SPIN magazine debuted in 1985. To put that in cultural perspective, that's the same year Back to the Future came out, before Pretty in Pink, and well before the 90s concept of alternative sort of defined the magazine as Rolling Stone for Gen X. Henry Rollins was still touring with Black Flag and was writing an occasional column for the mag. D. Boon and the Minutemen were still putting out records. Unless you paid attention to the UK music press, you probably weren't too familiar with the Smiths, who were one album in and had not yet toured the U.S. The first issue of Spin closed out with a Glenn O'Brien interview of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, conducted prior to the release of a real album (O'Brien mentions the album Real Men Don't Kill Coyotes, but that doesn't exist--the first RHCP album was s/t and their first single was True Men Don't Kill Coyotes).
Spin's covers in that initial year featured artists squarely in the mainstream, but with hints of sub rosa dissent from rock-n-roll hagiography. Madonna was their first cover, but that cover also advertises a piece on Death Rock: .45 Grave, Christian Death, and more. Pat Benatar's September cover interview was written by Lydia Lunch.
The Underground Column by Andrea 'Enthal highlighted the Birthday Party and Jesus and Mary Chain, within a year Nick Cave and J+MC would have features and photospreads. 'Enthal also featured Poison Idea and Naked Raygun, and still others eternally left in the used-college-rock-bin of history. iTunes mixes based on her columns would be downright grand.
The 12 issues of Spin's inaugural year deliver great in-the-moment perspective. Knowing what lies ahead, it's illuminating to see who really made it (Chili Peppers, for one), and who didn't (cowpunkers Lone Justice, among many, many others) and wonder if pop music justice was done. With apologies to my seniors, it's also pretty weird to think of a time when Big Lizard in My Backyard was a new release.