One of the wonderful things about the internet is that there’s almost inevitably someone out there who’ll go to the trouble of doing something like… well, for example, scanning every single issue of iconic ’70s music magazine Rock Scene. The magazine published 54 issues from 1973 until 1982 — founded by Richard and Lisa Robinson, it also gave the world photographers Bob Gruen and Leee Black Childers, along with a heap of fascinating reportage from 1970s NYC. Austin, Texas resident Ryan Richardson has digitized every page of every issue and made them available as free, Flash-based flipbooks on his website. We’ve spent a very enjoyable morning flicking through his site, and collated a selection of our favorite moments — head over to rockscenester.com for lots, lots more.
The first ad (March 1973)
Any 14 records: $2.86. Those were the days, etc.
David Bowie goes to Japan (December 1973)
The editors clearly knew what side their bread was buttered on — pretty much every single issue of the magazine features at least one article about David Bowie, who’s generally referred to as “David” in the same way that latter-day teenybopper magazines talked about “Britney” and “Xtina.” Other compulsory inclusions — at least in the years before punk exploded — included Alice Cooper and, bless him, Elton John.
Iggy in NYC (March 1974)
Rock Scene started as a magazine very much focused on, well, the rock scene. But even as its early cover stars included Slade, Alice Cooper and The Rolling Stones, the magazine was also covering artists that more mainstream publications wouldn’t countenance writing about. Like one James Jewel Osterberg, for example. Also note the byline on this article — one Lenny Kaye, the Patti Smith Group guitarist who would enjoy a long association with Rock Sound as both writer and subject of articles.
Patti Smith’s exciting little ditty (January 1975)
This small article in Issue 10’s “Hot Pix” section constitutes the first mention of Patti Smith in the magazine’s pages (unless you count her own writing, of course — she wrote an article about Television in Issue 9). Within a year, she’d be on the cover, the subject of regular features and referred to simply as “Patti” — but at first, it seems Rock Scene didn’t quite know what to make of her music, describing her version of “Hey Joe” as “unusual” and referring to “Piss Factory” as an “exciting little ditty.”
CBCT (July 1975)
Two issues later came the first mention for CBGB, although sadly the sub-editor or whoever else was doing the proof reading kinda missed a trick here. The article also refers to “UFO rockers Television,” who were playing inside when the magazine visited for the first time.
Suzi Quatro vs. domesticity (September 1975)
Yes, that really is a very young Suzi Quatro. In the kitchen.
The Ramones on the subway (January 1976)
There were plenty of iconic photos that got their first airing in Rock Scene, but none more so than Bob Gruen’s classic portrait of the Ramones catching the subway in from Queens to a gig at CBGB.
Paul Stanley’s genuine body hair (July 1976)
Even as punk emerged as the most important cultural movement of ’70s NYC, Rock Scene also stayed true to its rock-lovin’ roots — Kiss, Aerosmith, and Queen remained regular cover stars, while the likes of Cheap Trick, Meat Loaf and Peter Frampton also featured, and Alice Cooper still warranted an article every issue or two. None of the articles were quite as alarming as this photo of Paul Stanley in LA, mind.
A riot of our own (June 1977)
With punk traversing the Atlantic and taking root in London, Rock Scene sent a contingent that included photographers Bob Gruen and Leee Black Childers to cover what’d turn out to be one of the more notorious tours in rock history — The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Heartbreakers, and The Damned’s iconic and disastrous tour of the UK in mid-1977. The result was some killer photos and the realization that punk really was “a music truly belonging to the mid-’70s,” even if the mag couldn’t help being just a wee bit condescending to the UK bands in its write-ups (“Yob rock? Or is this just a glance into the local unemployment office?”).
Brooke Shields hits the town (October 1978)
“Asked about her first exposure to the rock underworld, America’s newest sweetheart smiled and asked, ‘Which way to CBGB’s?'” By our count, Brooke Shields was 13 years old when these photos were taken. They did things differently in the 1970s.
The Nuge (January 1980)
Is it just us, or is there something just a wee bit homoerotic about this photo of America’s favorite gun-totin’, deer-shootin’, Obama-baitin’ right-wing lunatic? Oh, Teddy. Darling.
The Clash on Broadway (January 1982)
It’s perhaps appropriate that the magazine’s final issue coincided with the beginning of the end for punk. Of course, you can argue that the scene started its downturn with the demise of the Pistols, or a million other turning points, but as far as Flavorpill’s concerned The Clash’s Broadway stint in 1982 was where the slide really gathered pace — the shows marked The Clash’s emergence as bona fide stadium rockers, and also set in motion the events that’d eventually lead to the firing of Mick Jones and the band’s demise. Punk wasn’t what it used to be, and neither was the world of music — new sounds and instruments were to take center stage during the 1980s, and the rock scene would take a back seat for a decade, until a bunch of bands from the Pacific Northwest dragged it back into the spotlight. By that time, of course, Rock Scene was long gone… but doesn’t it make for fascinating reading?