By Jeff Apter.
There’s a great moment in the film High Fidelity where Rob Gordon (John Cusack) lists his five dream jobs. No 1: “Journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, 1976 to 1979,” he says. “Get to meet the Clash, Chrissie Hynde, Sex Pistols, David Byrne. Get tons of free records.”
I daydreamed of that, too, even while I was music editor at Rolling Stone Australia, where I was on staff from 1998 until 2002 (I’ve contributed since the mid-90s). Not that it wasn’t a great job — it was — but every day I was confronted by the magazine’s legacy. Imagine walking into an office and being confronted with back issues packed with interviews with every rock great — Lennon, Hendrix, Jagger, Cobain and all the rest — as well as those images of Annie Leibovitz and Baron Wolman and David LaChapelle, not to mention the writing of Hunter S. Thompson, Cameron Crowe and others, all published behind that identifiable, just-about-perfect masthead. On good days it was inspiring to be surrounded by this body of work; on bad days, intimidating. The best that folks at “outstations” like Rolling Stone Australia could hope for was coming close to replicating the parent magazine while lifting what we could from the US edition, as per our licensing deal. No small task, given the restrictive budgets, minimal staffing and rapid-fire turnaround that was standard operating procedure here. And the pay was lousy.
But, oh, the doors that Rolling Stone’s name could open. During my time I experienced things I’d never dreamed about as a stringer, such as spending a week rolling through the midwest of America with Kasey Chambers and Lucinda Williams, lingering backstage in Florida with Shirley Manson of Garbage, waiting for U2 to take the stage only weeks after 9/11, or a guided tour of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the strength of my business card. I spent extended time with the crop of local heroes of that era, such as Powderfinger and Silverchair. I had ringside seats at gigs, awards, festivals and launches, and a smorgasbord of freebies. I had access.
Now it seems that the last issue of Rolling Stone Australia — the longest-lasting international edition, having first been published here in 1970 — has left the building. Despite the inevitability of the news, given both the proliferation of free and fast online content and the sale of the parent magazine by founder Jann Wenner, it’s still a blow.
There have been a lot of pop culture magazines but none with gravitas of Rolling Stone — being granted the cover story remained as big an achievement in 2017 as it was when the magazine was founded in 1967.
And my stint there taught me how to write hard and fast, how to sift through the spin.
It also opened the door to my subsequent career as an author.
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