To celebrate the release of Rolling Stone 50 Years of Covers, we speak to some of the magazine’s team members about their most memorable moments
Rolling Stone is one of the most iconic pop culture magazines in existence, bringing the worlds of music, TV and film together in one irresistible cocktail. Founded in 1967 by Jann Wenner, the mag has depicted pretty much every cultural icon you can think of on its cover: from The Rolling Stones to Rihanna, Bob Dylan to Barack Obama, while The Beatles have appeared on its cover no less than 30 times, either as a band or individually. In fact, such is the magazine’s entrenchment in the annals of pop cultural history that it’s even referenced by George Harrison in his 1968 Beatles song While My Guitar Gently Weeps – “Learned to get up when I fall / Can even climb Rolling Stone walls.”
A new book from Abrams, Rolling Stone 50 Years of Covers: A History of the Most Influential Magazine in Pop Culture by Wenner, pays testament to this incredible legacy, featuring every single cover from the magazine’s 50-year history. To celebrate its release, we asked three of the magazine’s alumni to tell us about their favourite one.
Rolling Stone 50 Years of Covers
Jodi Peckman, Creative Director of Rolling Stone
“So many times my favourite covers end up being ones in which I have a personal involvement or story. On the other side of that I would say one of my favourites is the 1977 cover of Fleetwood Mac by Annie Leibovitz. I wasn’t at the magazine at the time but I’ve always held this image as the bar to reach for the ultimate Rolling Stone cover. A perfect combination of composition, humour and storytelling, the cover illustrates the inner politics and personal lives of the band.
“During my time here so far I’d say that the 1995 Cast of Friends cover shot by Mark Seliger is one of my favourites. The cover depicts the actors in a 1940s era car on their way to a summer outing. Mark and I had been talking about the painter Norman Rockwell a lot and we thought it would be a great idea to shoot an homage to that style. I copied pages from a Rockwell book and gave each actor a character to mimic, expression wise. A complicated shot to get in one take, the actors were so enthusiastic it ended up being pretty easy to capture. A whimsical photo with great cover design execution, it remains a Rolling Stone classic.”
Laurie Kratochvil, former Photo Editor
“My two covers that stand out are Eric Clapton… October 1991... New York City. This cover shot by Albert Watson is so raw and simple but shows the depth of sadness Eric felt at that time. His young son had recently lost his life in a horrible accident. I have always thought this was the most haunting cover. His pain and strength are everything in this photograph.
“The other cover I loved was the cast of Seinfeld TV show. Taken by Mark Seliger, in May 1993, New York City. The popularity of this show about ‘nothing’ had taken over in the US and they were game for anything. Our stylist had brought this full regalia of rock and roll leathers and studs and they immediately started selecting what they each wanted to wear. We ended up with a funny, engaging, cheeky shot that I love.”
Joe Levy, Contributing Editor
“Hello Nasty was the Beastie Boys’ return to New York after almost a decade of making albums in Los Angeles. To celebrate, Rolling Stone shot this cover in the gym of a Manhattan high school on East 15th Street. I was writing a cover story on the Beasties, and the high school was around the corner from my apartment. I showed up early, while the photo crew was scrubbing out a square of bright white on the gray tile wall, and was shooting baskets when Adam Yauch arrived. He wanted to play some one-on-one, and grabbed a ball and blew by me for a layup. And then another. And then another.
“The Beasties loved basketball – they’d had a hoop in their studio in Los Angeles, G-Son, and started a weekly pick-up game when they moved back to New York – and Mark Seliger, the magazine’s chief photographer, had an idea that would draw on vintage NBA and ABA uniforms. The Beastie Boys, back in the city of their youth, dressed in the manner of some of their childhood heroes. Fantastic. There was just one problem: Yauch, who loved disguises (Peter Sellers movies were a favourite of his), didn’t want to wear a uniform. He wanted to be a ref. And he wanted to wear a wig and glasses.
“Since I knew them a little (though not as well as the Rolling Stone editor who played in their weekly pick-up game), Seliger sent me over to negotiate. I gamely made the case that one element of a successful magazine cover was, commonly, recognisability. There was a pause. The Beastie Boys looked at me. I pressed on. ‘We’re afraid no one will be able to tell who you are,’ I said to Yauch. There was another pause. He looked at me the way people in Paris do when I try to speak French, like he recognised some of the words I was using, but couldn’t possibly believe I’d intentionally put them in that order. ‘I think the fact that I’m standing between between Adam and Mike will be a pretty big clue,’ he said.
“We did it his way. It was a classic.”
Rolling Stone 50 Years of Covers: A History of the Most Influential Magazine in Pop Culture by Jann S. Wenner, published by Abrams, is out now