I’M WITH THE BAND: I’m From Rolling Stone, a new reality series that beings tonight at 10:30 p.m. on MTV Canada, is the sort that I know I’ll be watching eagerly all the way through, but for the life of me I can’t see just how to persuade anyone who isn’t me to watch the thing.
Six young people who think they want to be music journalists are offered a chance to fight for a job at the venerable rock mag, in what’s known as a "competitive internship." They’re sent to New York to chase down bands, do interviews and live reviews, and fight for the privilege of seeing their byline appear in Rolling Stone; the winner gets a year’s wages and the title of contributing editor on the masthead.
Overseeing it all is executive editor Joe Levy who, along with publisher Jann Wenner, is the final arbiter deciding who should stay and who should go. On the phone from the magazine’s New York office, I ask him just why a young person today would want to work for Rolling Stone, which even he admits is "not the world’s most cutting-edge music publication."
"You might as well ask why a young person nowadays wants to be on reality television," he asks with a chuckle. "Don’t they know how it’s going to end? Don’t they understand no good is going to come of this?"
I found the first two episodes both riveting and squirmworthy; perhaps it was my own memories of being a novice rock writer fresh out of college, but I couldn’t help but see the potential for humiliation and failure in several of the cast members, such as Colin, who couldn’t seem to summon up a coherent question, never mind grasp the workings of his tape recorder, on his first assignment for the magazine. Then there’s the streetwise Russell, the most experienced and talented of the bunch, but apparently hell-bent on sabotaging his chances with a combination of indifferent attitude and a desire to live as large as his subjects.
Levy says he’s seen party-hearty ways in writers before, and that it’s mostly — but not always — a symptom of youth. "It’s the time in your life when you have the means, motive and opportunity to indulge," he says. "Maybe not quite at the level of Robert Plant in 1971, but a lot more than you did when you were 14. It’s a very common thing; I don’t think it’s a thing that besets music writers because they see that work and want to be part of it."
"In fact, a tremendous number of rock journalists are incredibly nerdy, and wouldn’t know what to do with a groupie or a line of speed if presented with these things for free. Some people do it no matter what; they’ve got to walk through that fire on their own, and believe me you can’t stop them — I’ve tried."