One Spoonful

Last week, the nation celebrated the 242nd anniversary of throwing off the oppressive chains of the monarchy – at the same time as when we cannot wait to marry into it and put the monarchy on the cover of every imaginable magazine, from celebrity rags to guns and ammo.

Then, following the postal mail delivery holiday, what’s this? It looked like a slick, glossy promotional “brochure” from Ethan Allen – the furniture store, not the guy – but for the cover model. Ethan it was not. Nor was it a promo piece from a scent manufacturer or a clothing designer. (You can always tell when it’s a clothing designer sending out a brochure: the models are nearly naked.) The cover was neither a piece of furniture nor a room setting; instead, it was a photograph of another young, female singer I am perfectly unfamiliar with: Cardi B.

The publication was Rolling Stone, a magazine to which I have a lifetime subscription:

Now, after 50 years, it is owned and published by Penske (do they rent trucks?) Media Corporation. Rolling Stone is in a larger format with heavier and better paper inside and out. Rich. Elegant. The counterculture is classing things up.

Hard to see, printed on the magazine’s slender spine, is the notation “July 2018.”

Even harder to see, buried in fine print on the Table of Contents page, is the notation: “published 12 [previously 26] times per [sic] year which is subject to change at any time.” Comforting and reassuring.

Previously, the RS mailing label predicted my death (lifetime subscription expiration) date as 2054; the current issue offers nothing similar. Uh-oh. Maybe my own expiration date has been halved as well?

No longer the same size as Time, as it most recently was, RS is bigger. Though, once upon a time, RS was a tabloid, newsprint format telegraphing its earthy sincerity and about the same size as this “new” version.

It’s also longer than a newsweekly. And its own most recent iteration. At 136 pages, RS is double the length of issues in near- and mid-memory.

The debut issue in its new format contains 35 full-page ads plus the covers and two self-promotional full pagers. The 25 percent ad-to-content figure is, today, good news in the printed media world. It means the pub’s new owners have an aggressive sales force. Or deep discounts on ad space.

The July issue includes six pages of “National Affairs,” a lengthy Sebastiao Salgado photo essay, more information on Johnny Depp than you ever thought possible or wanted to know and five (previously two) pages of bite-sized “Random Notes.” And lists.

Lots of lists.

TV watch lists and TV’s top 10 detectives, a guide to Stevie Wonder, movie and “record” reviews including “quick hits,” the Best Marvel Superheroes and the Best (movies) of 2018 So Far, a list of Tom Cruise doing the impossible and price lists for getting backstage, and a list of the 100 Greatest Songs of the Century So Far.

Opening the issue, founder Jann Wenner quotes lyrics from the Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1965 hit, “Do You Believe in Magic” as a way to assure readers of the publication’s continued mission despite the change in ownership: “the magic that can set you free.”

In the same song, the Spoonful also acknowledged frustration when seeking to explain the incredible complexity that is rock ‘n roll: “But it’s like trying to tell a stranger ‘bout rock and roll.” Which, of course, are the spoon-moon-June lyrics and three-chord structure we’re all familiar with.

And now is as good a time as any – and better than most – to think about journalism on the subject of rock ‘n roll cult-cha.

Someone has to explain it. Spell it out. In painstaking detail and, if necessary, try finger puppets. It’s the speaker’s job to help the audience understand. That’s why that person is called “speaker.”

So enough, already, with the lists.

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