Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday for a quick plug of his new memoir, Like A Rolling Stone. The appearance served as the latest in the media magnate’s press junket, which included a live interview conducted by Bruce Springsteen at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday night.
Fallon is his typically doting self, and the characteristically self-satisfied Wenner eats it up as he is barely in his chair when Fallon tells him, “You changed music for all of us with your magazine.” The two discuss the now-iconic image of John Lennon from the 1967 black comedy How I Won The War which graced the cover of the first issue of Rolling Stone on November 9th, 1967. It turns out that the image was merely a free press photo sent to the San Francisco rag by Lennon’s record company, and that the first issue of the magazine had a similarly inauspicious rollout.
“You got John Lennon for the first cover, this must have sold a million copies,” Fallon gushes. “We shipped 40,000 copies of that issue, we got 35,000 back in opened boxes,” Wenner reveals.
From those humble beginnings, Rolling Stone took Wenner to unfathomable heights and all the way to the White House where he interviewed former President Barack Obama multiple times during his presidency. It turns out that Wenner wasn’t the president’s only visitor from the music world one month, as Bono had stayed at the White House two weeks earlier, where the U2 guitarist told Wenner he went “mono e mono” on drinks with the Commander-in-Chief until the wee hours of the morning.
“So I said ‘I saw Bono last night and he said he drank you under the table,'” Wenner recalls of his chat with Obama. “He says ‘you’re kidding. I put him away. I had to carry him to the Lincoln Bedroom.'”
After discussing his recent interview with “buff” Bruce Springsteen, Wenner also fit in a quick humble brag that he was the one who inadvertently set up Paul and Linda McCartney. Linda, then known as Linda Eastman, was a photographer for Rolling Stone who had asked to be sent to shoot The Beatles in 1968 and the rest is history.
“I asked ‘why do you want to go?’ She said, ‘I want to meet Paul.’ So we sent her,” Wenner says.
With story time winding down, Wenner and Fallon dug into their shared history with a yarn from one of the publisher’s fittingly star-studded parties at his house. Wenner begins describing a dance-off between Fallon and Mick Jagger, with Jimmy greeting him with the gaze of a man who doesn’t remember that embarrassing thing he did at a party, like engaging in a dance battle with the Rolling Stones frontman. In the end, it served as an easy tee-up for Fallon’s Jagger impersonation as he lept into a full-fledged “Dancing In The Street”.
“It was like West Side Story,” Fallon remembers of the battle.
Watch the full Jann Wenner interview with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. Like A Rolling Stone is out now.
Jann Wenner Reveals How John Lennon Became the First Cover of Rolling Stone | The Tonight Show