OldStand: SPIN, November 1986

Take our ink-stained hands and join us at the OldStand, where Jon McMillan goes to remind everyone what an honest-to-goodness music magazine is supposed to look like.

A paint-by-numbers Iggy Pop feature/interview gets the November 1986 cover love (first interview in four years = same interview as four years ago), but it’s a 10-page slice of post-gonzo journalism that steals the show. To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, original punks Legs “Sawyer” McNeil and Richard “Huckleberry” Hell are dispatched to the Mississippi river in twin inflatable rafts, in search of — well, it’s not exactly clear what they’re searching for. Freedom? America? More cigarettes?

Today the river offers no relief or anticipation. It is getting more and more civilized. Abandoned houses with their first floors submerged in water pop up out of the river, casting a gloomy pall over the place. Normally, on this stretch of river, the water would be alive with motorboats and water-skiers, families or inborn mutant children mucking up the place, but even though the sun is shining and the trees gently rustling in the breeze, the assault of the outraged river on the tacky resort homes creates an eerie mood. It’s as if nature took its revenge at being spoiled for man’s pleasure. Still, as if to defy the mighty river, the rapid-fire delivery of a television game show host breaks the overwhelming quiet.

Bet you weren’t expecting that — I know I wasn’t. As with many of these “searching for America on the Mississippi” pieces, this adventure ends in a mixture of sweetness and defeat, as the boys fall some 225 miles short of their mark (Memphis, TN, as if that mattered). No surprise there. Still, it’s a welcome respite from the usual music-mag fare, and an excellent read. One more quote for ya, but first, the cover:

Is there something wrong with my loving being here so much? I feel like an adulterer. Escaping the city and ambition and responsibilities. My wife calls me a big baby. Humans brainwash you. But humans and families and jobs aren’t the world. We’re just another of the world’s feelings. Just dirt that talks. Our job is to speak for the dirt. Stand up for the mud.

The review section is another highlight, but not necessarily for the reasons you’d expect (breathless hype for duds; short-sighted panning of a classic). Graceland (“This is Paul Simon’s greatest work”) gets the feature spot, alongside Talking Heads True Stories (“This is not the silly, mindless, blinders-on shortsightedness so prevalent in the Regan era, it is a genuine prescription to mellow out and dig the present”) and Crowded House’s debut (“The best record I’ve heard this year”). But it was two obscure, back-to-back Byron Coley reviews that caught my eye. Coley goes the abstract route in (what I believe is) his excoriation of the Woodentops’ Giant (“He didn’t have any ideas about sex at all. He was like a big stupid 8-year-old or something”). It’s basically a precursor of the flash-fiction gamesmanship that exasperated many early readers of Pitchfork. But then Corey turns his eye to two Panther Burns’ EPs and spits this gem:

Unscramble yr priorities, label weakos. Gustavo Falco and the unapproachable Panther Burns are flaring like a big pile of phosphorous, and the shadows they cast on the wall are a unique, twisted, flickering history of post-Korean War deep-South bellyroll.

Amazing how, some 22 years after the fact, that review still explodes off the page. Like all great reviews, it reads like a secret missive from the those-in-the-know to those-who-want-to-know. Seldom have I been so disappointed by a warmed-over rockabilly band. But it’s cool to see guys like Coley explore and expand the limitations of the form in real time.

What makes a good review?

Below: Music in Action takes on Swaggart et al, Michelob Light’s advertising agency tries to make you laugh, fails, and instructions on how to get on the first passenger flight into space. Book your tickets soon — the flight leaves on October 12, 1992!

This is why you shouldn’t get your science news from a music magazine.

Which Wham! tape was it? Does anybody know this guy?

“Rock is not inspired by the devil!”

Punk as Huck.

I hope they fired the media buyer who put this in SPIN.

Warning: if you have a tattoo you cannot get a job.

“Hey look, I get it from all sides. I don’t need it from my tape.”

And the award for “Least Insightful Sentence of 1986 goes to…”

Tags: Iggy Pop