The two-part documentary will debut Nov. 6 and 7 on HBO.
A storyteller himself, founder and publisher Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner, now finds himself as the subject a new two-part HBO documentary titled Rolling Stone: Stories From the Edge.
The first part the documentary premiered on Oct. 30 at New York City’s Florence Gould Hall, with Jann and his son Gus in attendance. A handful Rolling Stone writers, such as political journalist Matt Taibbi and cultural critic Toure were also present for the world premiere, as were famous friends like Art Garfunkel, actor Danny Strong and others.
The documentary — directed by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney and Emmy-winner Blair Foster, who have previously worked together on Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise Of James Brown and other titles– opens with Jimi Hendrix performing “Like A Rolling Stone” at Monterey Pop Festival. The music fades as footage Hendrix famously setting his guitar aflame plays onscreen, while a narrator’s voice begins reading the first-ever Letter From the Editor from Issue 1, Volume 1, dated Nov. 9, 1967. “It’s sort a magazine, sort a newspaper,” Jann described Rolling Stone in the letter, “about things and attitudes music embraces.”
Jann’s vision to cover the bigger picture music is what Foster, a self-identified “archivist nerd,” says surprised her most while conducting her research. “I was surprised at how very early on the magazine went beyond covering music,” she told Billboard on the red carpet ahead the screening. “From the start — it obviously developed into a music magazine — but very early on they were covering the art scene in the Bay Area and politics. I didn’t think that came until a little bit later, but really you see it within the first year the magazine. The first year the magazine is actually not that far from where it is now, it’s in the DNA.”
Throughout part one the documentary, notable Rolling Stone cover stories served as visual chapters, signaling both the passage time while also illustrating how exactly the magazine covered culture, politics, music and more. The film revisits some its most iconic and groundbreaking stories: an inside look at Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship, Hunter S. Thompson’s wild political reporting during the 1972 presidential election, Patty Hearst’s kidnapping and later arrest, and so much more.
The most compelling arch, though, is the story John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The documentary includes the couple’s first Rolling Stone cover from November 1968, when the magazine ran Lennon and Ono’s Two Virgins rear album cover that showed f their bare-butts, and their last cover — the intimately captured photo a nude Lennon clinging to a fully-dressed Ono as they lay on their carpeted floor. The photo, taken by Annie Leibovitz (“my years at Rolling Stone formed me,” she says in the documentary), ended up being Lennon’s last. He was shot later that day. His final photo later graced the cover the magazine. The striking image closes out part one the documentary.
After so tediously studying the past 50 years Rolling Stone, Gibney now finds himself thinking about the magazine’s next 50, as unclear as they may be. “The next 50 years is fraught for all journalistic enterprises, particularly if you’re print based, and that’s going to be the challenge going forward,” he says. He admits that “hard-hitting, tough-minded investigative journalism is needed now more than ever,” and most succinctly defines what’s to come by comparing the future to a Magic 8-Ball: “You’d shake it, turn it over, and it’d say, ‘Reply hazy, try again.’”