Let’s Read Spin, May 1991!

Spin Magazine was founded in 1985 by Bob Guccione Jr., the son of the founder of Penthouse, and ran in print until 2012. The magazine was ostensibly created to keep up with the music scene, particularly the college rock, alternative, and underground scene, but also covered significant cultural moments and topics such as AIDS, war, sex, media, et cetera. In its early years, before it was sold to a different publisher in 1997, the magazine delivered serious music journalism as a scrappier alternative to Rolling Stone. I started reading Spin in an era when you were guaranteed to make the cover only if you were a member of The Hives, The Strokes, The Arctic Monkeys, and Radiohead. So much Radiohead. I would pour through every month’s issue in my college library, taking notes on bands that sounded interesting, and later I’d go hunting on MySpace later for clips. Such was the life in 2003. The magazine continues today as an online publication. A nicely digitized version of this entire issue can be found here.

I was a little young to really be paying attention to music from this time, aside from the most accessible pop like Michael Jackson and Madonna, so I missed the boat on Lenny Kravitz being taken super seriously as an artist. Apparently, for a brief period in the 90s, he was the official ambassador of all things cool, before grunge completely obliterated the cultural concept of cool.

“What are you talking about, this doesn’t appeal to children at all!” — The Tobacco Industry

This is probably a recognizable supermodel that I am not recognizing. Stephanie Seymour?

Note the amount of articles credited to Celia Farber, who in addition to a lifetime career of authoring polemic takes on HIV was romantically involved with the editor during this time, and was the subject of a lawsuit from another Spin employee alleging sexual favoritism. Yikes.

Some forgotten nobodies in this contributor’s list like William S. Burroughs, Legs McNeil, Nick Tosches. There are also articles from Kim Gordon and Michael Stipe, who no one’s ever heard of.

I’m not sure if this brand is still around, but if it isn’t I have to wonder why with such nuanced and creative advertising.

Gnarly genius mackadociousness, Bill Berry from R.E.M. is a Tesla (the band, not the car, I presume) fanboy, You Probably Haven’t Heard of Them, Grandma and Grandpa Danger way overshare, and arguments over definitions of the Five Percent Nation black power movement.

Some more jarring dissonance: people straight-up threatening each other via letters published in a magazine like an 1860s duel, and to lighten things up – PSYCH! it’s a timeless swipe at Vanilla Ice. Nathaniel Wice, did you even read these letters before publishing?

Hypercolor – the t-shirt that changed color with your body heat, so that everyone could see where your sweaty zones were. Hypercool!

Welcome to the age of Fighting The Man, guest edited by Michael Stipe. What megacorp record label did he and his band belong to again? Oh right

I’m not sure what happened to Mind Funk, but I don’t think they led us into the next extreme dimension.

Sepultra, effortlessly being the band that Michael Stipe wants to be.

When did Jolly Ranchers stop being little flat squares?

Kim Gordon stans for Sassy. Remember when it was easy to knock down Drew Barrymore for being “dirty and tattoo covered”? People nowadays would be absolutely flabbergasted if you tried that today. Not that you would.

I’ll take the whole third row, please – how about you?


Attempting to keep Nancy comics relevant? What is this, the Day Thread?

Pictured: John Mellancamp and daughter, not the one who grew up to be a Real Housewife. Here’s an update on his film career, which we’ve been following since that 1984 issue of Circus. Took him seven years, but he’s made a movie! A few things that just get tossed off in mention like they aren’t about to set the world on fire: Lollapalooza, Truth or Dare, Oliver Stone’s JFK.

“Eyy, douche-a-bag, you left-a your ugly-ass jeans here!”

Like a more-effort knockoff of that Capri Sun ad from Disney Adventures, this was by no means an original concept in advertising for that era.

I can’t roll my eyes hard enough at this.

Some takeaways from the Lenny Kravitz interview:

  • Holy guacamole do I miss good music journalism.
  • Mr. “I hate music videos” certainly didn’t seem to have a problem being a staple on Vh1 in the late 90s.
  • The mental image of a young Lenny with a yarmulke on top of his afro is pretty spectacular.
  • Lenny and Slash bonded over being biracial, songs to bone your wife to.
  • No, Lenny, we do not need to see George Bush bending Barb over the couch. That is decidedly not for the good of the people.
  • I love that Sean Lennon is just automatically treated with the music reverence and seriousness of his father. HE’S FIFTEEN. The pressure for him to be something legendary in music must have been insane.

This picture didn’t come out great, so you may want to check out the superior digitized version here. The upcoming Woody Allen movie referred to is Shadows and Fog, which was a massive bomb. John Cusack wouldn’t actually have another successful movie between Say Anything and Grosse Pointe Blank, almost a decade later.

I love this ad. The woman looks SO PISSED about something. She’s going to have her smoke and then gather herself and absolutely tear someone apart. That time, that moment, indeed.

“I’m just waiting for Kathy to get off her shift at the brain salon” unfortunately did not become a common catch phrase of the 90s.

The virtual reality company VPL Research had already declared bankruptcy before this story was printed. But they did make the mind-sex helmets for that scene in The Demolition Man so that’s cool!


MTV was attempting to court a more critical adult audience, as is clear by these very cool commissioned art pieces. That lasted about as long for someone to come up with Total Request Live.

These indie record labels are still going today!

Ice-T had a really hard time convincing himself to play a cop. And then he played a cop on TV for almost 20 years.

I don’t even want to know how much a CD car stereo system cost in 1991. I do remember them being top of the line status objects.

Netflix and Chill, 1991 style. Pointedly, the condom ad is on the facing page with a controversial in-depth article on AIDS drugs.

Like it or not, AZT is still the top antiretroviral drug for HIV treatment.

Jack Thompson is best known by my generation as “the asshole who blames everything on video games”, but previous to that he was “the asshole who blames everything on rap music”. So the editor got him to write a review of some compilation albums of what I’m guessing was the most blatantly explicit rap that could be found, just for funzies. Surprisingly it seems that he tried to listen to at least some of it with an open mind, but there’s no level of squick high enough to encompass “white man of privilege telling rap artists what rap ‘really’ needs”.

Check out those ads for indie bands on the right side.

“Cassingles are fuckin stupid and lame and they’re killing the industry and I can’t wait for them to be dead because what are we selling here Mike & Ikes and here’s the hot new singles for this month”

So 1991 it hurts.

Also calling back to that issue of Circus, a review of Elvis Costello’s new album.

I’m afraid Graffiti Bridge was no Purple Rain. Shame, the trailer is banging. I would have run out to see this on opening night.


This was an era where you could sell an album by loudly printing “[my band] SUCKS!” and reviews that call your album “nearly spectacular”. Also how great is it that you could preview an album by listening to clips of it over the phone? Steal your mom’s credit card, kids!

Damn, I blew all my cash on my BOOBS pillow so I can’t afford any more kissing tips from Rio. Guess I’ll just sulk and page through my ETHEREAL GLOOM GOTH CATALOG for a while. Think I could make some extra change writing jokes about Dan Quayle?

FUCK CORPORATE ROCK – buy my bumper sticker!

I assure you there was a time when Michael Musto was an actual journalist and not just the talking head on I Love The 90s. That answering machine message is perfectly in sync with every subculture I’ve ever known.

The Hyundai Scoupe! So fun to drive you’ll want to die in it!


That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading and for being so nice in the comments last week over my personal stuff, the family emergency has been resolved and we’re all good. I haven’t been able to get back to the archive to get a better scan of that Marriage Manners column from last week yet, so it’s still in the plan. This week’s Spin just barely beat out Mad for the topic, so next week will be Mad from 1976!



(not my picture)