After being purchased by Buzzmedia last week, Spin magazine looks to be on its last legs — the magazine part of it, anyway. Though Buzzmedia representatives haven't said it's going digital-only, they haven't committed to maintaining the print edition, either. It seems likely that we won't see much more of it. (A Buzzmedia representative did not respond to requests for comment.)
And so please indulge me as I reminisce about the glory days of a music rag that was a formative part of my childhood. Much like your cool but wacky older cousin, Spin played the foil to that burnout uncle of rock & roll magazines, Rolling Stone. Rather than being forever behind the times (and way too full of politics), Spin was always about what was interesting, even if it wasn't always about what was particularly good.
Sure, Spin perhaps had an excess of goofy hair on its covers in the '90s, and oversold the Stone Temple Pilots more than once, but it never featured too much classic rock bullshit. Instead, it often focused on emerging groups — Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Pharcyde — that are still beloved today.
Like the Bob Dylan song, Spin somehow got younger as it aged, and crazier too; for every page devoted to the same crappy Omaha or Brooklyn band being blown by Pitchfork, there was a curveball or two: Scandinavian black metal and Slayer evangelists, Phish shows where the writers got laid.
We'll be honest: Spin got a lot wrong. The magazine picked Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque over Nevermind for its 1991 Album of the Year. And there's hardly a more random choice than its pick for the best album of the past 25 years, which was, wait for it, U2's Achtung Baby.
The fun was not getting incensed by their schizophrenia, but just going with it. It helped that they made good jokes, like Chuck Klosterman's fake review of Chinese Democracy, two years before it actually came out.
Personally, I'd always pray to the alt-rock gods that my monthly copy of Spin (paid for, naturally, with paper route money) would arrive on a weekday. That meant I'd get my hands on it before my mom got home from work, lest she confiscate it for a cover too racy — which she deemed both grown men with spiked blue hair (Green Day, November 1994) and lithe, shirtless nymphs (PJ Harvey, May 1995).
Obviously, this was stuff that might warp a fragile tween's mind.
But the covers that survived went straight onto my textbooks; October '94's Tori Amos covered my 8th grade science text. The nuns had a field day with that one — “She's naked!”
“She might be — honestly, Sister Martha, I wish it were easier to tell.”
“It says 'sex' on it!”
“Correct me if I'm wrong but sex is part of science, right?”
That got me whacked with a ruler.
Spin really only made sense to people who came up after Rolling Stone's heyday yet before the rise of blogging. Thus most people in college — and most people with kids in college — are unlikely to care about its fate. But the others probably get what makes the likely shuttering of its print edition so sad. At the very least, it will be that much harder to shock the nuns.
Thankfully, the Spin back issues can be seen for free.