Get in the Ring

Every back issue of Spin is now available online at Google Books! Spin wasn’t always the joke it is now, kids. It used to be a legitimate alternative to Rolling Stone (which was also not always the joke it is now). Spin had some very good writing, a focus on bands that you couldn’t necessarily read about elsewhere, and they always seemed like they were trying a little too hard.

Do you have a real job? Don’t have time to peruse 25 years of a music rag? That’s what we’re here for.

Most tantalizing tidbit from Spin’s premiere issue: Duran Duran and Michael Jackson will not be gracing any Purple Rain sequels. The former has turned down an offer by Purple director Al Magnoli because they are interested in their own production.

Damn it! I can’t even imagine the wonderment of a Purple Rain sequel about Duran Duran. Simon LeBon skinny-dipping and dealing with his Daddy issues! A battle of the bands with Pet Shop Boys! Arrgggghhhh. Why is life so cruel?

Best ad for an album (’80s division): Cock Robin! America’s newest hit band is exploding all over the country with their hit single, “When Your Heart is Weak.” Cock Robin.

Best non-music ad (’80s division):

Why hello there. We’re trying to live like Less Than Zero. We tuck our shirts into our jeans. And our jeans? Nothing short of…awesome. No, you can’t hang out with us.

A 1986 quote from R.E.M.’s Bill Berry that depresses me for several reasons: “[The band ending] is something I’ve thought about because here I am on my twenty-eighth birthday, my hair is falling out, and I can’t see myself being bald and playing drums onstage. The hair in the shower drain every morning does concern me.”

File under “How did I never know this?”: Spin came out with swimsuit issues in the ’80s, featuring both Belinda Carlisle and Susanna Hoffs on the cover.

Spin’s Top 5 albums of all time, as of 1989: James Brown/Sex Machine, Tom Waits/Swordfishtrombones, Blonde on Blonde, The Smiths/The Queen is Dead, and Led Zeppelin/Led Zeppelin II. A strange mix of contrarianism and fealty to the greats. Also of note: George Michael/Faith checks in at #14. “He even alters his own voice on “Hard Day” so he can sing the role of his own lover.” Well, then. And the greatest single of all time? “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. It’s times like these when it becomes much easier to appreciate Jann Wenner.

Speaking of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, here’s their bold prediction for 1989: “Rap and dance music will be stronger, designer sneakers will start to sell; more people will start realizing that drugs is not the way to live.” Two out of three ain’t bad.

Out-of-context quote from an Indigo Girl: “Taking showers, putting on makeup — that’s work.”

Two thoughts that re-reading Spin inspires:

1) I had forgotten what a big deal blank cassette tapes were in daily life. Buying the right speed, debating 90-minute vs. 100-minute tapes, high-end brand vs. low-end. Maxell, TDK, Memorex…just buying the right tapes to make a proper mix was exhausting, let alone trying to time the songs to fit correctly on each side. Ads for different kinds of cassettes are all over the first decade of Spin. God bless the iPod.

2) Reading the issues of Spin from the era when I first started buying the magazine (early ’90s), it’s amazing how well I remember certain articles, interviews and record reviews, considering that I have only read them once, nearly 20 years ago. That speaks to the impact that pop culture has during formative years, but also to the power of writing as an art form. There are instances wherein I remember record reviews more clearly than the records themselves. That’s why it’s dangerous to read reviews of films, TV, books or music before you experience the piece in question for yourself. Certain phrases, sentences and opinions can stick in your mind, and influence you no matter how much you may try to keep an open mind. I distinctly remember reviews of minor works like The Cure’s Wish, and profiles of nobodies like Henry Rollins. Those memories, those facts, are taking up valuable space in my brain that should be used for things like knowledge of how the adult world works.

Best non-music ad (’90s division):

Promising concept that is an absolute waste of space: Chuck D writing about Bruce Springsteen. Turns out, Chuck D knows absolutely nothing about Springsteen, which leads to gems like, “Does Springsteen still have any relevance to kids today? That’s not for me to say — of course he does,” and “But I can’t really judge Springsteen. All I got to say is: He’s the Boss. He’s the Boss — fuck it.” Thanks for that, Chuck.

Natalie Merchant in a nutshell: “I’ve taken upon myself the obligation of making a public plea to Central America for forgiveness for what has been done to their country [sic] by all of the money that’s been provided for military aid to rebel groups there.” I’m sorry, Natalie, and I’ll love you forever, but you make it too easy sometimes.

A snapshot of 1993: Appearing on consecutive covers — Alice in Chains; A shirtless Evan Dando tongue-kissing a girl (in an issue also featuring the “A-Z of Alternative Culture”); Porno for Pyros; Dinosaur Jr.; L7.

Best quote from a band profile, ever: “Live, for its part, has inherited the working-class transcendence of U2, personalizing it in order to truly touch its own generational constituency. Pained by the spiritual hollowness of its time, and stimulated by a kindred circle of writers and thinkers (Henry Miller, Jiddu Krishnamurti) from a similarly unsettled era, these young men are challenging themselves to find a fresh and edifying outlook on a world running down.”

The placenta falls to the floor, indeed.

The year in which Spin stopped being so ridiculous, and hence, stopped being so fun: About 1998.

Year the Dave Matthews Band appeared on the cover for the first time: 1998


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Filed under Music Has AIDS, The Dilemma

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