In the last edition of this column, Rolling Stone writer Jim DeRogatis more or less confirmed that publisher and editor Jann Wenner had killed his negative review of the Wonder-bread band Hootie and the Blowfish.
For his frankness, Mr. Wenner had him fired.
From his home in Hoboken, N.J., Mr. DeRogatis said he was fired the day after the June 3 Observer hit the stands. “I think you’d have to ask Rolling Stone why, but the timing certainly seems suspect to me,” he said.
A call to managing editor Sid Holt was returned by Rolling Stone publicist Cathy O’Brien, who would only confirm that Mr. DeRogatis “no longer works at the magazine” because “our policy is that we protect the confidentiality of our employer-employee relationship.”
“It is my understanding that I was brought into Rolling Stone to help make the magazine’s music coverage as vital as in 1996 as it was in 1969,” said Mr. DeRogatis about his arrival from the Chicago Sun-Times in October. “Unfortunately that’s impossible when only one person’s opinion matters, and he doesn’t want anything to change.”
Mr. Wenner has an ingrained habit of sucking up to the powers that be. His friends include Ahmet Ertegun, the chairman of Atlantic Records, the company that foisted Hootie on the populace. Mr. Wenner’s little habit is not a very nice one in a journalist. Especially one who presides over a magazine that is supposedly a bastion of 60’s-style free-thinking.
“I never had any indication that Rolling Stone was unhappy with me, and I can’t help but think it’s 100 percent tied to the Observer article.”
Apparently, Mr. DeRogatis, who railed against “baby boomer myopia” and frequently attacked Rolling Stone on his Chicago radio show and at music conventions, never got along well with Mr. Wenner. He didn’t appreciate Mr. Wenner’s habit of meddling.
According to a source at the magazine, just before Mr. DeRogatis arrived, word had come down from Mr. Wenner that reviews should be more positive. That came after a scathing June 1995 review of Natalie Merchant’s solo effort, Tigerlily, which was said to be “bloodless,” “limp” and verging on “self-parody.” Lo and behold, six months later, a December “second opinion” found the same album “compelling,” “believable” and possessed of “some fang.”
Meanwhile, Mr. DeRogatis, who seemed to have been canned largely for saying Mr. Wenner is “a fan of bands which sell eight and a half million copies,” is out of work. His wife is expecting a baby in November; he has a book coming out in July, his first, which is called Kaleidoscope Eyes: Psychedelic Rock From the 60’s to the 90’s (Carol Publishing).
“As far as I’m concerned, it was out of the blue,” said Mr. DeRogatis, who said the reason he was given for being fired was that he’s a “bad apple.” “I never had any indication that Rolling Stone was unhappy with me, and I can’t help but think it’s 100 percent tied to the Observer article.”
Back in Rolling Stone’s heyday, before the house in the Hamptons and all the swell rock-star friends, Mr. Wenner said: “We’re just a little rock newspaper. We’re not going to turn into any big corporate bullshit. We’re gonna do our own thing. We’re going to be better than Billboard.”