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Jann Wenner Fricassees David Fricke At Rolling Stone


“Even by the standards of transformation on 1987’s The Joshua Tree and 1991’s Achtung! Baby, Songs of Innocence – U2’s first studio album in five years – is a triumph of dynamic, focused renaissance: 11 tracks of straightforward rapture about the life-saving joys of music, drawing on U2’s long palette of influences and investigations of post-punk rock, industrial electronics and contemporary dance music.”

Even by the standards of Rolling Stone bullshit, David Fricke’s five star review of U2’s terrible Songs Of Innocence was a death knell for honest journalism, Fricke was the magazine’s last remaining connection to a fabled, somewhat false history of rock and roll. These are the cats that fired Lester Bangs AND Paul Nelson after all. But at least people took Fricke seriously, and, at least he is in the clubs, and on the streets, he is a part of the scene. and he has a history.

And if Fricke, laid off as Senior Editor yesterday but still to freelance (which means: no health benefits, no paid vacations, no weekly salary –it’s like having a sales job on a commission only basis –for a 63 year old man) kowtowed to Jann Wenner years ago, Fricke had no option in the matter.  Either the popular rock critic does as he is told and justifies it or gets fired or, perhaps, both.  Fricke has the skills of a pro but he has the constitution of a jelly fish. I am not saying I don’t have the constitution of a jellyfish myself (how can I say I won’t sell out when nobody gives me the opportunity?),  I am not saying it is easy for David to  tell Jann he won’t lie for money, but now he has neither money nor his truth.

For the sake of, say $250K a year Jann won’t keep a head writer on staff, and if I am not thrilled by Fricke other people sure are, he gives the magazine cachet among the elite as well, he interviewed Cobain, he does top rock stories, see that quote above? He reviewed the new U2, the crown jewels of Rolling Stone rockdom.  So why is Jann dropping him? It doesn’t hit me as good business, among other things it feels like panic. But Jann doesn’t see it that way, fuck cachet among the elite, Fricke doesn’t bring in extra revenue. If he can keep David freelancing while dropping his insurance and weekly pay check, hey, why not?

It takes ruthlessness to own a successful magazine, and that is an absolute truth, it takes layoffs, it takes cutting expenses, but there are places where you just don’t do it. Among them is the face of Rolling Stone rock criticism who has been with you for decades. C’mon, for a coupla grand?  For a coupla grand you leave one of your top writers without a weekly paycheck? I don’t get it. It makes no sense, even if you have no moral compass whatsoever, the public relations black eye is too big. It isn’t worth the hit.

Wenner is making himself the Voice Media Group of his own publication, he is doing to Rolling Stone what VMG did when they canned Michael Musto back in 2013. Did the Voice close  down? No, but any chance of it being a must read ended instantaneously.

I have nothing that good to say about Fricke, but he is a god compared to Wenner. This simply crosses the line, it is the sort of move that feels like the beginning of the end.  Perception? Reality? Whatever?

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