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January 5, 2013

“On the Cover of the Rolling Stone”: Magazines in Music

playlist_rollingstone_300.jpgHow are magazines playing an informative, entertaining role in the world of music? Check out our playlist of songs inspired by magazines.

Music is certainly well represented in the magazine world. But how about the reverse? How are magazines–those publications that can play such an informative, entertaining role in our lives–represented in the world of music?

Quite well, in fact. A search of lyrics on the website songmeanings.net brings up 50 pages–nearly 1,000 songs–that mention the word “magazine” in some manner. There was even a band named Magazine, an influence on the likes of Radiohead, Morrissey and U2.

If you’re looking to stock up your iPod with some magazine-related tunes, the following list–by no means comprehensive, nor intended to be–will get you off to a solid start.

“Vogue” by Madonna (1990)
The Material Girl not only name-checks (indirectly) one of fashion’s most recognized magazines in this song’s title, she also confirms just how important magazine covers are as taste-makers and definers of beauty.

Greta Garbo, and Monroe
Dietrich and DiMaggio
Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
On the cover of a magazine

“Cover of the Rolling Stone” by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (1972)
Songwriter Shel Silverstein took a lighthearted shot at the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle–the groupies, the drugs, the limos and more–in the verses of this song while simultaneously celebrating what most musicians would see as career peak in the catchy chorus:

Rolling Stone
Wanna see my picture on the cover
Rolling Stone
Wanna buy five copies for my mother
Rolling Stone
Wanna see my smilin’ face
On the cover of the Rolling Stone

Incidentally, the song’s performers, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, were featured on Rolling Stone magazine‘s cover on March 29, 1973, a few months after the song’s release. Country legend Buck Owens recorded a re-worked version in 1974 titled “On the Cover of the Music City News.”

“Billionaire” by Travie McCoy (2010)
This reggae-styled pop/rap track has recently been making a name for itself on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 and Pop charts. A parental advisory warning is in order for a few F-bombs and more, but no one can deny McCoy’s logic that you’ve truly reached billionaire status when you’re “on the cover of Forbes magazine / Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen.”

“Cover of a Magazine” by Deana Carter (2003)
This country artist, who had a runaway hit with “Strawberry Wine,” tackles a variety of magazine-related subjects in this song: body image, advertising and consumerism, and what magazines are best at–escapism (“For $2.99 you get to sink your hooks / In the lives of heroes, in the lives of crooks”). Yet the ultimate goal remains being a glamorous cover model herself.

“Centerfold” by J. Geils Band (1981)
“I’ll Wait” by Van Halen (1984)
“Cover Girl” by Cheap Trick (1985)

This rock ‘n’ roll triumvirate of prurient obsession with female magazine models offers insight into what was on guys’ minds in the early ’80s–and just about every other time period before and since. J. Geils Band best sums up the stereotypical male’s powerlessness against the draw of certain come-hither covers at the newsstand: “Oh no, I can’t deny it / Oh yeah, I guess I gotta buy it!”

“The Girl on the Magazine Cover” by Richard Beavers (1948)
This oldie, written by celebrated composer Irving Berlin and sung by Richard Beavers in Berlin’s 1948 musical “Easter Parade”–starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire–is essentially the G-rated, gentlemanly version of Cheap Trick’s “Cover Girl.” Somehow I doubt Berlin’s line “It seems they painted her just for me” packed the same punch in its heyday as Cheap Trick’s “Biting her lips, shaking her hips / You know she looked so fine” did in ’85.

“In This Skin” by Jessica Simpson (2003)
Serving as an antidote and response to the ogling, scrutinizing nature of the previous four tracks, this cathartic song showcases Simpson trying to learn to be happy with herself, ultimately ignoring the expectations and pressures imposed by others.

They see me in a magazine
I’m the one they want to be
Still don’t feel I’m good enough
Still don’t feel I’m thin enough

“Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John (1973)
Featuring what is easily the most famous four-syllable pronunciation of “magazine” (MAG-uh-zah-EEN), this enduring hit includes a discussion among friends who become hip to a new female-fronted musical act (and attitude) through word-of-mouth and magazine coverage.

Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots, a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine

“The Way We Get By” by Spoon (2002)
This superb rock tale of disaffected youth confirms, like “Bennie and the Jets,” the role of magazines as a herald of new trends: “We found a new kind of dance in a magazine / Tried it out, it’s like nothing you ever seen.”

“A Magazine Called Sunset” by Wilco (2003)
In a testament to the power of magazines, like music, to become intertwined with memories and emotions, the band Wilco taps into the spirit of a publication that captures the inspiration and imagery of the Western United States: Sunset magazine.

There’s a magazine called Sunset
And a tape machine that won’t let
Me ever forget this impossible longing for you

Have a favorite magazine-related song that didn’t make this list? Let us know about it in the comment section below.

 



About the Author

Doug Brumley
Doug Brumley
Don’t be too jealous, fellas, but freelance writer and editor Doug Brumley has been paid to play video games, he’s lived and traveled with a popular pop-rock band, he’s worked for an NHL franchise and he brews beer. (You can follow his pursuits of the latter at his blog, FledglingBrewer.com.) A longtime Nashvillian who's passionate about music and film, Doug is also a caring husband and father—unless there’s hockey on TV.