Classic Rock (magazine)

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Classic Rock is a magazine dedicated to the radio format of classic rock, published initially by Future Publishing and later by Team Rock, who are also responsible for its 'sister' publication Metal Hammer. Although firmly focusing on key bands from the 1960s through early 1990s, such as Queen, Free, Deep Purple, Status Quo, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Metallica and the Yardbirds, it also includes articles and reviews of contemporary and upcoming artists it deems worthy of note, such as the Answer and Wolfmother. Despite starting as a one-off project it has become one of the UK's best selling music magazines, and attracts much attention and respect of many of classic rock's biggest names. It recently published its 100th issue and now has a higher circulation than the New Musical Express.


Classic Rock was an idea formulated by ex-Metal Hammer Deputy Editor Jerry Ewing (subsequently editor of Classic Rock), along with Metal Hammer colleague Dave Ling and art editor Andy Ryan at Dennis Publishing. They suggested a one-off title dedicated to classic rock. They felt it was neglected in publication and would attract a large audience. In 1998 original publishers Dennis Publishing allegedly begrudgingly authorised the first issue of Classic Rock featuring Guns N' Roses and including an article by Mick Wall, a journalist who became something of an infamous name when Axl Rose called him out on the track 'Get in the Ring' on Use Your Illusion II, for telling untruths about the band. With few specialist rival publications, it sold better than expected and was continued. The magazine attracted a niche audience initially but sales grew as Classic Rock featured artists such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin on its cover in the first year. It attracted those who saw mainstream music publications such as Q and NME to be stale, and too focused on discovering the 'next big thing'. It also came at a time when the charts were even more dominated by pop bands than usual, as record companies seemed unwilling to risk money on bands who wrote their own material. Classic Rock soon became a regular fixture in newsagents the UK, Ireland and Europe, and now publishes 13 issues a year. On 2 April 2013, Future Publishing announced the sale of both Classic Rock and Metal Hammer magazines to Team Rock Ltd.[1] In September 2004, Scott Rowley was appointed editor-in-chief,[2] and oversaw the rapid growth in the magazine's circulation figures before being promoted to group editorial director for Team Rock in March 2014.[3]

Key acts

The magazine focuses on established bands with credentials dating back to the 1960's. Indeed, many of the artists who have appeared on its cover are deceased (Jimi Hendrix and Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy featured on early covers, as did bands with deceased members such as Queen and AC/DC).

Artists to have appeared on the front cover 3 times or more to date include Queen, Guns N' Roses, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, Metallica, Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Genesis, AC/DC, and Mötley Crüe. More recent acts to have been on the cover include the Darkness and Velvet Revolver have been on it twice, though it comprised of members well known to Classic Rock enthusiasts, such as Slash.

Despite the dominating nature of acts undeniably falling into the category of classic rock, the magazine takes an inclusive attitude to its genre and is happy to include heavy metal, prog rock, blues and grunge acts. Recent features have included thrash metal band Slayer, and are happy to review acts as diverse as Porcupine Tree, Buckcherry and Rodrigo y Gabriela. Monthly updates on 'sleaze rock|sleaze' and prog releases are a regular feature.

Contemporary acts

Classic Rock reviews any release that even comes close to being classified as rock, including albums, DVDs, concerts and books. It includes an annual award for best new band. Acts such as Rose Hill Drive, Muse, DragonForce, Wolfmother and the Answer have all been featured in recent months, indeed the Answer's debut album Rise received rave reviews.

100 Greatest British Albums

For the 91st issue (April, 2006), the magazine presented 'The 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever', which were voted for by Classic Rock staff and various people associated with rock music (including Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath fame, Lemmy of Motörhead and Francis Rossi of Status Quo). The magazine decided to let AC/DC be classed as a British act, although the band was formed in Australia. Two of the band's singers (Bon Scott and Brian Johnson) and guitarists Angus Young and Malcolm Young are British. Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV reached first place.

100th issue

The 100th issue, quite a landmark considering the haphazard nature of the magazine's origin, contained all the regular features, but only one article, in which 100 names in rock were asked to write a piece on their nomination for a 'rock icon'. Contributors included such notable figures as Brian May, Lemmy (who nominated Tina Turner, who was then himself nominated by Ian Camfield) Ian Gillan, Gary Moore, Angus Young, Phil Collins, Sebastian Bach, Peter Frampton, Jerry Cantrell, Chris Cornell, Paul Rodgers, Chad Smith, Jack Black, Zakk Wylde and Matt Bellamy.

Special issues

Classic Rock has also published, in conjunction with Metal Hammer, special decade issues featuring 70s (Issue I), 80s (Issue II), and 90s (Issue III) hard rock and metal bands, throughout 2006. In 2007, three special editions were also published with bonus DVDs for £7.50. These each focussed on one genre of rock music - first blues rock (Issue I), then progressive rock (Issue II), and finally, heavy metal (Issue III). A special 2007 collector's edition bookazine was produced entitled 'High Voltage', featuring stories by leading writers and photographs by Ross Halfin on Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Axl Rose et al.


Since the change of publishing companies in 2013, Classic Rock has been criticized by readers of straying from the genre and including article space to artists that would not normally be considered classic rock, by including pop-punk, punk, and ska. After peaking in 2012, circulation audit figures reveal that although it still sells more editions than NME, it shed 4.6% of its readership by the February 2014 survey.[4]

Within hours of Scott Rowley vacating the Editor-In-Chief position in April 2014, the Classic Rock website underwent a radical revamp, deleting Rowley's blog, all previous news and feature articles, and comment sections. Select articles prior to April 2014 are now only available via subscription.


  1. Taylor, Chris (2 April 2013). TeamRock Acquires Classic Rock and Metal Hammer from Future plc. Future Publishing. Retrieved on 13 September 2013.
  2. Staff writer (22 September 2004). New editing line-up is ready to rock. Press Gazette. Progressive Media International. Retrieved on 30 March 2014.
  3. Staff writer (27 March 2014). Goodbye Classic Rock, from Editor In Chief Scott Rowley. Press Gazette. Progressive Media International. Retrieved on 12 April 2014.
  4. Plunkett, John. NME sales fall below 20,000, The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 February 2014. Retrieved on 24 March 2014.