Rock Hall Exhibit Looks at 50 Years of 'Rolling Stone,' Down to the Cigarette Butts

May 8, 2017

John Lennon was on the first cover of 'Rolling Stone' in 1967. One of his final interviews was with the magazine on Dec. 5, 1980, just days before he was murdered. This cover photo is among the last taken during Lennon's lifetime and graced the magazine's tribute issue on January 22, 1981.
Credit ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE

A new exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame looks back at five decades of pop culture as covered by “Rolling Stone” magazine.

“The Supremes’ Greatest Hits” was the No. 1 album in the country the day “Rolling Stone” first hit newsstands on Nov. 9, 1967.

The exhibit features covers from hundreds of issues, including the first one – a promotional still of John Lennon from the film “How I Won the War.” Curator Karen Herman says it was a major task deciding what to include.

“We really wanted to show how it evolved. Show also that not all of the covers are of artists: that there are politicians; there are other people who are featured on the covers. And also we worked really closely with the ‘Rolling Stone’ team, because they know those covers backwards and forwards and they know which ones really hit the consciousness.”

Saving something from everything
Herman says there was a wealth of other material to choose from, since the magazine seemed to archive everything.

“If someone wrote a Letter to the Editor– in fact, there’s a letter from Grace Slick in the exhibit, and they kept the envelope! Everything was really well-preserved.”

Also included in the exhibit are excerpts from the tapes of the original interviews published in the magazine. There’s also a re-creation of Publisher Jann Wenner’s first office, which was above the shop in San Francisco where the magazine was printed. Herman says Wenner found the office accurate down to the cigarette butts in the ashtray on his desk.