Rolling Stone's Response to Attempted Censorship of Rock 'n' Roll
Lindsey R. Fore
Rock 'n' roll music, touted by scholars and critics as "the first unavoidable mass cultural commodity explicitly aimed at teenagers,"1 also has been labeled an "immense homogenizer that absorbs the musical traditions and innovations of people separated in every other way, by race, by economic class, by region, by ideology, and recycles them in endless combinations."2 Regarded as "much more than music for its devotees; it is a subculture in the strictest sense of the word."3 Initially, the majority of the writing on rock music took the position that rock music was a "low-grade gimmick,"4 but later scholars of popular culture wrote on the social, economic, and political functions, and the music's possible implications. One ignored area has been censorship -- the regulation or control of rock music. Because the acts of regulation or control influence not only individual expressions of rock -- the artists' songs and stage performances -- but the field of rock 'n' roll as a whole, researchers still need to examine the critical climate of the attempted control and regulation of rock music5 from the inception of the music form through its development over the past 40 years. Thus, this chapter focuses on a decade-by-decade description of responses from the most popular, music-oriented mass media, such as Variety and Billboard, about those regulations and controls but in particular the major rock music magazine, Rolling Stone. Because Rolling Stone started publication 13 years after rock 'n' roll began, other magazines that specialized in popular music also will be used initially.
One attempted area of control of the new creative music sounds and messages is by public criticism. Public disapproval has been especially notable in the past decade by special interest groups, which have focused on the music at congressional hearings and has asked for specific censorship actions. Radio and television stations, as well as regulatory agencies, have banned particular rock and more recently rap music. Magazines for rock music consumers and the industry, such as Billboard and RollingStone