Crash Landing

After editor Charles R. Cross bought the paper in 1986, he sold it BAM Media in 1995 and remained on staff as a writer. BAM used the profitable Rocket to bankroll it’s other publications and keep them around which eventually drained all the fuel out of The Rocket and in October of 2000, almost exactly 21 years from its beginnings, the paper called it quits. In an interview with The Seattle Times just after it announced it’s closing, Charles R. Cross said that it wasn’t about The Rocket becoming irrelevant and unpopular, but that it had been “poorly run the last few years.”

Even with a blog for every subculture out there nowadays, there will never be anything like The Rocket.It’s devotion to it’s readers and community on a mass-scale is unparalleled by anything out there today.

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The Scene

The Rocket had a profound affect on the city and the bands it covered within it. Being on the cover of The Rocket was just as good as making it on the cover of Rolling Stone for a lot of musicians. To many bands, it was the only media outlet that would ever pay any attention to them. For example, once a year the paper would host a “Demo Listen Derby” where writers would review absolutely anything people sent them and each and every demo was granted a 40-word review. Nothing to some bands, everything to others. According to Charles R. Cross, when Nirvana’s first full-length LP “Bleach” came out, the type for their album cover font was set at The Rocket by Lisa Orth. The band used the same typeset for their following albums as well.

It’s important to point out early that The Rocket’s existence was pre-(useful) Internet, pre-Social Media and pre-Experience Music Project—no music bloggers and no way to share your obscure band with the world that wasn’t outside your immediate friend group. It was a different time. Things didn’t move as quickly as they do now and bands had to really rely on creating a fire around their sound locally instead of playing a few shows at home then moving the band to a bigger city with the hopes of getting recognized. The Rocket helped make that happen.

“If you were a band in 1989 in Seattle and you put out an album, there’d be one place in the world that would pay attention to it, and that was The Rocket—and that meant something,” said Charles R. Cross in an interview with City Arts in 2012 before The Rocket‘s 33-1/3 anniversary.

Despite it’s presence in the music community, The Rocket was not loved by everybody. Some people felt it was too pretentious; the local music focus was too exclusive and didn’t make an effort to include a lot of potential readers. Like an industry type journal that only made sense to those within it. Even some local bands couldn’t praise the paper because it gave their band a bad review. However, Seattle musician Rocky Votolato, whose band Waxwing was on the cover of the second-to-last issue, said in an article by The Stranger after The Rocket‘s end that being covered by the magazine was a boost in morale and also helped getting shows. “I always wanted to be on the cover,” Votolato said, “I think every band did, whether they said it or not.”

Former Sub Pop Records receptionist Anna Wolverton said in the same article with The Stranger  “everyone involved in the music community in Seattle can probably link themselves somehow to The Rocket, which is rather profound if you think about it, considering what this town has accomplished.”

The Rocket not only sparked the careers of many bands and musicians but it also provided a launchpad for writers and visual artists too. Some notable names that have blown through their offices are Sub Pop Records co-founder Bruce Pavitt—Sub Pop U.S.A was also a column in The Rocket penned by Pavitt while starting the record label under the same name—Simpson’s creator Matt Groening, comedian John Keister, NPR music critic Ann Powers and author Charles R. Cross to name just a few.

Video: EMP Pop Conference ’07: How the Rocket Fell to Earth 

Below: Soundgarden on the cover of the October 1988 edition.

 

 

Below: Simpson’s creator Matt Groening’s cover art for the December 1993 edition.

 

Bibliography

Baltus, Leah. “Blast from the past.” CityArtsOnline.com. Encore Media Group, 28 July 2012. Web. 1 Mar. 2016. <http://www.cityartsonline.com/issues/seattle/2012/08/blast-past&gt;.

Blecha, Peter. “Kurt Cobain Posts a “Drummer Wanted” Classified Advertisement in Seattle’s The Rocket Magazine on May 1, 1988.” Historylink.org. N.p., 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2016. <http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=10378&gt;.

R. Cross, Charles. Writer, author.

Goedde, Brian. “End of Flight, Pleases Disembark, R.I.P the Rocket.” TheStranger.com. N.p., 2 Nov. 2000. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <https://www.thestranger.com/seattle/end-of-flight-please-disembark/Content?oid=5443&gt;

“EMP Pop Conference ’07: How the Rocket Fell to Earth.” Seattlechannel.org. N.p., 21 Apr. 2007. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <

Kelly, John. “Rockin’ in the New Year with The Rocket’s Xmas Covers.” The Comics Journal. N.p., 22 Dec. 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. <http://www.tcj.com/rockin-in-the-new-year-with-the-rockets-xmas-covers/&gt;.

Sitt, Pam. “Rocket’s Nose Dive Stuns Magazine Staffers.” SeattleTimes.com. N.p., 20 Oct. 2000. Web. 28 Feb. 2016. <http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20001020&slug=4048795&gt;.

Soundgarden photo: http://40.media.tumblr.com/68b686c6f750165789888e42fe05b92c/tumblr_mqes6nzT5X1sbf4sbo1_1280.jpg

Stevens, Jeff. “October 31, 1979: Launching The Rocket.” The Seattle Star. N.p., 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. <http://www.seattlestar.net/2012/10/october-31-1979-launching-the-rocket/&gt;.

Waresak, Christine. “Charles R. Cross, Writer.” Constellations617.com. Christine Waresak, 2014. Web. 2 Mar. 2016. <http://www.constellation617.com/charles-r-cross-writer/&gt;.

 

Introduction

“There was nothing like it, before or since” said Charles R. Cross, writer, author, editor and once publisher of The Rocket, Seattle’s music and culture magazine.

Starting as a supplement to the now defunct weekly Seattle paper The Seattle Sun to compete with the Seattle Weekly, The Rocket was a music and culture magazine that set out to cover local music, and eventually touring bands that came to town, like no one else in the city from 1979-2000.

The Rocket was the first place to cover bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam as well as other bands that helped create the Seattle music scene. Reaching a circulation of 90,000 between Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Vancouver, B.C and Missoula, Montana at its peak, the magazine finally folded in 2000 due to unfortunate mismanagement but leaves its legacy as the deft bookkeepers of a breaking music scene.

Below: The Rocket‘s second anniversary issue from October 1981. Cover photo of staff outside the magazine’s “headquarters.”