Someone on the Rara-avis list mentioned that Greil Marcus reviewed James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss in Rolling Stone. This comment brought the following response from the mild-mannered Kevin Burton Smith:
"Gee, I remember that one too -- it made me go out and buy the book, which I still think is Crumley's best by far. And didn't Marcus also do a column on Chandler about the same time, a collection of his best wisecracks?
"And how the story about Warren Zevon and Ross Macdonald? And the Macdonald obit? And the original version of Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities? The Patty Hearst story? Mikal Gilmore's coverage of his brother's execution? All those great (and disturbing) true crime
stories? Hunter S. Thompson? P.J. O'Rourke? Dave Marsh? Charles M. Young? And on and on.
"It's a sad world when the most famous Rolling Stone staffer is now lightweight filmmaker Cameron Crowe, whose lightweight rock crit career reached its pinnacle with his penning of the liner notes for Frampton Comes Alive.
"Kids, believe it or not, once upon a time Rolling Stone was much much more than just a marginally hipper version of People. Forget the cutting edge (and often surprisingly hard-boiled) writing on lit and music and politics and culture, now it's mostly, to quote those other Stones, starfuckastarfuckastarfuckastarfuckastar and regularly scheduled special issues and tributes to itself."
Well, I couldn't have said it better myself, which is why I asked Kevin if it would be okay for me to reprint his remarks here. I actually know nothing at all about the current incarnation of the magazine, but I was a subscriber from the late 1960s until the middle 1980s. By then it had begun to be of little interest to me. I'll never forget, however, the story that Kevin mentions, the one about Macdonald and Warren Zevon. I went out and bought Zevon's album (it was an LP, which you oldsters will understand), and it was so good that I bought every Zevon album afterward, which means I have a couple on 8-track, some on cassette, and others on CD.
But what about those great issues of Rolling Stone from the early days? Since I save everything, don't I still have them around? No, and that's the point of this post. When I left Howard Payne U. to come here and teach in Alvin, I had no room for all those back issues. However, there was a great storage cabinet in the Main Building on the floor where I taught. I'd been keeping the magazines there for years, and I thought it would be a great place to leave them. If I ever wanted them, I could just go back and get them. Well, Robert Burns told us a long time ago about the best-laid plans and what happens to them. In this case, Old Main burned to the ground the year after I left, and mingled in with the ashes of everything else were those of my Rolling Stone collection. I think about it every now and then. Sic transit gloria mundi, or words to that effect.