T.Jan Wenner was talking about his generation the other day. For him, the popular notion that millennials and Gen Z are on bad terms with baby boomers like him ranges from their assumptions about their musical dominance to their responsibility in climate change. , does not work.
“We see no evidence of that,” said the Rolling Stone magazine founder. “The carbon industry, the oil companies and the politicians who robbed us of our money are to blame, not the baby boomers,” he said.
Such a view may strike certain young people as why they coined the phrase “OK, Boomer” in the first place. very successful in that respect. While he’s never self-proclaimed a spokesperson for his generation, the very idea of which makes him white, Wenner has played a major role in reflecting that truth and advancing that myth. In fact, his demographic issues and his desire to reassert his commitment to history were among the reasons he decided to write the titled new 554-page memoir. – Like a rolling stone. “I wanted to show what the spirit and purpose and essence of the baby boom is,” he said.
In the process, he wanted to promote the track record he had established with Rolling Stone magazine, which became one of the most resonated and admired publishing ventures of the 20th century. In 2010, he established himself as one of the industry’s biggest stars and most controversial figures. .
Five years ago, another book about Wenner was published, titled Sticky Fingers, by journalist Joe Hagan. It acknowledged Wenner’s breathtaking achievements while also portraying him as a self-centered fanboy, betraying his best friend, and making his magazine as much an editorial innovation and creativity as a personal passport to the high life. Unfortunately for Wenner, in signing the book, he gave Hagan final say over its content, making it one of the most influential figures in the publishing world. I lost the power to challenge that view. “I approached it with complete conviction. I wanted to trust, be an open book and tell a story,” Wenner said. I believed there was, I was wrong.”
Wenner said his first reaction after reading Hagan’s book was “a sick stomach.” All this money, time and effort was spent on something that turned out to be so badly written, inaccurate and obscene.
Given such experience, one might view Wenner’s book as a sanitized modification to the previous book. Indeed, his book emphasizes his professional triumphs more than his personal peccadilloes. But it also offers many candid observations, lucid assessments, and amusing disclosures about the magazine’s long and storied history. There is candid information about his personal life, right down to his life as a gay man who didn’t fully embrace that identity until he became.
Wenner elaborated on all of it via Zoom from his beach house in Montauk, Long Island. I answered with a quick, if not easy to parse, answer.
Born in New York 76 years ago, Wenner grew up in San Rafael, California, a suburb of San Francisco. His family was called Rainbow Lords. His parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and although he describes his father as a “good-natured and generous man” in his book, he is less flattered about this mother. I didn’t say anything. He described her as an extreme narcissist and at one point compared her to perhaps his least favorite public figure, Donald Trump. When asked about her in an interview, Wenner said: I don’t know if she was narcissistic in her childhood. Since she graduated from college, she… I don’t know…” At that point, his voice faded.
When asked how he thought her behavior affected his development, he credited it with giving him the mantra to “go out and get what you want.” I said, please come out as hard as you can. ”
He certainly did when he started Rolling Stone in 1967 in San Francisco, where a major rock scene was emerging. He borrowed his $7,500 from his family and future wife, Jane Sindelheim, and set out to create a publication that would treat rock and roll with unprecedented reverence. The results were immediately nerve-wracking, aided by incisive and well-informed interviews with rock stars like Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend. It garnered further attention through the spread of the phenomenon and through provocative feature articles, including the use of previously banned nude photos of John and Yoko on the cover. The latter elicited a pearl-grabbing response from the mainstream press, which helped the issue sell so well that Wenner later wrote, “Print the famous foreskin and the world will beat your way to your door.” I will,” he said sarcastically.
Not only did the image fully expose the most revered superstar of the time, it was revolutionary in that it reflected purity rather than sexuality. “John’s body is pretty average, and his wife is pretty average, so that’s how they said, ‘Don’t be ashamed of your body.’ It was from the Chronicle: “They were naked and fearless.”
In that sense, Wenner was confident enough in his early days to publish 10,000-word articles in magazines. “It made us different,” he said. [stories] It was too long. ”
Wenner believes some of the magazine’s early record reviews haven’t aged well either, including the scorched deletion of early Led Zeppelin albums and the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s appreciation of debuts. The Madness of Songs and Lyrics”.
“Some of the reviews were excruciatingly offensive,” says Wenner. “Frankly, that’s why I kicked Lester Bangs out. There was not.”
In the magazine’s early years, Wenner forged close ties with music industry giants like Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun, at one point obtaining funding from Columbia’s Clive Davis to keep the venture alive. Have you ever worried that something like that might jeopardize the magazine’s content? “I was sure I could resist it,” he said. “And people like Clive were sophisticated enough to know that our value to them depended on whether we were honest with our readers.”
Likewise, Wenner’s growing friendship with Mick Jagger didn’t stop Rolling Stone magazine from reporting the Stones’ misadventures at Altamont with brutal honesty. “We had no choice but to follow the true story,” he said.
But as time went on, things got a little darker as Wenner befriended stars like Bruce Springsteen and Bono. I wrote about how I waved to “I will not deny [adding] Sometimes I give an extra half star in record reviews,” Wenner said. ”
Ultimately, however, it had recognizable consequences. As the magazine became more and more successful, older readers began to say “sold out” on a regular basis. “It was everyone’s obsession,” he said Wenner. “It was best expressed by Timothy Leary, who said, ‘Our worry is not that he will become too commercial, but that he will become less commercial.’ I was. Enough!” He told me, ‘You have a very important role to play.’ ”
Up to that point, the magazine’s track record of critical articles published over the years had ranged from Hunter Thompson’s overzealous writing to scandalous revelations about Karen Silkwood to backstory on Patti Hearst’s whereabouts of the century. Amazing until you get the scoop. When even the FBI had no clue where she was.
Through all these victories, and his ever-growing public profile, Wenner has managed to keep his sexuality largely unknown. I write about secret sexual encounters with men dating back in time. His wife has been less conscious about that part of his life for decades. Wenner himself, inspired by his relationship with fashion designer Matt his Nye, did not fully embrace his sexuality until he was nearing the age of 50. Still, he reports having struggled little with that aspect of his life in the decades leading up to it. “I wasn’t going to come out of the closet,” he said. “I was a little nervous, but I was fine. I was raising young children. I had a family. There was no reason to rock the boat.”
When he discusses this subject in our interviews, it is impossible to tell whether Wenner is downplaying the specific emotions he experienced or is simply an expert in compartmentalization. Like competent people, he is seen as a man of action, not as one who reflects. At one point in our conversation, he called coming out: I feel so much better. In another, he said that if it weren’t for the fact that he had a crush on Nai, he might not have come out at all. he is still angry. “I don’t think it was justified,” he said. It was uncomfortable because I was trying to gate.
Today, his family has six children (three of whom are Nye and adopted), and being gay is “part of who I am. identify.
Since selling his shares in Rolling Stone five years ago, he’s had more time to focus on his role as a father. Perhaps the most emotional part of the book covers his separation from the magazine and the many factors that led up to it. The magazine is no longer maniacal and innovative,” he said. “It was ‘how to save money'”
Moreover, he was burned out by music. “It was very repetitive for me,” he said. “I didn’t want to read any more musician profiles.”
One of the final straws was the controversy that ensued after the magazine published an article about a non-occurring gang-rape at the University of Virginia. He attributes the magazine’s lack of rigor in reviewing women’s stories, in part, to “sympathy for the victims.” It meant that you shouldn’t push yourself too hard,” he said. “Take her word for it and don’t stress and humiliate her anymore.”
After selling the magazine to Jay Penske, Wenner stopped reading Rolling Stone. “It’s not about what I’m so interested in,” he said.
Instead, he’s reading novels, traveling, and raising his three young children. He has suffered serious health problems in recent years but said he is recovering well.”His back and legs are bad,” he admitted.
Additionally, he feels privileged to finally have the opportunity to celebrate his legacy in his own words. People may complain, but we did the right thing. ”