I love magazines.
Even as the internet and economy continue to throw the medium’s long-term prognosis in doubt, I can always be counted on to renew my subscriptions and load up on various issues at the newsstand. While it’s true that all magazines are dramatically thinner these days, and that the internet makes a 30-day wait for features and information seem like forever, I remain an ardent fan of periodicals.
I have favorites; dependable, content-rich rags that are must-haves for an extended trip to the bathroom, a taxiing on the runway marathon, or a going-nowhere-fast, unshaven Sunday morning.
Number one on my list? Classic Rock, a British pub that gives ink to established guitar/bass/drums combos from the past 40 years, and new bands of note. In the U.S., “Classic Rock” is a radio format. Defined by this magazine, it’s a term more properly expressed as rock music and its ongoing evolution.
Unlike American magazines (or music sites), a band’s “hotness” doesn’t determine whether or not a band gets covered in Classic Rock. The magazine rejects the idea of 15 minutes of fame, choosing instead to offer ongoing press for artists long after their mass appeal and commercial viability have expired. It’s really the only magazine I know of that can intelligently review new albums by Pissed Jeans, Europe, Robin Trower, and Flaming Lips all in the same section.
I’ve learned a lot from reading the magazine over the past 2-3 years, most of it about our cultural attitudes towards music here in the States. In America, we dismiss anything old or out of fashion as insignificant, lame, or…embarrassing. A younger James was guilty of buying into all those too-cool-for-school outward expressions of insecurity. A modern James is totally okay with a full length article about Mott the Hoople only pages away from an interview with Pearl Jam. Hell, I’ll even play along with this month’s one-page interview with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson (which sits opposite a short interview with Pere Ubu’s David Thomas).
Did I mention that each issue comes with a CD? Thanks to those free CDs, I was well aware of new bands like Cage the Elephant long before stateside hipsters started to praise them (while damning all of the band’s antecedents in the same breath).