Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís

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SlyDanner

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Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« on: September 15, 2023, 08:07:00 PM »
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/15/arts/jann-wenner-the-masters-interview.html?searchResultPosition=1

Worth a read.  I know some people don't like copy/paste of long articles but this is behind the NYT paywall so hopefully some people find this helpful...

Interesting take on how JW let artists edit their own interviews.  Not very surprising, esp with the likes of Bono.

Jan does not come off looking very good here at all.  In fact quite the opposite IMO.


The co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine on the legacy of boomers and why he chose only white men for his book on rockís ďmasters.Ē
By David Marchese
Sept. 15, 2023, Updated 3:13 p.m. ET

In 2019, Jann Wenner officially left Rolling Stone, the magazine he co-founded in 1967, but he hasnít left it behind. Since stepping away from the iconic publication, where I briefly worked as an online editor a decade ago, Wenner, 77, has written two books rooted in his time there. The first, a hefty, dishy memoir called ďLike a Rolling Stone,Ē was a best seller after it was published last year. The second, ďThe Masters,Ē which will be published on Sept. 26, consists of interviews that Wenner conducted during his Rolling Stone years with rock legends like Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Bono and others, as well as a new interview with Bruce Springsteen.

Those interviews ó lengthy, deeply informed, insightful ó are the kinds of pieces that helped Rolling Stone earn the reputation it held for so long as the music publication. Under Wennerís guidance, the magazine also developed a reputation as a source of crucial and hard-hitting investigative journalism. But it has taken some reputational hits over the years. Chief among them a widely read investigative piece on an alleged rape at the University of Virginia ó which turned out to never have happened.

As befits a man who has been held up as an avatar of his generationís achievements and failings, Wenner has left behind a complex legacy. But itís one that heís happy to defend. Talking to Wenner, who spoke from his home in Montauk, N.Y., I couldnít help but suspect that he missed the cut-and-thrust of his journalism days. He was very willing, eager even, to engage in discussion about his approach to interviewing his famous rock star friends, his own and his magazineís possible missteps and what the baby boomers really achieved.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

You developed personal friendships with a lot of the people you interviewed in ďThe Masters.Ē Iím curious how you think those friendships helped the interviews, and are there any ways in which they hindered them?

By and large, they helped. Because the interviews I did, theyíre not confrontational interviews. Theyíre not interviews with politicians or business executives. These are interviews with artists. Theyíre meant to be sympathetic, and theyíre meant to elicit from the artist as deep as possible thinking that theyíre willing to reveal. I think that the friendships were critical. I mean, the example of Mick Jagger ó he just didnít give interviews to anybody, and he still doesnít. Itís because we were friends, I got him to do it. I had a particular kind of relationship with Bob Dylan. Jerry Garcia, we were old buddies from years ago. So, it really works. The only place it hurt was with Bruce. That was the interview I did for the book, not for the magazine. And my friendship with Bruce is very deep at this point. It makes it difficult to ask questions that you know the answers to. Youíre trimming your sails to the friendship.

In the Maureen Dowd profile of you last year, you said that the Rolling Stones look like ďLord of the RingsĒ characters. Did Mick Jagger give you a hard time about that?

Oh, yeah.

What did he say?

He couldnít believe I had said that. I had to say, Look, Iím so sorry. I was just, in the pursuit of publicity, trying to be super clever and please forgive me. Of course, he did. But it was one of those careless remarks. A friend shouldnít say that kind of thing. You donít want to read it in Maureen Dowdís thing in The New York Times. Oh, Mick Jagger looks like heís Gandalf the wizard. He was absolutely right and I felt terrible.

In the introduction to the Bono interview in ďThe Masters,Ē you mentioned that he edited and reviewed the transcript. What does editing mean in that context?

Looking for grammatical stuff, usage stuff; changing a word here and there, if heíd want to use a different word thatís more precise; maybe something was too intimate and he decides he doesnít want to put it on the public record. Iím happy to do that with these subjects. As I said before, these are not meant to be confrontational interviews. These are profiles in a way. If I have to trade the level of trust that is necessary to get this kind of interview, to let people put a few things off the record, nothing of any value, maybe something about their kids or their family or not wanting to put down somebody. I let John Lennon edit his interview, and everything he said in that interview óó

Oh, is that true? This is a famous interview from 1970. He unloaded his public feelings about the Beatles. But I didnít realize that you let him edit it.

Yes. He went through, and he made changes here and there. Basically, itís interview subjects clarifying what they want to say, making it more precise. Because itís a long stream of yap and verbiage and you sometimes donít think through every word. I want them to have the opportunity to say precisely what they meant.

I think itís fair to say that the average reader assumes that what shows up in the publication is basically what was said. But youíre saying, actually the subjects go over the transcripts. And, for example, you got pilloried for reviewing Mick Jaggerís ďGoddess in the Doorway,Ē giving it five stars, when the critical consensus on that album was that it was kind of a dud. The broader question is, when it comes to interviews with the people that you admire, who are also your friends, are you shading into something thatís a little more like fan service, or a kind of branding, than objective journalism?

Look, nothing was ever substantively changed from the original interviews. These are all minor changes that really get to accuracy and readability and all that stuff. Secondly, these were not meant to be confrontational interviews. They were always meant to be cooperative interviews.

But there arenít two kinds of interviews.

Yes, there are. The kind of interview I wanted to do was to elicit real thinking, not to confront or challenge or get somebody defensive. But letís go to the underlying thing: Did my too-cozy relationships alter our coverage?

Thatís right.

OK, letís go to the example of the Mick Jagger thing. The editors themselves put it at four stars, and there was not a critical backlash to the thing. The only backlash to it was from Keith Richards, who, instead of calling it ďGoddess in the Doorway,Ē called it ďDogshit in the Doorway.Ē Itís still quite a good album. So I personally intervened. Having sat there and listened to Mick make it, I was in love with it. I confess: I probably went too far. So what? Iím entitled.

Rolling Stone had a history of producing certain kinds of stories that ended up being definitive. But there were a handful of stories that raised questions of integrity. The U.Va. campus rape story would be one of those. Even Hunter S. Thompson ó I donít know that anyone would hold him up as a beacon of factual accuracy, regardless of the literary merit of his stories. Was there anything endemic to Rolling Stone that caused you to put the pursuit of the juicy story ahead of concerns with accuracy?

One word answer: no.

Is it just one-offs?

The University of Virginia story was not a failure of intent, or an attempt to be loose with the facts. You get beyond the factual errors that sank that story, and it was really about the issue of rape and how it affects women on campus, their lack of rights. Other than this one key fact that the rape described actually was a fabrication of this woman, the rest of the story was bulletproof. It wasnít for recklessness. I mean, we made one of those errors ó every publication in the country, including The Times, makes every 50 years at least. You get slammed for it. We took our beating. But it wasnít indicative of how we operated. It wasnít an error of being casual with the truth, or trying to stretch it, or mission creep, or anything like that.

Hunter, well, you know, sui generis. Hunter, in fact, was as accurate a reporter as Iíve ever had, but itís just that his stories went beyond facts, into areas of the truth and spirituality and pharmacology that none of us are really able to judge on our own. My mission always, journalistically speaking, was the truth is the most important thing. As we all know now, if somebody really wants to hoax you, thereís very little you can do about it. Except have the kind of hypervigilance that would mean you could probably publish nothing.

So almost a decade later, there are no lessons that you drew from that experience? In your mind, itís just wrong place, wrong time? That seems like sort of a glib response.

There are two main things in the story. One was the account of this gang rape given to us by this source, Jackie. That turned out to be a fabrication. Because we didnít want to identify her, we didnít demand to meet people to corroborate her story. Our mistake was to let her out of that demand, not wanting to put her through the trauma again. That was one story that ran through the long piece. The other story, having nothing to do with Jackie, was about the handling of rape on that campus by other people ó handling rape in general across the country. It was a conscientious, serious attempt to do that issue, and that was like the third piece by that particular individual on sex crimes and one of our second or third pieces about campus rape. So then the hoax was discovered and we lived with the consequence of that. It was one of the most miserable professional experiences Iíve ever had. I donít mean to be glib about it, but I donít feel wholly to blame for this, or that itís some terrible black mark. I think the lesson I learned is, yes, it does happen to everybody. The other thing is, of course, we could have been tighter. So, you know, thereís a series of circumstances. I canít pull out the hara-kiri knife for that one.

To go back to the book now, in the introduction to the book óó

Am I let off the hook, David? Am I forgiven?

Thatís not for me to decide.

History will speak.

History will speak. This is also a history-will-speak kind of question. There are seven subjects in the new book; seven white guys. In the introduction, you acknowledge that performers of color and women performers are just not in your zeitgeist. Which to my mind is not plausible for Jann Wenner. Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, the list keeps going ó not in your zeitgeist? What do you think is the deeper explanation for why you interviewed the subjects you interviewed and not other subjects?

Well, let me just. Ö

Carole King, Madonna. There are a million examples.

When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate. The selection was not a deliberate selection. It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way. The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them. Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.

Oh, stop it. Youíre telling me Joni Mitchell is not articulate enough on an intellectual level?

Hold on a second.

Iíll let you rephrase that.

All right, thank you. Itís not that theyíre not creative geniuses. Itís not that theyíre inarticulate, although, go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. Please, be my guest. You know, Joni was not a philosopher of rock íní roll. She didnít, in my mind, meet that test. Not by her work, not by other interviews she did. The people I interviewed were the kind of philosophers of rock.

Of Black artists ó you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right? I suppose when you use a word as broad as ďmasters,Ē the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didnít articulate at that level.

How do you know if you didnít give them a chance?

Because I read interviews with them. I listen to their music. I mean, look at what Pete Townshend was writing about, or Jagger, or any of them. They were deep things about a particular generation, a particular spirit and a particular attitude about rock íní roll. Not that the others werenít, but these were the ones that could really articulate it.

Donít you think itís actually more to do with your own interests as a fan and a listener than anything particular to the artists? I think the problem is when you start saying things like ďtheyĒ or ďthese artists canít.Ē Really, itís a reflection of what youíre interested in more than any ability or inability on the part of these artists, isnít it?

That was my No. 1 thing. The selection was intuitive. It was what I was interested in. You know, just for public relations sake, maybe I should have gone and found one Black and one woman artist to include here that didnít measure up to that same historical standard, just to avert this kind of criticism. Which, I get it. I had a chance to do that. Maybe Iím old-fashioned and I donít give a [expletive] or whatever. I wish in retrospect I could have interviewed Marvin Gaye. Maybe heíd have been the guy. Maybe Otis Redding, had he lived, would have been the guy.

The last interview in the book ó Springsteen, you ask him: Did we change things? You were talking about the boomers. And he has this humble, positive answer: We didnít fix all the worldís problems, but we moved some social ideas and practices forward. Whatís your answer to that question?

Bruce is a little more modest than I am. I think that we made striking changes socially and morally and artistically. I donít think rock íní roll changed everything. I donít think rock íní roll overturned segregation or the war in Vietnam, but we played huge parts in it. Both consciously and unconsciously. Despite the Trump thing, despite the Republican presidents of the last 30 years, which have held back enormous amounts of progress, society has become so much more liberal. I think rock íní roll played a huge role in that. Did it do everything? No. Was it the sole thing? No. But we did a lot.

So what are valid criticisms of your generation?

What didnít the rock íní roll generation do? I mean, it didnít get everything done. But I have no fundamental, deep criticisms. Is there something that you think we didnít get right?

I did one of these interviews a few years ago with Pete Townshend, and I asked him a similar question about the promise of rock íní roll ó how it ended up playing out. He was much more negative and, I think, realistic about that ó basically saying that the promise ended up being abandoned as soon as there was enough money and stardom. I think thatís a valid criticism. Something that had potential as a social force was reduced to entertainment.

Well, God bless Pete. I could have predicted what heíd say. Pete has got a pox on everybody.

But a smart man who has some good ideas.

Smart, articulate, a wonderful person to talk to. So you are saying, and Pete is saying, Oh, it became commercial?

That it ceased to have meaning beyond itself.

So it became commercial. It became successful. I think I say this somewhere in my introduction to the book that, despite the fact that it became a billion-dollar business, the ideals and goals were never abandoned. I mean, to reach the peak in our society is now being called becoming a rock star. Yes it became commercial, but so what? Itís still a music that speaks to peopleís deepest desires and innermost thoughts. Itís still a music of political consequence.

The financial success that these people had didnít require them to sell out. It required them to do more of the same. Be just as outrageous; do what youíre doing. Nobody said, You have to tone back your message now. I mean, God bless Pete, and I know heíd say that. But itís not true. The work was worthwhile, we had fun doing it. It was meaningful. We were very lucky. Weíve lived really privileged lives. Now we get to rest. At the same time, we can look at our kids and the world we leave behind as being as motivated and as inspired to do the same thing. In that sense, rock íní roll still lives ó and will live.

Well, thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

I enjoyed doing it. I wouldnít mind seeing the written transcript. Iíd be curious to look it over.

Yeah, right!

After itís published. God, forgive me.

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laoghaire

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2023, 10:20:17 PM »
Wow, what an ass.

Thanks for posting, Sly.

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Loyal Deserter

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2023, 01:41:54 AM »
Certainly an interesting read, and yeah, he does not come off well.  Seems like a man unable to confront or recognize his own failures.

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Tumbling Dice

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2023, 02:06:27 AM »
Mick Jagger, articulate?  He's as glib as Tony Blair.






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Soloyan

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Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2023, 05:00:58 AM »
I have a little experience with interviews and Iím just gonna say thisÖ

Itís not unusual for people to talk when youíre able to make them comfortable and theyíll regret it later today and ask you to edit.

That kind of control isnít exclusive to celebrities.

If you want people to talk to you, you got to maintain that kind of trust. So, either you edit it with them or convince them what they said will do no harm.
A dangerous idea that almost makes sense...

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laoghaire

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2023, 09:20:04 AM »
I didnít really have a problem with that part.

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Alphane

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2023, 10:33:09 AM »
This is why all interviews, whether in print or on video, should be taken with a grain of salt. Anything can be manipulated or edited to fit a specific narrative. Thanks for posting this.

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Phoenix Rising

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2023, 12:42:49 PM »
Jann S Wenner is likely the reason i ever picked up and read an RS magazine in the first place and yet he is also likely the reason i stopped reading it altogether. 

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SlyDanner

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2023, 01:06:29 PM »
I didnít really have a problem with that part.

yeah it was mostly his commentary on why he did not bother to include any female or non-white artists.   pretty amazing.

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laoghaire

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2023, 01:39:47 PM »
That and his bs about UVA were tied for the most nauseating bits.

No self reflection. No insight. Nothing he did was ever wrong. What a victim.

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So Cruel

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2023, 02:13:54 PM »
Wenner is the stereotypical upper class liberal looking down on everyone else. Heís just like a lot of the artists he covers, heís basically become what he was against when he was young.
Jealousy, it's not what it's cracked up to be
Envy, gets you where you need to be

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SlyDanner

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2023, 09:09:09 PM »

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MPare1966

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2023, 09:43:35 PM »
Wenner is the stereotypical upper class liberal looking down on everyone else. Heís just like a lot of the artists he covers, heís basically become what he was against when he was young.

What? A lefty has been canceled? ImpossibleÖ.
First Chair. Last Call.

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Mr Bourke

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2023, 09:50:12 PM »
This is what happens to entitled cokeheads who have long outlived their relevance and their usefulness. Only someone as detached from reality as Wenner has been for the last 40 years would have paraded a bunch of old white rock dinosaur assholes as "philosophers of rock" in his new book and then, by way of promoting it in the New York Times, implied that women and black people hadn't the intelligence to make the cut. He is, right now, being written out of history. Just as many of those whom he debased himself to get interviews with will be too in due course, including the dwarf. Republishing his diabolically awful interview with the dwarf - "The psalms, the psalms..." - a degenerate exercise in avoidance of the reality of the subject's life - itself demonstrates how decades-long out of touch Wenner was. Good riddance.

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So Cruel

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Re: Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy, and His Generationís
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2023, 10:05:14 PM »
Wenner is the stereotypical upper class liberal looking down on everyone else. Heís just like a lot of the artists he covers, heís basically become what he was against when he was young.

What? A lefty has been canceled? ImpossibleÖ.

Very possible. Heís a hardcore liberal, turned Rolling Stone from a music mag to a political rag years ago. A member of the NY elite cocktail parties scene. A complete douchbag.
Jealousy, it's not what it's cracked up to be
Envy, gets you where you need to be