What music did I discover 35 years ago?
July 30, 2019 10:09 AM   Subscribe

As a teenager in the mid-80s I used the geek’s approach to learning about new music: find a comprehensive source and soak it up. The source I glommed on to was... Rolling Stone (when it was no longer countercultural but not as corporate as it is now). Thinking back I can point to lots of interesting artists that I discovered via the back-of-the-book record-review column. I’d love to find an archive of that column from the 1980s to see if some of my other favorite bands initially came to my attention this way — and to find out what the reviewers said that piqued my interest.

So I had forgotten altogether about this source of musical information until the time came to close down my childhood home a few years back. I came upon a stash of old RSes and had a ball reading the reviews of major releases (unsurprisingly, no big-name artist ever got a bad review for a splashy new release) as well as the minor, quirky ones that in some cases really contributed to broadening my musical interests so many years ago. But I only had a few issues at hand — and at some point I’d like to go through the entire archive and make connections between a review I’d maybe barely noticed the first time around and various aspects of my musical tastes today.

The current RS site hides what archives it has behind a paywall, and it doesn’t seem likely that the archive actually is complete enough to give me what I’m looking for.

Occasionally some advanced googling brings up people who’ve digitized individual issues in order to comment on the cigarette ads etc, but that just feeds my hunger. Anyone know where I can come upon this stuff without having to track down back issues in consignment shops? Ideally free or cheap.

FYi, if I ransack my memory I can remember reading reviews of the following and being intrigued enough to keep an eye out at my 1980s-era sources for actual music (used-record and later used-CD stores, the public library, etc). All of which I would recommend thoroughly. (And yes, some of this begins to trend into the 90s...). Some have become mainstream in the interim but some have not.

The Silos
The dBs
The Feelies and various subgroups
Richard Thompson
House of Freaks
Zeitgeist / the Reivers
K McCarty and her album of Daniel Johnston covers
Barbara Manning
Grapes of Wrath
Mazzy Star
Sam Phillips
posted by sesquipedalia to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Never read Rolling Stone , but your question got me remembering a show called Video Concert Hall I used to watch religiously as a teen in the pre-MTV 80s. Introduced me to the A's, The Sports, the Shoes, Spider, the Dickies, Squeeze, Split Enz, and Iggy Pop to fuel my new wave/punk mania. Cool thing was that this fringe stuff was interspersed with Abba, Melissa Manchester, Supertramp, and Captain and Tenille. That's how I found out about new music when I was that age. Besides perusing my friends' collections of course.
posted by cross_impact at 10:31 AM on July 30, 2019

Here's an article about where Rolling Stone is indexed. My search also lead to an older piece about Google Play archiving the full archives of RS? The latter definitely sounds like a pay-to-access model.
posted by correcaminos at 10:35 AM on July 30, 2019

If you enjoyed finding and going through your rediscovered stash of pape-and-glue RS, you might want to grab some copies from your era on eBay. Looks like they often go for less than what they sold for in the 80s.

Way more fun than trying to poke through a paywall.
posted by quarterframer at 11:23 AM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Madison Public Library has the magazines on DVD-ROM. Most likely you can access electronic versions via Ebsco or another database. UW Madison also has it on microform and on a number of databases.
posted by fixedthefernback at 12:15 PM on July 30, 2019

You might enjoy reading the 1992 edition of the The Rolling Stone Album Guide--it covers more than just '80s music, but it also sort of shows what mainstream critical consensus looked like at the time (supplant with a period-appropriate Trouser Press or Spin for something a little more alternative-leaning). (The Rolling Stone guide doesn't include as much hip-hop, electronic music, international artists, etc. as I would prefer, but it covers a lot of what it sounds like you're looking for.)

If you can't find a copy at your local library, or via interlibrary loan, you can find a used copy for like five bucks.
posted by box at 12:53 PM on July 30, 2019

i just checked and the EBSCO subscriptions at my university library only go back to 1990 for the digital version of rolling stone.
posted by noloveforned at 12:56 PM on July 30, 2019

Looking at your list of bands, are you sure it wasn't SPIN magazine?
posted by rhizome at 3:31 PM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah I relied on both Spin and RS for this, and Spin was the better of the two, except for the weird jazz. If you find an RS archive you will probably find a Spin one, too.
posted by notyou at 9:11 PM on July 30, 2019

Sorry this probably doesn't help, but Zeitgeist were on an episode of MTV's The Cutting Edge before the name change, which is how I found out about them.

The Madison Public Library has the magazines on DVD-ROM

I have to think this is fairly common, or bound series. For hunting purposes, it looks like issues #300-575 cover the 80s.
posted by rhizome at 12:23 AM on July 31, 2019

I have the Rolling Stone Magazine 1967-2007 Cover to Cover , which has complete issues archived on disk. I got mine cheap at a Half Price Books a few years back. They are also on eBay, and look like they aren't too expensive.
posted by Otis at 11:05 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

You can subscribe to Rock’s Back Pages.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:29 PM on July 31, 2019

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