There's a hallway at Rolling Stone's New York headquarters wallpapered with every cover of the magazine since its November 9th, 1967 inception -- a walk through images from four decades of rock & roll history. Last night, that hallway came to life at the magazine's 1000th issue concert bash at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, with guests as varied as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ice-T, Marilyn Manson and Bette Midler, and a headlining performance by the Strokes, with surprise appearances by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Lou Reed.
Rolling Stone editor and publisher Jann S. Wenner kicked off the party with a few surprises, inviting crooner and longtime pal John Mellencamp onstage for a joint rendition of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show's 1973 hit, "The Cover of the Rolling Stone." Guests like Blondie's Debbie Harry, the Beastie Boys' Mike D, Sebastian Bach and Moby were early minglers among the V.I.P. area's white leather couches, as Ice-T and David Cassidy -- who bared it all on a 1972 cover -- walked the red carpet.
"In those days, [getting naked] was very controversial, even for a male to do it," the former Partridge Family star says of the memorable image, shot by Annie Leibovitz. "I go to concerts, and people still hold it up to me."
Ice-T remembered his own notorious 1992 cover. "Putting me in a police uniform right in the middle of the cop-killing controversies, poking fun back at the police, took a lot of balls," he says. "Whether it's Marilyn Manson, Run-D.M.C. or Slayer, when you break the rules or push the buttons -- that's rock."
Speaking of Manson, the goth cover star, who arrived with his new wife, burlesque beauty Dita Von Teese, says of his 1997 cover, in which his face was painted into a nightmare-ish mask, "The effects of that are unforgettable." But even more memorable for Manson was when the magazine asked him to write about the Columbine shootings. "That," he says, "was important to me."
Inside, Paul Shaffer and band provided background music, with covers of Sly Stone's "Dance to the Music" and the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There." Soul legend Solomon Burke was up next, appearing in a blue bedazzled suit seated on his signature throne. Opening his set with his classic "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," Burke went on to cover "Having a Party," coloring the Sam Cooke number with his deep, bluesy growl as three babes threw Mardi Gras necklaces into the audience.
More rockers -- including Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and Ryan Adams -- filed through the door as it grew closer to the Strokes' set time. Adams paused to talk about the magazine: "I bought Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation because of a review I read in Rolling Stone." Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, before heading to the stage, also remembered avidly reading up. "When I was studying music in Long Island, when I took the train, every time a new [issue] came out I would read all the reviews," he said. "I was just fascinated."
At 11:30, columns of red strobes lit the stage as the Strokes launched into their breakthrough tune "Someday." The band went on to play the recent single, "Heart in a Cage," and earlier fan fave, "The Modern Age," with Casablancas promising the audience, "We're gonna honor a lot of music tonight."
Introducing him as a "hero of ours," the band welcomed Eddie Vedder who headbanged to the opening riffs of "Juicebox" (the lead single off First Impressions of Earth), sitting on Fabrizio Moretti's drum riser before stepping up to swap lead vocals. As Vedder wailed, "Why won't you come over here?/ We've got a city to love," Casablancas dropped to his knees for the refrain.
To maintain the rock & roll high, the New York-based rockers broke into "Last Night," with guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. leaning back during the solo in rock-god style. An electrifying "Vision of Division" and "Barely Legal" followed, with Hammond pulling the coolest rock move of the night: a trust fall into a back roll out of the song's ending note. In one surreal moment, comedian David Cross made his way to the front row to shout "hip-hip hooray!" between songs.
Apparently, one visiting rock icon wasn't enough for the Strokes. "Enough of that shit. We got a guest here," said Casablancas. "The man himself, the beautiful Lou Reed."
The former Velvet Underground frontman sauntered onstage armed with a white axe, and let Casablancas kick off the first verse of his solo classic, "Walk on the Wild Side." The two traded verses, as Valensi improvised on guitar. Not only the crowd was feeling it: In high drama, Moretti came down from his drum set to throw himself to his knees in front of the rock legend, and Reed put his arms around Casablancas in a big embrace.
The band wrapped up the evening, thirty-nine years in the making, with a rendition of their relentless "Take It or Leave It." At the song's abrupt close, Moretti once again hopped from his platform, this time beer in tow, and jumped off the stage -- to join all the rockers and rock fans in the crowd.