Last Friday, about this hour, my wife and I sat in the outer office to Rolling Stone, waiting for our friend David Fricke to give us the “nickel tour.” The magazine’s now infamous “Bomber” issue lay on the table in the waiting area. I bagged it, then read the cover story on the flight home. It’s almost as good as the Gary Clark Jr. piece in there.
I’ve had a subscription to the periodical off and on since I was about 10. The only articles better than its long, in-depth musician profiles are the political and cultural pieces. “The Bomber” now joins 2010’s “The Runaway General” – in which the U.S. Commander general of NATO was forced by the White House to resign his position after too-candid remarks in Rolling Stone – as an instant classic, the perfect piece for the magazine’s newsstand demographic.
You can say the same for “The Chosen One,” the last feature in the August 1 issue before the album reviews.
Rolling Stone’s love affair with Gary Clark Jr. remains as responsible for his skyrocketing national profile as his talent, so it was only a matter of time before the mag trained one if its big-gun music writers on the local guitarist. The Austin native graced the masthead of this publication twice before Michael Corcoran’s cover story on him last year during the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Patrick Doyle’s story for the New York trendsetter hit a similar bull’s-eye.
Beyond the citation of local landmarks – Antone’s, Antone’s Records, and even the Travis County Jail – Doyle using Eve Monsees as a local source felt like a victory in and of itself. Leader of local garage-blues act Eve & the Exiles, and co-owner of the Drag’s aforementioned vinyl emporium, Monsees can be glimpsed in a picture with a teen Clark Jr. in the feature’s art hole, which includes the subject onstage with the Rolling Stones. Better still, pulling into East Austin music shack the Sahara Lounge to see blues purists the Moeller Brothers fell right in line with everything that childhood chums Clark and Monsees stand for as adults.
More important, of course, is the insight Doyle provides throughout. Onstage with Clark during a soundcheck at Madison Square Garden for Eric Clapton’s fourth Crossroads Guitar Festival in April, the writer’s opening quote from the young blues shredder says everything about what’s happened to him:
“Coming from Austin,” says Clark, “there are so many guitar players there. And here I am playing the Garden. It still doesn’t feel fair.”
Maybe it’s not, but Doyle’s last graph argues that perhaps it is. Either way, it’s a superior piece, with appearances by Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Mick Jagger. When you’re playing the proverbial palace, enjoy it. Gary Clark Jr. seems to be doing just that, according to Rolling Stone.
Straight outta college, I held down a desk at a radio newsroom in San Francisco where Jann Wenner worked before founding Rolling Stone. As he toured us around the inner sanctum, David Fricke told us a few advertisers were pulling ads for the next issue. Their loss.
Jon Pareles had already given us the same inside view of The New York Times hours earlier. There, the Pulitzer Prize wall on the 15th floor spoke to the importance of the fourth estate. Rolling Stone’s hall of covers – every single one since John Lennon debuted on the first issue in 1967 – remains comparable for music history alone.
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