Spin Magazine's early days: putting the Gucci in Guccione
March 6, 2010 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Founded in 1985, the first year of Spin Magazine spilled ink on all sorts of great American fringe music. Swans, Sonic Youth, Jandek, Glenn Branca, Hüsker Dü, and Squirrel Bait. The magazine's entire run is available on Google Books.

The first year also featured writings from Byron Coley on The Minutemen - article, review of 3-Way Tie (For Last). Andrea 'Enthal post-D.Boon Minutemen tribute. Also worth your time: Henry Rollins on 7-11s, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, the Velvet Underground and The Stooges, and a Black Flag tour diary. Also, don't miss Richard Meltzer's Rock Memories.
posted by porn in the woods (39 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
He's liberal and insane,
He caught the good news horse
His opposite is vain
The cardboard fake in the witness stand
He's got an interview in Spin magazine
He loves the magazine

posted by UbuRoivas at 11:13 AM on March 6, 2010

wow...this is fantastic..thanks a lot for posting!!!
posted by therubettes at 11:42 AM on March 6, 2010

Great title.

Wasn't Spin essentially Bob Guccione getting his son an in with rock stars?

Shit, do the math. Bob Guccione + 1985 / Spin Magazine = what?
posted by Sphinx at 11:50 AM on March 6, 2010

I was an avid Spin reader back in the mid and late 80's. This is awesome.

Question - are these tagged in any way? There's a particular advertisement for JBL computer speakers I've been trying to track down for years. It featured the musician/producer Don Was. I posted about it once on AskMeFi and Was actually saw my post and contacted me, but he didn't have a copy of the ad. I have a feeling the ad appeared in Spin at some point.
posted by davebush at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

There really was a cultural divide in pop music at that point: radio rock vs punk and rap. I remember fazines getting thicker and thicker leading up to Spin's appearance. The intro to Loverboy's "Lovin' Every Minute of It" video really caputures the other side of the argument.
posted by bendybendy at 11:53 AM on March 6, 2010

So many great articles, so little time to catch up on the ones I missed. Maybe I didn't like all the issues that they put out, but the fact that they had their ongoing articles entitled "AIDS: Words from the Front" every month really impressed me, especially at a time when it wasn't talked about much, or was relegated to a news article once every *whenever* in other magazines. Regardless of what they thought of the magazine in general, people I've mentioned that to agreed that it was a very cool and important thing to do.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:56 AM on March 6, 2010

That's nice, but how about getting all of the Trouser Press issues online!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:59 AM on March 6, 2010

I thought it was bizarre that a recent Google search for music video directors turned up an entire issue of Spin with no conceivable catch. Huh. Thanks for posting!
posted by cavalier at 12:13 PM on March 6, 2010

If I were to recommend one article it would be this one with N.W.A.. To give you a flavor of what its like - it ends with Eazy E raising his glass and proclaiming 'Fuck the world.'
posted by therubettes at 12:14 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

oh man i hope they have jim greer's year in the life of rock n roll. i've been looking for those columns forever! seriously.
posted by jcruelty at 12:15 PM on March 6, 2010


Praise you sir. Praise you and praise this vast internet and praise whoever decided not to sue.
posted by jcruelty at 12:17 PM on March 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I used to have a major love/hate relationship with Spin in those early years. When Spin launched I was just starting to embrace fanzines and I was still lamenting the loss of Trouser Press and Creem (Creem didn't fold, but it stopped being the magazine I loved in the late 70's/early 80's). I was still new to the erratic nature (and publishing) of fanzines, so Spin was the reliable magazine to turn to to discover cool new music. But I hated learning about underground music from a glossy magazine that put Janet Jackson, Mick Jagger, and Sting on the cover. I almost felt a little ashamed subscribing, but so many of my favorite records of the era were bought because of articles and reviews in Spin.

I just flipped through a few of the early issues and was surprised at the depth of the coverage. I can remember which articles triggered me to go buy a particular record. And there are more of those than I recalled. I just saw the review that made me go to Wax Trax to buy my first Neubauten record. Maybe I just started hating Spin because it seemed like the proper indie thing to do.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:35 PM on March 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd like to thank all the men whose choice of wank-fodder helped underwrite my beloved Spin.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:38 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this. I clicked on the first issue and noted that the full-page photo of Sade is the spitting image of what Rihanna would look like, what? 25 years later? Everything is recycled.
posted by blucevalo at 12:40 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Felt the same way, Slack-a-gogo. Looking through those familiar pages again, though, and I'm impressed how good the coverage was. Putting the mainstream folks on the cover seems like a small concession now. To have Chuck Eddy interview the Bad Brains for a magazine that just about any kid could get at the convenience store was an accomplishment.
posted by bendybendy at 12:43 PM on March 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wait, Don Was saw your post on AskMefi and got in touch with you? Lede: Buried.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:50 PM on March 6, 2010

ssF - yep, out of the blue (green?) one morning I had an email from Don Was - he said he was amazed I remembered the ad and gave me some background on it. The ad featured a great photo of him, sitting on porch with his feet up, working on his computer. I was inspired by the image and it was one of the reasons I ended up in that line of work.

Where the hell is that ad?! I'd kill for a poster of it.
posted by davebush at 1:05 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Articles I specifically remember.

Baltimore 15 years before The Wire

The Beastie Boys in '85 and '87

As a hip hop kid who secretly liked rock music, this was the article that brought me out of the closet, and got me going to hardcore shows. Bad Brains '87
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:14 PM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

John Leland's singles column in Spin is what turned me on to Big Black, The Fall, Hüsker Dü, and countless others. Even the advertisements - "Light my Lucky" and Lou Reed's Honda scooter promo - trigger waves of nostalgia.
posted by porn in the woods at 1:22 PM on March 6, 2010

Spin was such a cool magazine way back when -- and I probably didn't read it until after people first started saying that (late '80s sometime). I predict many lost hours for me...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2010

Hang hang hang hang on, Don Was is a MeFite?!
posted by cavalier at 2:12 PM on March 6, 2010

Slack-A-Go-Go: Maybe I just started hating Spin because it seemed like the proper indie thing to do.

Same feelings here. Commercial radio and the major record labels were so repellent that there was no way in hell I was going to touch anything that even gave lip service to that pap. I mean Spin eventually sorta attained a hard won level of semi-okiness with the indie scenes, and they really began to bit into Rolling Stones younger demographic, but for me it seemed senseless to support Spin, a vanity project for a guy with a mega rich dad in porn, when you had the likes of great fanzines you could get with a little bit more effort like, Forced Exposure, Filpside, Maximum Rock-n-Roll, The Big Takeover, Conflict, Chemical Imbalance, Factsheet Five and I'm sure I'm forgetting a whole bunch of other good ones, but those above were like sacred texts to me, they were written by disciples and for disciples and the writing was great (here I'm thinking predominantly of the great Byron Coley), the humor rude and annoying and irreverent as all get out and I would read and inhale every bit of music knowledge I could get from those things.

I guess eventual.ly thought the cooler than thou aspect of those mags got to be a bit suffocating and as I began to actually meet a lot of the people who wrote for those publications I began to realize, that they were really rich spoiled white kids from the suburbs who could afford to be that cool and disaffected and snobbish about their musical tastes, whereas for me it was almost purely about the writing and the music and hell I was solidly middle class anyway and was going to have a hard time with wealthy indie rockers from Connecticut, or Gross Pointe or where ever those guys were from.

I did end up writing for one of them though when I went up to the editor of one of those fanzines at a show and said I wanted to buy a half page ad for my band the $75 going rate and he nearly had a heart attack that I was actually going to give him real money (he had developed a massive drug habit), and I'm pretty sure for a little extra money I probably could've gotten him to sell me the ad space in the whole magazine!

Ah...yep that's the way it was in the old days kids, we got our fingers stained with ink from cheaply printed and xeroxed fanzines, searching for that next bit of punk/hardcore/postpunk/noisecore/grindcore/nowave musical nugget of brilliance and then we ordered these black slabs of vinyl through the mail or is we were lucky we had one record shop that could be trusted to be on top of things and the bands made no money and travelled thousands of miles in shitty vans and there would be five people at a show because it was zero degrees out and no one knew about your band anyway and most people listened to Loverboy and thought you were a freak for wearing black clothes heald together with duct tape and no one ever got laid and no one drank. AND WE LOVED IT!!

Now get the FUck....oFF a MY LAWN!!!
posted by Skygazer at 2:18 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Their AIDS column was a mixed blessing: I got to write one of the earliest American pieces on needle exchange for it, but Guccione Jr. soon became convinced that heterosexual AIDS risk was not real and that HIV didn't cause AIDS.

In the early days, there wasn't that much data showing how HIV caused AIDS so the skeptics had some points about the possibility that something more was going on. But once there was overwhelming evidence, they carried on nonetheless, and the page's editor, Celia Farber, continues to push this deadly and wrong-headed position even now.
posted by Maias at 2:18 PM on March 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Success! Someone found my Don Was ad.

I swear I've been looking for this for years.
posted by davebush at 2:19 PM on March 6, 2010

I'm amazed that the two 1994 issues leading up to Kurt Cobain's death are "Soundgarden kills grunge dead" and "Courtney Love comes clean".
posted by Adam_S at 2:23 PM on March 6, 2010

Oh, yes, almost forgot, I always thought it was a coup for Spin to have the foresight to hire Byron Coley writing for them and him getting paid a real paycheck for it. HOw crazy was that???
posted by Skygazer at 2:23 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I remember buying this one new in 1986 and being depressed that the Stone were breaking up.
posted by punkfloyd at 3:39 PM on March 6, 2010

Wait a second - 'porn in the woods' sends us a link to find free (virtual) magazines? Can google books gt their pages stuck together?
posted by FatherDagon at 4:01 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

To my surprise, a copy of Spin magazine appeared in my mailbox in January. I thought it was some kind of one-time thing (or perhaps somebody had anonymously bought me a subscription for Christmas, which was the only other scenario I could come up with) but it happened again last month: there was Courtney Love looking back at me amongst the bills and flyers. I finally figured out, after accusing various people I knew of using my name for a two for one deal (or something) that because I bought a ticket for the Treasure Island Music Festival in SF last Fall, I am now a Spin subscriber. On one hand-- great marketing! They get to claim an increase in subscription numbers, and I get a "free" copy of Spin every month (which I would sometimes buy anyway). And I can tell you something that I really like about Spin: you can read through an entire issue without seeing either any snark directed at female musicians, who are treated seriously, or half-nekked pictures of women (or at least none that aren't also accompanied by half-naked guys, as in a fashion spread). That alone gets my vote, but on top of that they actually do seem to report on new and interesting things on a national level. So, yeah, I'd rather have Spin around than not, basically.
posted by jokeefe at 4:01 PM on March 6, 2010

I read Spin as a young teenager and was really convinced by some of those HIV-didn't-cause-AIDS articles. I'm glad I wasn't in a position to act on them in any way.

I particularly enjoyed revisiting this article on acid house from 1989 (so early the word "rave" never appears). After reading it at the time, with no knowledge of what the music sounded like, I knew I would love it. And I was right.
posted by nev at 4:53 PM on March 6, 2010

I finally figured out, after accusing various people I knew of using my name for a two for one deal (or something) that because I bought a ticket for the Treasure Island Music Festival in SF last Fall, I am now a Spin subscriber. On one hand-- great marketing! They get to claim an increase in subscription numbers, and I get a "free" copy of Spin every month

Yeah, this is one of the more innovative ideas that's been introduced in recent years to try and staunch the magazine industry's massive bleeding. It grew out of the realization that while many people (younger folks especially) deemed a $15-25 magazine subscription too expensive and unnecessary, they'd happily plunk down $20 or $40 or much more to see a show or attend a festival.

The way it was explained to me, Spacing magazine in Toronto was among the first (in Canada, anyway) to start intentionally staging concerts to boost subscription nos. Alberta Views, which I write for from time to time, is now looking into the same strategy.

(Also, thanks for the link. Love that ole Spin! Now if someone will only do the same for the ultra-awesome, Chris Heath-featuring Details of the late '80s and early '90s, I can recreate the quiet-Sundays-of-my-late-teens experience in full.)
posted by gompa at 5:12 PM on March 6, 2010

When flash drives fully displace hard disks, music playback will no longer involve any spin.
posted by bendybendy at 6:33 PM on March 6, 2010

The decline of SPIN was so gradual and so thorough that I had completely forgotten that it was actually a cool magazine once upon a time. Thanks for the link!
posted by spilon at 6:48 PM on March 6, 2010

Cool, I started reading Spin in the early 90's, and was wanting to read more of Michael O'Dohoghue's columns in the back of every issue. It became one of the things I looked forward to every month. Then he passed on, and being a poor college student in early internet days, I thought I would never see them again.
posted by Badgermann at 7:33 PM on March 6, 2010

Wasn't Spin essentially Bob Guccione getting his son an in with rock stars?

This was said at the time, but back then -- pre-Internet -- there was a real need for it. Rolling Stone just wasn't interested in a lot of this material, previously relegated to the world of zines and fringe publishing. It was indeed the Pitchfork of its day for all that implies.

Besides, when Bob tried to shut it down, his son rebelled and took it independent. Gutsy.
posted by dhartung at 10:27 PM on March 6, 2010

Magic. Thanks so much for posting this. SPIN Magazine 1989 influenced me so very much, it's so neat to go back and read the issues *almost* as I did then.
posted by jenh at 10:55 PM on March 6, 2010

I didn't know Spin was still around! As to the back issues, my fave article was the one that posited Cuba as the birthplace of rock and roll.
posted by bonefish at 1:32 AM on March 7, 2010

Where is the December 1994 issue? Is this the only one that's missing?

This is the only issue of Spin from my teenage years, that I wanted to keep and managed to lose. Not because I like looking at that goofy picture of Billy Corgan, but because of their 20 best albums that year. That list transfixed me as a 12-year old. I know what's on the list (Hole, R.E.M, Pavement, Veruca Salt, The Magnetic Fields, Superchunk, etc), but I wanted to read the damned thing again!
posted by Coatlicue at 6:57 AM on March 7, 2010

Things I had forgotten: I had to get one of my older friends to drive to Nashville and buy this issue for me, since all the local retailers had banned it because, HORRORS!, it included a free condom. I seem to recall he got carded for it too. Can't be letting those minors practice safe sex or anything...

As I sit in my office right now, with literally boxes of condoms within arms reach, this amuses me even more.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:27 AM on March 8, 2010

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