s rethat read like a cross between Chekhov and review. “I decided that was views to have seriousness and focus. He felt The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. the end of Cream.” the emerging world of rock criticism was But it was Marcus himself who was reoften about image, culture and politics, not sponsible for the most famous ﬁction in the always the music itself. So one of his ﬁrst history of rock criticism: a review of The moves was to sign up Jon Landau as his lead critic. Landau – today Masked Marauders, an album that started off as a joke and then the manager of Bruce Springsteen – was then an undergraduate became real. Marcus was disappointed in sketchy one-off superat Brandeis in Boston. A guitar player himself, he brought knowlgroup albums like Super Session, a collection of jams from Mike edge and precision to his writing for one of rock’s ﬁrst chronicles, Bloomﬁeld, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills. He imagined what a Crawdaddy. As Wenner prepared to launch Rolling Stone, he real supersession would be like. “Obviously, it’d have to have the offered Landau a column. “He sent me a copy of the dummy issue,” Beatles, and Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones,” he says. So he Landau says. “It was really impressive. And he mentioned that he wrote a parody review that brought them together as the Masked was paying for the writing, which was fairly novel.” Marauders, with Mick Jagger singing “I Can’t Get No Nookie” Landau’s work established Rolling Stone’s authority and and Dylan and George Harrison playing the MC5’s “Kick Out the had real impact. A review of a Cream concert in RS 10 (May 11th, Jams” on acoustic guitars. 1968) took Eric Clapton to task as “a master of the blues clichés.” A fake album cover was mocked up, and the whole thing apWhen he read it, Clapton was stunned. “The ring of truth just peared in RS 44 (October 18th, 1969). Desperate fans phoned the knocked me backward,” Clapton told the magazine in a 1985 inRolling Stone office asking where they could ﬁnd a copy, as terview. “I was in a restaurant, and I fainted. And after I woke up, did record distributors – even Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, I immediately decided that was the end of the band.” out of touch with his elusive client, called to see if there was any But Landau’s column was a single page in the front of the magtruth to the piece. And then there was: Marcus and his colleague azine. The Records section in the back remained without a dediLangdon Winner recorded a version of “I Can’t Get No Nookie,” cated editor until RS 38 (July 26th, 1969). Greil Marcus – whose and after it aired on San Francisco radio, Warner Bros. rushed to work at Rolling Stone, and later in books such as Mystery release a full album. (Berkeley’s Cleanliness and Godliness SkifTrain and Lipstick Traces, would do much to establish the intelﬂe Band provided the music.) In a few months, the Masked Malectual and literary potential of music criticism – was a grad sturauders had gone from put-on to reality.
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