40 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Bowie on Porn, Dylan Meets Cher

Our February 28th, 1974 issue had articles on killer dolphins and "fern bars"

Bob Dylan
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Bob Dylan
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The February 28th, 1974, edition of Rolling Stone (issue No. 155) had articles about everything from the Vietnam War to the new breed of drinking establishments called "fern bars." Here are 10 highlights:

1. Saturation Dylan coverage
Ben Fong-Torres wrote about Bob Dylan and the Band, who were touring behind Planet Waves. The album was produced by 23-year-old Rob Frabroni, who said he had been present at the New York sessions for a collaborative album by Dylan and poet Allen Ginsberg that was never released ("It wasn't on the commercial side," Frabroni said.) Dylan and the Band made the album in three days at Village Recorders in Los Angeles, booked under the name "Judge Magney" (a rest stop on Highway 61). The only visitors to the sessions were backup singers Jackie De Shannon and Donna Weiss, Cher (then known as "Cher Bono"), and David Geffen.

There was another full-page Dylan article by Paul West, about his playing Georgia and meeting then-governor Jimmy Carter (who was not yet running for president). "I asked him if he wanted a drink, but he only wanted orange juice and would only eat the vegetables," Carter said.

2. Fake Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac's manager put a version of the band on the road without any actual members of Fleetwood Mac (who were then Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Bob Welch, and Bob Weston; Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined at the end of the year). "Basically what it boils down to is the manager flipped his lid," Welch said. "He can put four dogs barking on a leash and call it Fleetwood Mac."

3. David Bowie and William S. Burroughs interview each other
Craig Copetas arranged a summit meeting between the creators of Aladdin Sane and Naked Lunch, and the conversation turned to the impending apocalypse in Ziggy Stardust. (Read the full story here.)
Burroughs: "Where did this Ziggy idea come from, and this five-year idea? Of course, exhaustion of natural resources will not develop the end of the world. It will result in the collapse of civilization. And it will cut down the population by about three-quarters."
Bowie: "Exactly. This does not cause the end of the world for Ziggy. The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I've made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole onstage."
Burroughs: "Yes, a black hole onstage would be an incredible expense."

4. A letter from Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono wrote a letter taking issue with recent Random Notes coverage of her and John Lennon. An excerpt: "No, I'm not pregnant (I'm only conceptual) and I'm not consulting an astrologer every day, though yes, you guessed it again, I can afford to. I have been blamed for many things by now, but this is getting too bizarre. The plot thickens as you proceed in life, but I hope it never gets as thick as your paper. I like to keep my life light and uncomplicated, which it is, if you don't add your off-key notes to it. The only heavy thing I did was Pearl Harbor and that was before I reached puberty and didn't know better."

5. Secrets of The Exorcist
From Cindy Erlich's article about the sound effects in The Exorcist: "[Ron] Nagle began by recording a colony of hermaphrodite beagles at a UC animal behavior research center in Berkeley. 'For all you animal-lovers out there,' he said, 'I've never seen a happier bunch of dogs.'"

6. Hunter S. Thompson, sportswriter
From the cover story by Hunter S. Thompson, "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl" (that's Super Bowl VIII, by the way), some lucid advice: "There is a definite, perverse kind of pleasure in beating the 'smart money' – in sports, politics or anything else – and the formula for doing it seems dangerously simple: Take the highest odds you can get against the conventional wisdom – but never bet against your own instinct or the prevailing karma." And some gonzo: "Mother of Sweating Jesus! I thought. What is it – a leech? Are there leeches in this goddamn hotel, along with everything else? I jumped off the bed and began clawing at the small of my back with both hands. The thing felt huge, maybe eight or nine pounds, moving slowly up my spine toward the base of my neck."

7. A justly forgotten film
The lead film review: The Day of the Dolphin, a political thriller directed by Mike Nichols, starring George C. Scott as a scientist teaching dolphins to talk. (The poster's tagline: "UNWITTINGLY, HE TRAINED A DOLPHIN TO KILL THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.")

8. Stevie Wonder goes to England
In attendance at Stevie Wonder's concert in London: Paul and Linda McCartney, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Pete Townshend, David Bowie, the Staple Singers, and Denny Laine. From Paul Gambaccini's interview: "Wonder sat down next to his hotel-prepared snacks. The management had asked Motown if he wanted champagne and caviar, but all he requested were chocolate-chip cookies and hot tea."

9. Can't start a fire without a Court and Spark
The record review section covered Carly Simon's Hotcakes, a live Mahavishnu Orchestra LP, Grin's Gone Crazy, Donovan's Essence to Essence, Canned Heat's One More River to Cross, David Essex's Rock On, and the Temptations' futuristically titled 1990. The lead record review, written by Jon Landau (not yet Bruce Springsteen's manager), was a rave for Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark ("the first truly great pop album of 1974").

10. Bowie and Burroughs find common ground
Burroughs: "Did you see any of the porn films in New York?"
Bowie: "Yes, quite a few."
Burroughs: "When I was last back, I saw about 30 of them. I was going to be a judge at the erotic film festival."
Bowie: "The best ones were the German ones; they were really incredible."

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