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Gallery: The Best Break-Out Bands on Rolling Stone’s Cover

The Band had been around in one form or another for the better part of a decade when they first appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in August of 1968. They had spent most of that time backing Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, inspiring the group to dub themselves The Band. Their debut LP Music From Big Pink had just arrived on shelves when this story hit, and from that point on they were no longer anonymous — even if they're facing away from the photographer in this photo.

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This article appears in the August 24, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive

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Michael Jackson (1971)

As this famous cover line says, Michael Jackson was just 11 when he first appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. During the previous year the Jackson 5 had exploded onto the charts, scoring huge hits with "ABC," "I Want You Back," "I'll Be There" and many others. It was the group's peak, but a decade later Jackson would emerge as one of the most successful recording artists in the history of recorded music.

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This article appears in the April 29, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Elton John (1971)

Elton John's first appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone capped off a very big year for the singer/songwriter. In that time he released his 1970 self-titled LP and Tumbleweed Connection, scoring the breakthrough single "Your Song" and playing an acclaimed series of concerts across America. It was the beginning of a spectacular four-decade career at the top.

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This article appears in the June 10, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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David Bowie (1972)

To American audiences it may have seemed like David Bowie broke overnight, but in truth his success came only after a decade spent working tirelessly in his native England. The LP that finally put him over the top was the glam rock opera The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, which he promoted on a groundbreaking tour that saw Bowie personifying the alien-like rocker onstage. For most careers this would be a pinnacle, but Bowie was just getting started.

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This article appears in the November 9, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Steven Tyler (1976)

Aerosmith have peaked and cratered more than nearly any band in history. The first peak came right around the time of this Steven Tyler cover in the summer of 1976. The group had just released Rocks, featuring "Back In The Saddle" and "Last Child." Within a few years drugs and internal tension reduced the group to a club act, but by the late Eighties they had crawled their way back to the top.

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This article appears in the August 26, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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The Sex Pistols (1977)

The Sex Pistols got so much attention for their clothing, drug habits and general bad attitude that people often forget just how amazing their first (and last) LP Nevermind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols is. Classics like "Bodies," "God Save The Queen" and "Anarchy In The UK" sound just as good today as they did back then. They split just months after this cover came out, but have reformed numerous times – and even with just the one album they have more than enough songs to make for a great concert.

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This article appears in the October 20, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

Madonna (1984)

1984 was the year of the blockbuster album. Prince released Purple Rain, Bruce Springsteen released Born in the U.S.A and Van Halen released 1984. The album that launched the biggest career, however, was Madonna's Like A Virgin. While all the previously mentioned artists saw their popularity peak with their landmark 1984 discs, Madonna just kept getting bigger and bigger over the next two decades.

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This article appears in the November 22, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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U2 (1985)

The Eighties were just half over when Rolling Stone dubbed U2 "our band of the '80s." It was a bold statement, but with the release of 1984's The Unforgettable Fire it was clear that U2 were a major force in music. Two years later, their popularity reached new heights when they put out The Joshua Tree. This was the band's first Rolling Stone cover, and they've gone on record many times over the years saying that they despise the photo. What exactly are they standing in front of? A staircase that was just set on fire?

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This article appears in the March 14, 1985 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Guns N Roses (1988)

Guns N' Roses were on top of the world when this cover hit stands in the fall of 1988. Their debut album, Appetite For Destruction, had turned them into superstars, and their brilliant EP Lies was on the verge of coming out. They began falling apart fewer than two years later when drummer Steven Adler was kicked out of the band for drug abuse. That was just the beginning of the problems that would plague the band over the next two decades. Nowadays they are a shell of themselves, with an increasingly volatile Axl Rose the sole remaining original member. They are eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year, so it's possible that the five men in this photo could find themselves sharing a stage. We wouldn't count on it, though.

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This article appears in the November 17, 1988 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Nirvana (1992)

Photographer Mark Seliger remembers the photo session for this Nirvana cover very well. "I said to Kurt, 'I think that's a great shirt,'" he recalls. "'I think that's great. That's a great shirt! – but let's shoot a couple, with and without it.' Kurt said, 'No, I'm not going to take my shirt off.'"

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This article appears in the April 16, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Green Day (1995)

When Green Day cut their 1994 LP Dookie they had an inkling it would do well, but they never could have dreamed it would become one of the biggest albums of the entire decade. The San Francisco trio had been recording and touring for five years when they signed to Reprise in late 1993. They teamed the band up with producer Rob Cavallo, who helped the group craft their pop punk masterpiece. Videos for "Longview," "Welcome To Paradise" and "Basket Case" were in constant rotation on MTV, bringing Dookie's sales higher and higher with each airing. It would be a decade before the group matched its success.

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This article appears in the January 26, 1995 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Britney Spears (1999)

This cover may not seem shocking now, but when it came out in 1999 Britney Spears was just 17 – and hadn't even dipped her toes into a scandal. Even back then, she knew exactly what she was doing. Photographer David LaChapelle vividly recalls the late night shoot when Britney stripped down to her underwear until her shocked manager walked into the room. He demanded to know what was going on. "She went, 'Yeah, I don't feel comfortable,'" says the photographer. "At first I felt betrayed. But as soon as he walked out, Britney said 'Lock the door' and unbuttoned her shirt wide open."

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This article appears in the April 15, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Eminem (1999)

The issue right after our famous Britney Spears cover we had another new artist on the cover: Eminem. At the time we had no idea that the two of them would become two of the biggest stars of the next decade. In the piece, Em's mentor Dr. Dre spoke about his discovery. "If he remains the same person that walked into the studio with me that first day, he will be fucking larger than Michael Jackson," said Dre. "There are a lot of ifs and buts, but my man, he's dope and very humble."

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This article appears in the April 29, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Kanye West (2006)

Long before he grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye West infuriated America by posing as Jesus Christ on the cover of Rolling Stone. Even back then, he was sick of people mocking his cockiness. "In America, they want you to accomplish these great feats, to pull off these David Copperfield-type stunts," West said. "But let someone ask you about what you're doing, and if you turn around and say, 'It's great,' then people are like, 'What's wrong with you?' You want me to be great, but you don't ever want me to say I'm great?"

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This article appears in the February 9, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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Lady Gaga (2009)

When Rolling Stone put Lady Gaga on the cover in the summer of 2009 she was a big star, but not quite the global icon that she is today. As she told writer Brian Hiatt, she had huge plans. "I feel like I have so much to do," she said. "The whole world sees the number-one records and the rise in sales and recognition, but my true legacy will be the test of time, and whether I can sustain a space in pop culture and really make stuff that will have a genuine impact."

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This article appears in the June 11, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

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