Rolling Stone 1,000 Covers
Rolling Stone 1,000 Covers: A History of the Most Influential Magazine in Pop Culture
Abrams: 2006

This book, the complete collection of Rolling Stone covers from 1967 to the present, represents not just the evolution of a magazine but a record of our times. For almost four decades, no surer sign has heralded the arrival of a performer, artist or personality than an appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone. Virtually every important rock musician and movie star has appeared on one of the nearly one thousand covers reproduced here, along with the politicians, comedians, cartoon characters, filmmakers, pop singers and TV actors who have helped to shape our era.

Many of them have gladly turned up time and again: Mick Jagger, who has been on the cover twenty–seven times – sometimes alone, sometimes with the band or Keith – claims the all–time record. The shrewdest among our cover subjects collaborated with us in the creation and refinement of their public images. Many of those powerful pictures have since grown to define an era. When I started Rolling Stone in November 1967, the magazine’s initial charter was to cover rock & roll music with intelligence and respect. Even then, we knew the fervor sweeping our generation encompassed more than just music. And so we gradually broadened the charter to include everything the music touched, embraced or informed: politics, movies, television, video games, the Internet, sports, crime, comic books, gurus, groupies, hippies, Jesus freaks, narcs, pimps, drugs and all the other forms of American social behavior, pathological, heroic and otherwise. These events and personalities were captured for the cover of Rolling Stone by some of the finest photographers of our time. A partial list would include Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger, Richard Avedon, Anton Corbijn, Albert Watson, Herb Ritts, David LaChapelle, Martin Schoeller, Hiro, Platon, Francesco Scavullo, Matt Mahurin and Matthew Rolston. In addition, a great roster of illustrators and cartoonists have conjured and invented for the cover: Matt Groening, Mike Judge, Garry Trudeau, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Ralph Steadman, Maurice Sendak, Paul Davis, Milton Glaser, Robert Grossman, Gottfried Helnwein, Daniel Maffia, Andy Warhol and Anita Kunz, among others.

Many of these covers have been controversial, even shocking, so here now is fair warning to those who are offended by flesh: Plenty of skin has been artfully arranged and displayed beneath our famous logo. Rolling Stone pioneered the trend of nude “star” covers with John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s full–body shots in November 1968. At the time, nudity was a political statement, health clubs were for the weird and obsessed, and I had yet to fully appreciate readers’ insatiable curiosity about the naked bodies of their heroes and heroines.

John and Yoko’s self–portraits were taken in their London flat for the front and back covers of their album “Two Virgins” – which their label’s distributor had issued wrapped in brown paper, despite John’s status as the leader of the Beatles. At the suggestion of Rolling Stone’s cofounder, writer Ralph J. Gleason, I telexed our friend Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ publicist and soul mate, in London with an offer to print said pictures in our magazine. The photo wound up on the cover of our first anniversary issue – our first sellout issue, and the first time we went back to press. Although it may seem tame from today’s perspective, the idea of someone so famous and so physically average standing stark naked for all the world to see was quite extraordinary – shocking, to be sure, but above all revolutionary and moving.

Magazine–making is a collaborative art, and over the years I have worked with the most dedicated and talented people in publishing, including editors whose duties included writing the lines of cover text that tease the newsstand browser into a purchase. “Dial Om for Murder,” for an account of criminal behavior in a religious sect, “He’s Hot, He’s Sexy and He’s Dead,” for a story on Jim Morrison’s posthumous success and “Naked Lunch Box,” for Annie Leibovitz’s provocative undressed shots of teen idol David Cassidy, are among my favorites.

When the magazine started in 1967, I didn’t understand the importance of a cover and all the things it could do. It not only defines a magazine’s identity, but greatly determines sales and also confers a special status to the cover subject. There were some odd choices in the early years, but on the whole they were adventurous, and often powerful – we simply weren’t driven by newsstand considerations in the first ten years.

The cover of – November 9th, 1967 – was a wonderful, revealing accident. The photograph of John Lennon was a publicity still from a mostly forgotten film by Richard Lester called “How I Won the War.” The Rolling Stone logo was an unfinished draft of a design by San Francisco psychedelic–poster artist Rick Griffin, who was planning to refine it until I used his sketch in order to get it to the printer on time.) In hindsight, it was prescient of us to feature John Lennon on the first cover. That one image speaks volumes about the marriage of music and movies and politics that came to define Rolling Stone.

In the early Sixties, there was no tradition of rock photography. In London some good photographers –David Bailey, Snowden and Sir Cecil Beaton among them – had shot the Stones, the Beatles and a few other bands. In San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, however, that hadn’t happened yet photographs of rock stars were generally publicity stills or shots from the stage, with a microphone obscuring much of the performer’s face. I decided we should do better than that and took on a friend and professional. Baron Wolman, as our first staff photographer. Bringing Baron into the mix, along with the feisty Jim Marshall, a San Franciscoan who had been avidly shooting the jazz and folk scene, and a few other West Coast photographers who were just beginning to do good work, distinguished us quickly. They didn’t create a particular look or impose a particular style on the bands as much as produce clean, crisp photography, well–composed and artfully lit. Perhaps most valuably, they lived the life, knew the bands and understood what they wanted to say.

Our first full–time art director was Robert Kingsbury, a wood sculptor and teacher who had never worked for a publication. Bob turned out to be brilliant at sifting through all the black–and–white stills we were accumulating to find a striking image. It was still a few years before we were shooting photographs specifically for covers, and Bob did wonders with what we had on hand.

Those covers were done on the fly, and yet many of them stand up. The blue solarized cover of Eric Clapton (RS 10) was taken by Linda Eastman, later to become Linda McCartney – the first woman to shoot a Rolling Stone cover. Linda went on to take many memorable early photographs, including some of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

Another of our early lessons in publishing was that death sells. When Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died within weeks of each other, our staff placed simple, classic portraits on the cover, with type stating just the artist’s names and dates of birth and death. There was nothing more to say. That began a form of tribute that we’ve followed ever since. When somebody in the magazine’s purview dies, the cover is created with dignity and respect, and the coverage inside is exhaustive, sometimes highly personal and in many cases brilliant.

In 1970, a twenty–year–old art student named Annie Leibovitz brought her portfolio to us. “She had just returned from a year in Israel,” Bob Kingsbury remembers, “and I liked one of her pictures from the trip. I thought she showed a lot of potential, and she was just a kid. We hired her.” While still attending the San Francisco Art Institute, Annie became the magazine’s second staff photographer. Later that year, she flew with me to New York for her first major assignment, a commissioned cover portrait of John Lennon to accompany my historic interview “Lennon Remembers.”

What turned out to be the cover shot was taken during a light–meter reading. John, who was “thinking nothing,” as he later recalled, looked right through the lens at Annie. For her (and for the magazine), this was a defining moment, what she has called her “first encounter” with a subject. It’s John’s humanity that comes through in the shot. It was not the one she had wanted as our cover, but to me this photo was so simple and so stark, it was a natural choice. The directness of the eye contact, the simplicity and the truth in it all presage the best of Annie’s work. I still have the framed picture near my desk. I’ve carried it around with me from office to office since 1971.

Annie considered herself a photojournalist at the time, working with a thirty–five–millimeter camera and, for the most part, natural lighting, which was the foundation for most of her later work. Over the next three or four years, her work began to mature, and the Rolling Stone covers became portraits. And so for a while the covers are portrait after portrait; not all of them are Annie’s, but they’re all in the mold we began to establish with the John Lennon cover.

In February 1973, we changed printers and began regularly publishing four–color covers. After years of black–and–white or two–color covers, the new format opened up endless possibilities and challenges. A few months later we went from a quarter–fold to a tabloid format, increasing the size of our covers from 8 ½ inches by 11 inches to 10 ½ inches by 15 inches. I brought in Michael Salisbury, the very imaginative and brash art director of the Sunday rotogravure magazine of the Los Angeles Times. He was our first professional art director – with a live–wire personality and his own historical references as the one–time art director of Surfer magazine.

Michael brought us into the world of illustration and “concept covers,” and we started getting a little crazier. Michael’s first cover was an illustration for an interview I’d done with Daniel Ellsberg, of “Pentagon Papers” fame–Michael showed it to me at the last minute (which would become a habit of his), so there was no chance of changing it. But it was perfect: a heroic profile of Ellsberg – as if on a coin or a sculpture – accompanied by a cover line we took from the Declaration of Independence: “Let facts be submitted to a candid world.” The image illustrated the point exactly.

“Rolling Stone’s identity was in not only how it read, but also how it looked,” Michael says. “And that was defined by the photography. The typography and the newspaper format gave a young publication legitimacy and credibility, but the pictures added personality and depth.”

Our illustrated covers were often as whimsical as they were memorable: Witness Robert Grossman’s visions of a blimp–like Jerry Garcia (RS 148) and the members of the Who tangled in microphone cords (RS 275) “Artwork can be more iconic than photos,” says Grossman, who calls Rolling Stone “a friend to illustrators.” Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau has drawn four covers for the magazine so far, beginning with an image of his Uncle Duke character, whom he had based on Hunter S. Thompson (RS 194). “That cover was my hip moment –which meant I had to pretend it was no big deal,” Trudeau says. “But of course it was. I may have hung it in my closet, but it was framed. Nicely.” Sought–after illustrator Daniel Maffia took an alternate, more photorealistic approach, creating evocative watercolor images of Jackson Browne (RS 228) and Pete Townshend. “I wasn’t into music, but I respected the magazine very much,” says Maffia. “It gave me a lot of creative freedom.”

In September 1974, Tony Lane became the magazine’s third full–time art director. Tony, who came from Holiday and Harper’s Bazaar, had a distinct vision and style, and he wanted badly to work with Annie. Tony proceeded to take the cover to a sparer, poster–type look. Annie was still learning, soaking up everything, honing her craft and doing a great number of covers along the way.

The next year, Annie came with me to lunch at the studio of Richard Avedon. I had begun discussions with him about photographic coverage of the 1976 presidential elections and thought it would be fun for Annie to meet Dick, and to explore new ideas and new directions for the magazine.

That day we planned the heroic black–and–white cover photograph of Mick and Keith that appeared on our July 17th, 1975, issue. I was trying to get Annie to imitate Avedon’s more formal style of working, and suggested she make it very simple and shoot the two Stones as partners. It worked brilliantly and is still one of my favorites.

Annie busted loose with marvelous covers: Bob Marley in the throes of ecstasy, Paul Simon in his window overlooking Central Park. One of the most memorable to me is the portrait of Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson, reemerged after years of exile inside his bedroom (RS 225). Annie shot a black–and–white photo of Brian as surf patriarch in his bathrobe, holding a board. We had it hand–colored in the style of an old pastel postcard.

Another of my favorites is the Fleetwood Mac cover (RS 235). Annie posed them on an unmade bed, which brilliantly solved the perennial graphic problem of getting multiple group members in the frame in a new and interesting way. And I loved Annie’s lush image of Bette Midler on a bed of roses (RS 306). What a beauty.

Annie’s attitude was, “Give me a great idea – who cares where it comes from?” Our collaboration was nearly always a happy one. We were working together constantly, thinking up things to do with the cover, and our work was us.

In 1976, Rolling Stone published “The Family,” a special issue of Avedon’s portraits (RS 224), for which we won the magazine industry’s highest honor, a National Magazine Award. Dick wanted to shoot the entire political and economic power structure of the United States. It was a months–long adventure, with Dick traveling around the country shooting presidents, corporate bosses, labor leaders and family matriarch Rose Kennedy: the real American establishment. It was an instant classic. I don’t think any magazine had ever before done anything like it. This marked the start of Avedon’s relationship with Rolling Stone. In a few years, we had him collaborating with the likes of Prince and Eddie Murphy.

We had the access. The world inhabited by Rolling Stone and its subjects was tighter, smaller and, for the most part, devoid of the public–relations mavens who attend to celebrities now. Those we didn’t know personally, we certainly knew by reputation. And they knew us.

In 1977, we moved our entire operation from the San Francisco warehouse district to New York’s Fifth Avenue. Within five days of our arrival, somebody walked into my new office and said, “Elvis is dead.” We postponed the planned special issue celebrating our move and found a great picture of a smiling Elvis in his prime – an obscure old poster none of us had ever seen.

In April 1976, Roger Black, who was a typographer by training, took over as art director. Suddenly, type became very important. The Roman numeral X was Roger’s idea for our Tenth Anniversary cover, which also marked the end of our funky, hand–drawn logo and the initiation of a new, bolder logo typeface. We took it from all caps to upper– and lowercase characters and eliminated the swashes and ligatures between some of the letters. (Jim Parkinson, who did the new version, became our in–house type designer.) It was the beginning of another phase, and in my Editor’s Note I wrote that the new logo “symbolizes as much as anything what we are up to: respectful of our origins, considerate of new ideas and open to the times to come.”

Annie’s covers at this time were, as always, brilliant: The Blues Brothers painted blue (RS 285) seemed so clichéd but turned out to be timeless. Years later, when Annie’s work was hung at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., outside the columned building two large images were suspended from the arches: Gilbert Charles Stuart’s George Washington and Annie’s cover portrait of Patti Smith before a wall of flames (RS 270).

In 1980, Mick Jagger and I were having a late–night discussion about Rolling Stone. Mick is a very serious reader; he understands how the magazine works. He didn’t really like the new logo because, he said, we had taken out much of the character, the funkiness. So we put back the curlicue at the end of the E, made the loop on the bottom of the G, restored ligatures and swashes and brought the “roll” back in to the R. Thanks Mick, you were right.

We planned to unveil the “new” logo – the Jagger revision – simultaneously with another paper–quality upgrade and a different trim size. Our first issue of 1981 was to feature a new Annie photograph of John and Yoko timed with the completion of their upcoming album, “Double Fantasy.”

At this session, on December 8th, 1980, they greeted Annie like an old friend, and the pictures show three people working with commitment. From a Polaroid test shot, John and Yoko chose the image they wanted for the cover. That night John was assassinated outside his home. The haunting, spectral image of John, naked and curled around Yoko in the fetal position – along with the photos inside – were the last portraits taken of him. In the wake of his death, there was no need for a headline, and for the first time in the magazine’s history, we ran a cover without one. If I had to choose, I guess this is the best cover we’ve ever done.

In 1983, after ten years as chief photographer and 142 covers, Annie left the magazine. Her legacy and remarkable body of work continue to influence the art of photography and the lives of young photographers, and she is one of the handful of people who can be said to have been a principal in creating what Rolling Stone became.

We could not replace Annie, so we took the opportunity to use a wide array of photographers. Avedon shot covers, as did Albert Watson, David Bailey, Hiro, Bonnie Schiffman, Steven Meisel and Matthew Rolston.

Herb Ritts, a master of celebrity portraiture, captured the look of the Eighties in his best work. For a good stretch he became our most–featured cover photographer, contributing forty–six covers over two decades. He ran his sessions like a sure–handed movie director, confident in his ability to create a hip, stylized kind of beauty. The understated sexiness of Herb’s covers flows naturally from attitude, not props or tricks. He photographed Bruce Springsteen, Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Claudia Schiffer, Warren Beatty, Julia Roberts, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more stars for us. “At the end of the day, Herb loved shooting for Rolling Stone because he was allowed to create the images he wanted to create,” says Herb’s longtime executive producer, Mark McKenna. “Herb thrived on spontaneity.”

Herb’s shot of a topless Cindy Crawford standing on a Malibu beach at sunset (RS 672/673) proved to be one of our best–selling covers ever. He believed that everybody should look beautiful, and he could make anybody look like an idol or a god, whether that person was Cindy Crawford or a sixty–year–old Bob Dylan (RS 882). His final cover for the magazine, depicting a shirtless Justin Timberlake (RS 914), was on the newsstands just after the photographer died of pneumonia in 2002 at age fifty. It’s one of our sexiest male covers ever.

By 1987, I’d become restless and wanted a new art director, a fresh collaboration. Fred Woodward, whom we had been watching set fire to Texas Monthly, confessed to me in our initial meeting that he had dreamed of being the art director of Rolling Stone since he was fifteen. Fred arrived at his dream job as we were counting down to a Twentieth Anniversary special issue. It was perfect timing. He and his new staff hit the bound volumes of past issues to conduct a blitzkrieg retrospective of our design history – on deadline. “I was running on pure adrenaline, and I was scared to death,” Fred recalls. “I wanted to do work that measured up to that twenty–year legacy.”

Fred successfully reconnected the magazine’s new look to its past, producing an amazing body of work that not only kept Rolling Stone supplied with awards for design excellence but earned him a place in the Art Director’s Hall of Fame, as its youngest member ever. At one time or another, his covers violated every rule. Only someone of Fred’s idiosyncratic vision could have seen the dark graphic power of the Batman cape (RS 634/635) or chosen to illustrate our “Portraits” issue with a simple, stunning shot of Elvis’s gold lame nudie suit on a hanger (RS 643). Over fifteen years as art director, Fred’s imagination wove itself into the life of Rolling Stone.

In the Nineties, we hired Mark Seliger as our new chief photographer, the first since Annie and only the third in our history. “Shooting your first cover of Rolling Stone is like your first romance, or the first time you got a car – except magnified tenfold,” Mark says. “It was a big world to step into, but once I gained momentum, I tried to push it in every way.” Mark told me that from his teenage years, he was a student of Rolling Stone, and it shows. There were qualities in Mark’s early work – his wit, his use of space – that were as close to Annie as I had ever seen. “Mark brought back the kind of concept cover that Annie invented,” says our current director of photography, Jodi Peckman. “A whole new generation started getting the excitement of these wonderfully produced photographs.” On more than a hundred covers – Neil Young in a scarecrow pose (RS 648), the “Seinfeld” cast in black leather (RS 660/661), Jennifer Aniston nude at the peak of her early fame (RS 729) – Mark created high–gloss, vivid images that helped us capture the spirit of a new decade.

Mark took definitive shots of the Nineties’ new breed of rock bands, including Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins. But the most compelling among them was our first Nirvana cover (RS 628). Before a brief photo shoot in Melbourne Australia, Mark gave the trio a routine warning not to wear shirts with writing on them. Kurt Cobain, who was in a foul mood and complaining of stomach pain, responded by scrawling “corporate magazines still suck” on his ragged T–shirt. “He wouldn’t change the shirt, and I felt like I hadn’t delivered,” Mark recalls “On the way back, I was sweating in my seat, feeling like a complete failure.” I thought it was great from the moment I saw it – it was funny. In the end, it was Cobain’s endorsement of the magazine, a witty acknowledgement of the power and importance of Rolling Stone to him.

Mark’s 1994 cover shot of Brad Pitt (RS 696) came to life after the two drove together from California to Mexico. Pitt wanted the photos to feel real, according to Mark. “We hoped to model it after an old, traditional Rolling Stone shoot where you’re living with a person for a period of time, rather than it just being a two–hour experience in a studio,” Mark says. For the record, Mark came up with the idea of pairing Jenny McCarthy with a hot dog (RS 738/739) and dressing Ice–T, the rapper behind “Cop Killer,” in a policeman’s uniform (RS 637). “I don’t know if Ice–T thought it was funny,” Mark says. “But he just loved it.”

During his years on staff, Mark took some extraordinary pictures of politicians, including three Clinton covers and one of Al Gore. Political leaders are challenging to shoot –they tend to be stiff and formal – but Mark managed to transcend that. When the Gore cover (RS 853) came out, someone on the radio took note of the bulge in his pants, and it became one of those mindless reverberating media things for a while. Al called me up and said, “Everybody’s talking about this. Is this OK? Is this a bad thing?” How could it be anything but a good thing?

The late Nineties saw a new boom in slick teen pop, and in the tradition of our shirtless David Cassidy cover almost three decades earlier, we found its provocative side. Enter David LaChapelle. In the spring of 1999, he shot a seventeen-year-old Britney Spears in her bra and polka-dot panties (RS 810), lying on satin sheets and clutching a purple Teletubby. When Spears’s then manager objected to the pose during the shoot, she overruled him, LaChapelle recalls: “Britney said, ‘Lock the door,’ and unbuttoned her shirt wide open.” This was the teenage version of Madonna, and it had not been seen before.

Spears’s male counterparts –’NSync (with future solo star Justin Timberlake) and Backstreet Boys –all went on to collaborate with us on sexy, occasionally subversive covers. At the peak of that period, we shot five separate covers for one issue, each with a different member of ‘NSync (RS 675). It was a fun gimmick, and they were all delighted.

Music’s divas – including Spears, Mariah Carey, Courtney Love, Christina Aguilera and, of course, Madonna – have all worked closely with us over the years, helping to create some of our most unforgettable images. Madonna’s work with Herb Ritts stands apart, with a series of iconographic covers that traced the trajectory of a superstar: cheek to cheek with Rosanna Arquette for their starring roles in “Desperately Seeking Susan” (RS 447), a Kabuki-painted Nefertiti in three-quarter profile (RS 508), the reigning queen of pop frolicking in the surf (RS 561). “Madonna liked to play with her image,” says Mark McKenna, Herb’s executive producer. “And she wanted to have fun. So Herb was able to bring a crew in and really collaborate on things.”

The younger divas tend to arrive with large entourages (Aguilera, for one, brought bodyguards and two dogs to a shoot), and strong ideas of what they want. But with the help of our reputation and long history, we nearly always succeed in convincing them to collaborate.

Other artists need less prodding to participate in the give and take. Mick Jagger has always been a partner in shaping his image. He knows what he wants to look like, but he’s also fascinated by the photo-taking process, and is eager to hear our suggestions on photographers and concepts. Few artists would have posed for our cover wearing an ornate mask (RS 689) – and even fewer would have remained utterly recognizable.

Comic actors have been similarly eager to lend their ideas, from Steve Martin (who asked to be painted onto Franz Kline’s artwork (RS 363) to Jim Carrey (who gamely allowed a dog to pull off his bathing suit, recreating a Coppertone ad (RS 712/713)). During the Nineties, the “Seinfeld” cast posed as “Wizard of Oz” characters, while Jerry Seinfeld appeared solo as both the young and old Elvis Presley. Jerry was up for just about anything in these Mark Seliger shoots – though understandably, he did decline to wear a grotesque prosthetic tongue in imitation of Kiss’ Gene Simmons.

When the World Trade Center fell on September 11th, 2001, we had Alicia Keys scheduled for our cover. Keys happened to be wearing a New York t-shirt in the photograph we were planning to use, so we considered going with it. Within about five minutes, it became clear that we wanted to have our say about an era-defining event. We debated various red-white-and-blue treatments, and thought about using the “11” in “9/11” to represent the towers. Then I found a flag lapel-pin in my desk drawer at home. When I brought it into the office, everyone agreed: “That’s the cover.”

In the early 2000s, we experimented for a while with a flashier look, and a style influenced by a new breed of British magazines. But even in that period, the covers that worked best looked like traditional Rolling Stone, whether it was the stark, black-and-white Seliger portrait of an aged Johnny Cash we ran upon his death (RS 933), or Martin Schoeller’s shot of Bruce Springsteen standing in front of a vast green field (RS 903). “Bruce has this humongous property in New Jersey, with all these great vistas, but he limited us to a very small corner that we could photograph in,” Schoeller remembers. “I finally convinced him to move fifty feet to that field. I like that shot a lot – it feels very American, somehow.”

In 2004, we wanted to send a signal that we were going back to the core journalistic values of Rolling Stone, regardless of the newsstand sales consequences. In an effort to shift the magazine to be more topical, we proceeded with a series of political covers: Garry Trudeau’s rendering of the war in Iraq (RS 954), Michael Moore (RS 957), the Vote for Change tour (RS 959), Jon Stewart (RS 960), John Kerry (RS 961). That created new energy and purpose, almost a kind of renewal. With our current art director, the news–oriented Newsweek alum Amid Capeci, we entered a new period of classic Rolling Stone covers. “We moved toward a stripped-down, bold, newsy design,” Amid says. “And we started photographing cover subjects in a serious light.”

When my friend and longtime star writer and collaborator Hunter S. Thompson died on February 20th, 2005, there was no question that he would appear on our next cover. As we prepared a memorial package that filled much of the issue, the debate was whether to picture him in his youth or as a more recognizable and iconic older man. We decided on a little-seen vintage black-and-white shot of Hunter holding a cigarette. Surrounded by wisps of smoke, Hunter looks so handsome and elegant in the image; it’s from the year we met and began to work together.

As our thousandth issue approached, we searched for a cover treatment worthy of the occasion. Inspired by the album art for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the 3-D cover we created concludes this book. It’s a grand-scale celebration of our four decades at the heart of popular culture.

We are still looking for cover subjects who are authentic and honest, iconic or hot, people who stand for something, whether it’s U2’s Bono or Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. In the Nineties, we felt comfortable with the direction our nation’s policy was going, so we could go out and have some fun. Now, though, the stakes are high, and we have a lot of serious things to say.

Still, in the end, the cover is forever a work in progress. There are rules, but it is so alive, so vital, so in the moment. That’s part of what has made the cover of Rolling Stone so thrilling over the years: It has always been unpredictable.

What a long, strange trip it truly has been. Our mission took us from the Haight-Ashbury to the Oval Office, bringing us face-to-face with the cultural events and influential people of our time. Our readers have come along for the journey, cheering us on with their love letters and advice. Our subjects have been the architects of their times – presidents and poets, the outsiders and insiders. In the end, this collection of covers is a sprawling archive of the almost four decades we’ve been around – and a testament to the great work of our photographers, illustrators, art directors, photo editors and the cover subjects themselves. We have devoted ourselves to our task with all the passion, energy and talent that we had to give.