“Whatever I do, I’ve done the wrong thing for about four years and then suddenly it was the right thing and what I’m doing now is the wrong thing, you know?” Brian Eno 1988
In 1967, Jann S. Wenner and jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason founded Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco.
Volume 1, #1 of Rolling Stone was published on November 9, 1967.
It has since published, every two weeks, with a circulated readership of nearly 1.5 million as of 2013.
Rock music criticism in the U.S. began when Paul Williams created Crawdaddy! in January 1966.
The stated goal of Crawdaddy! and Rolling Stone was to demonstrate that rock music was serious art, meriting criticism.
When asked in 1969, why he decided to start Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner replied “so I could meet John Lennon.”
Lester Bangs, Richard Meltzer and Nick Tosches, were serious music critics, who were run out of Rolling Stone by Wenner and Jon Landau. 
Lester Bangs’ February 1972 Creem review of Chicago at Carnegie Hall:
“I like this album because it’s on Columbia. I trust them, I believe in their product, because Columbia is the General Motors of the record industry. They consistently come up with the best of everything: best logo, best lettering in artists’ names and album titles, best photography, best cardboard.”
Clive Davis, president of Columbia records “had Jann Wenner’s ear whenever he wanted it, which turned out to be often,” 
Davis had advanced Wenner $20,000 against future advertising in 1968, which saved Rolling Stone from bankruptcy.
Clive Davis would bail Wenner out again in 1970.
Clive Davis in his 1975 book, Inside the Record Business, “I always took it personally when the paper [Rolling Stone] made a snide comment about Columbia or took one of its artists to task, I occasionally wondered how they could accept consulting and advertising assistance from Columbia – and then poke fun at us, or say downright nasty things.” 
Conflict over Rolling Stone’s direction developed between Wenner and managing editor John Burks, who disdained Wenner’s infatuation with celebrity.
Burks was a journalist, encouraging more political pieces on Vietnam, Kent State, etc.
He eventually resigned in 1971, under pressure from Wenner & his corporate paymasters.
Jon Landau, one of the most powerful rock critics of the 1960’s, took over as reviews editor, just as its best writers were being jettisoned.
Landau debuted his new column Rock and Roll Music in the 3/4/71 issue.
The excerpt below is from Part 2 of his ‘history of rock writing’, published in the 4/1/71 issue:
“Three or four years ago, rock reviewing was less problematic than it is today. For one thing, you knew what to write about. The Byrds, the Animals, the Dead, the Airplane, and the Beach Boys were fit subjects for comment; Gerry and the Pacemakers, Dave Clark and Freddie and the Dreamers were not. The Beatles, the Stones, and Dylan were the first inductees to rock’s (as opposed to rock and roll’s) pantheon; after that, everyone bowed in the direction of San Francisco and underground British groups until the appearance of Led Zeppelin.
“Led Zeppelin forced a revival of the distinction between popularity and quality. As long as the bands most admired aesthetically were also the bands most successful commercially (Cream, for instance) the distinction was irrelevant. But Zeppelin’s enormous commercial success, in spite of critical opposition, revealed the deep division in what was once thought to be a homogeneous audience.
“That division has now evolved into a clearly defined mass taste and a clearly defined elitist taste.”
Then, only a few years later, as he’s declaring Bruce Springsteen the future of rock & roll:
“I listen to music with a certain measure of detachment. I’m a professional and I make my living commenting on it. There are months when I hate it, going through the routine just as a shoe salesman goes through his.”
Landau would eventually become Bruce Springsteen’s producer/manager in 1975 for Born to Run, and remains with “the Boss” up to the present.
Jann Wenner fired respected writer Greil Marcus in 1970 over a negative review of Bob Dylan’s disappointing Self Portrait, as Columbia execs pressured Wenner for a retraction, and more positive new review.
Wenner would often fire writers, then rewrite the more-positive review himself.
Greil Marcus returned to Rolling Stone in 1975, on the heels of his book discussing the origins of rock & roll titled Mystery Train, which was well-received and critically acclaimed by Wenner.
Rolling Stone is known for launching the writing careers of Hunter Thompson, Cameron Crowe and P.J. O’Rourke; all of whom (like Wenner) never revealed much insight beyond their own self-interest.
Aside: the recent forced retraction of a 9000-word expose’ published in the 11/19/14 issue, on the “rape culture” across America’s college campuses, is an example of the debasement of basic journalistic standards at Rolling Stone magazine, which trace back to its self-aggrandizing origins.
The author of the fictional gang rape was Sabrina Erdely, yet another Gen X feminist screaming her version of neo-liberal nonsense, which Rolling Stone has peddled to the college crowd since the late-1980’s. 
In 1977, Rolling Stone moved from San Francisco to New York.
Circulation dropped as Rolling Stone became increasingly perceived by kids as curmudgeonly & out-of-touch; responding slowly to (and even actively resisting) the emergence of punk, funk, reggae and disco.
Paul Nelson convinced Jann Wenner to hire Lester Bangs back in 1978, who contributed until he died from a drug overdose in 1982.
Nelson was the record reviews editor of Rolling Stone from 1978-83, often clashing with Jann Wenner over disco, punk & post-punk (all of which Wenner still despises); while championing the next generation of critics including Kurt Loder.
The first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide was published in 1979.
Rolling Stone was still a respected name brand, largely due to the efforts of dedicated luminaries such as: Lester Bangs, Nick Tosches, Richard Meltzer, Lenny Kaye. etc…
However, none of these writers contributed to the Rolling Stone Record Guide.
In charge was Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone record reviews editor since 1976.
Dave Marsh and co-editor John Swenson, seemingly had final say on the ratings & written contents of both the first & second editions of the guide.
Journey lead singer Steve Perry on Dave Marsh, “he’s an unusual little man who all too often thinks that his subjective opinions translate to inarguable fact.”
Below is the capsule for Black Sabbath, one of the worst (and most unfair) reviews in the 1983 edition– Ken Tucker disdains, while Dave Marsh rates every record one-star.
Here’s Greil Marcus on Paul Nelson’s forced departure in 1983:
“Paul saw people making or avoiding choices, striking out in one direction or holding back and fading into the crowd. He was sensitive to the risks and the degree of courage or nerve it takes to make a public choice, and to thus stand alone and stand exposed. I think this crucial verge is what he looked for, consciously or not, and what he was drawn to. In his writing, it provided a sense of how high the stakes in pop music could be. Paul was a maddeningly slow writer. He suffered writer’s block. I think this is because he respected his subjects so much he was terrified of getting anything wrong.”
Anthony DeCurtis filled Dave Marsh’s role after his departure in 1983, as the magazine consolidated its transition from counter-culture icon, into mainstream cash cow.
Rolling Stone first began assigning star ratings to records in 1981, a practice the magazine discontinued midway through 1985, then brought back in 1988– with half-star intervals.
By the 1980’s, Wenner demanded upbeat reviews (which could more accurately be called press releases) for major-label ‘star’ acts, even if their record was an obvious stiff.
No new album review could be less than 3-stars for artists like Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Prince, Neil Young, Don Henley, Steve Winwood, Robert Plant, etc…
Wenner’s stable of hacks– David Fricke, Chuck Eddy, Anthony DeCurtis, etc… could seemingly manufacture a 4-star review for any artist, without even listening to the record.
Published in the wake of the ongoing musical eruptions in alternative/college/ hip-hop; the 1992 third edition (now the Rolling Stone Album Guide) was overseen by Anthony DeCurtis.
James Henke with Holly George-Warren are the co-editors.
A mere four [!] reviewers wrote every entry to the 1992 album guide–J.D. Considine, Mark Coleman, Paul Evans, and David McGee.
On the back flap, it claims to be, “the bible of popular music criticism…rock, pop, soul, rap, country, jazz, blues, folk, gospel–for every taste in popular music…”
In this edition, their misunderstanding of hip-hop becomes their new glaring weakness.
Old biases still remained for this tiny sample size of critics regarding funk, disco, punk and post-punk. Led Zeppelin with the Rolling Stones, finally achieved immortality, along with the rest of classic rock.
In 1996, staff writer Jim DeRogatis was assigned to review the new Hootie & the Blowfish album Fairweather Johnson.
Legend has it, that he penned a one-star review, and Wenner killed it.
DeRogatis revealed this publicly, and Wenner countered by fired him, claiming the review was poorly written.
DeRogatis mused that while Wenner was not much of Hootie and the Blowfish fan, he definitely was “a fan of bands that sell eight and a half million copies,” which Cracked Rear View (1994) had done.
Wenner demanded a minimum three-star review, which DeRogatis was unwilling to provide. 
Leonard Cohen addressed his critics in an interview with Paul Williams published in the March 1975 issue of Crawdaddy!:
I’m very, very interested also in the mind of the reviewers, how they change over the decades, and how a man approaches new work. Whether he approaches it in a spirit of curiosity, charity, interest, or as a vehicle for his own self-aggrandizement, his own career. Whether he uses it as an opportunity to display humanism, or cruelty. I mean to me, the critic is on trial at this point.”
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a sham, the creation of a group of industry people and critics who decide who they deem as qualified to be in their little admiration society– Paul Stanley of KISS
The R&R HoF was created by the record moguls & Jann Wenner.
Wenner brought in foundation director Suzan Evans, editor Dave Marsh, along with attorney Allen Grubman, & record executives Seymour Stein, Bob Krasnow & Noreen Woods.
These are the people who have controlled the R&R HoF, from its outset.
The foundation was established in 1983, and its inaugural class was 1986.
There was no museum until construction was completed in Cleveland, OH in 1995.
The nominating committee has expanded to about 30 music critics, entertainment lawyers and recording executives– who determine the field each year.
Then a voting committee of around 500 people (including elected musical artists), ‘elect’ five new inductees.
Artists qualify for a spot, 25 years after their first recording.
Jon Landau, the chairman of the nominating committee, “We’ve done a good job of keeping the proceedings nontransparent. It all dies in the room.” 
This conveniently prevents any discussion of why influential genres such as punk, reggae, funk, disco, post-punk, rap, electronic, etc… have so few artists in the R&R HoF. 
Critics need to be criticized & scrutinized– now more than ever.
This piece is a distillation of an exhaustive online critique: Rolling Stone’s 500 Worst Record Reviews.
Online handle schmidtt has produced the most comprehensive & sensible history of popular music that I have ever read, covering its classic era from the mid-1960’s to 2012 (when this list was compiled).
It fairly balances (IMO) the major genres, while illuminating the darker business side, which control what you hear.
Well written, edited and linked– 5-stars!!
Rolling Stone’s mythic grip on rock culture needs to be pried loose.
Its monopoly on critical opinion has robbed several generations of listeners of amazing music.
Music genres that Rolling Stone systematically ignores, due to its elitist attitude and brand-name clout, have stunted the playlists of every commercial-music radio station (in the US and beyond), for nearly 50 years.
Today, Rolling Stone is seen by insiders as an appendage of the music industry machinery, which runs on payola and corporate sponsorship.
Popular music won’t become relevant again, until enough people understand what’s making it sick.
The will to heal & grow is only useful if the disease is first properly diagnosed.
Popular music is always defined by the kids. Institutions such as Rolling Stone have co-opted 40+ years of musical heritage (of which they know very little about), and kept it for themselves. These charlatans have hijacked popular music, distorted it, and held it hostage– all in order to enrich itself; all-the-while marginalizing & strangling any musical forms that operate outside the industry box.
The Internet is the distribution channel of today and the future, and it is how new music is distributed & discovered. Rolling Stone is the behemoth that has outlived its usefulness, but is not allowed to die. It serves a valuable function as curator, opinion-maker and gatekeeper for past popular music. When too many of their opinions become completely untenable, they simply revise their old ratings with a new Record Guide. Their last revision (fourth edition) was published in 2004; now they revise their past ratings & reviews online.
Music is many things, entertainment and art among them. Elitist critics who compare works of art in any field, in order to determine which one is “better,” are being silly & pedantic. They become dangerous when they are given credibility.
Music as entertainment should be fairly judged: good, mediocre or bad, for aesthetic reasons.
Music as art doesn’t need to be rated, as much as it needs to be heard.