Riff Raff

Spin Off The news that Spin has been sold to the owners of Vibe magazine brings at least to a temporary end the career in rock journalism of Bob Guccione Jr. It's worth looking at what he wrought. Spin was for a time a refreshing antidote to Rolling Stone and early on was not without its significant writers, notably John Leland (now at Newsweek). But Guccione's small brain and extraordinary self-indulgence seeped down to coat the rest of the magazine. Spin was the potent example of what Professor Robert Ray calls "overcompensation," a phenomenon in which cultural critics strain to stay on top of the next big thing. The British music press does this too, but there, the sly practice contains an implicit critique of the processes of pop commodification. At Spin, kids tried to be hip and to hang out with rock stars. Since the magazine is largely unedited, writers were free to indulge themselves, particularly by inserting themselves into the story as often as possible. (Almost every feature the magazine runs has the words "I" or "me" in the first paragraph.) In the record review section, posturing for a small group of insiders took precedence over actual coherence or critical argument. And we will not miss Spin's rigid refusal to report on actual matters of substance. A few years ago, this writer and another critic had Guccione on a radio show in a different city. Our favorite moment came when Guccione said that Spin was at the forefront of in-depth reporting on the record industry. Really, we said, surprised at the claim; at the time, Spin was one of many major publications that were taking a nap on the TicketMaster story. What were some of those big issues? "Well, there are just so many, really," replied Guccione, with the clumsy British accent he picked up after spending some time in England when he was 12. Fine, we said -- just mention a couple. "Really, there are just so many," he reflected. Just mention one, we urged. After some more moments of discomfiture, Guccione yelped triumphantly: "Well, there was our enormous expose of the distribution of Live Aid money." Fine, we said: That was in Ethiopia in 1986. Any reporting on the actual music industry in the good old U.S. of A. in the last decade? Silence. Guccione was a numskull. P.S.: Some of the stories on the sale credited Guccione with turning an initial investment in the five figures into a $16 million payoff. Pish posh. Spin started with at least $3.5 million of Penthouse money, courtesy of Bob Guccione Sr. Pop closed the operation down after years of losses. But Guccione fils owned the trademark to the name; with the subscription list and an in-place distribution system, he moved into new offices and started a new operation with new investors -- one suddenly freed of millions in debt. (B.W.)

Buckets Patched After the nth lineup change in the six years they've been in San Francisco, singer/guitarist Earl Butter says his cool-country combo, the Buckets, is back. The beloved boozers broke up a few months ago when fiddler Wanda Taters (aka Carrie Bradley) quit to work with the Breeders and her own band, 100 Watt Smile. Now, Butter's thrown together guitarist Dave Gleason from the Wandering Stars, bassist David Fox from Richard Buckner's Doubters, and Ohioan pop-style drummer Bil Shannon for a debut show Thursday night at the Paradise Lounge. Butter says the new lineup will run through six new songs as well as a few of the old hard-drinkin' chestnuts. There are some marked differences this time out, but Butter says audiences shouldn't believe appearances alone. "It may look like a more sober Buckets," says Butter, "but that's just because we're nervous." (J.S.)

Blue Balls "If I had a nickel for each time some wild-and-crazy guy wrote in complaining that the Exotic Erotic Ball only happens once a year ...." That's what Perry Mann, the executive producer who started the ball in his apartment nearly 20 years ago, must have been thinking when he decided to turn his San Francisco production into a national franchise. This Halloween, the Exotic Erotic team will be staging Double E balls in San Diego, Manhattan, and San Francisco; there is also a pay-per-view deal in negotiation; and here, in Mann's hometown, folks will be treated to a weekly taste of the, um, great Exotic Erotic (every Saturday night at 435 Broadway). Like the big shebang, Mann promises that the smaller gathering will be "a fantasy affair ... where everyone is a star," complete with fire-eaters, tightrope walkers, and the prerequisite erotic dancers. Of course, the musical entertainment at "Exotic Erotic Saturdays" won't pack the oomph of the bigger ball -- instead of the Cramps or George Clinton, opening night on June 14 will feature Richie Barron (considered by Dan Aykroyd to be "the best blues band in the Bay Area"). Thankfully, no one actually goes to the Exotic Erotic to see good music; they go to see secretaries dress up as Playboy Bunnies while their former-high-school-football-hero-turned-legal-consultant boyfriends get really slaughtered on cheap beer and act naughty with the hired strippers. Bondage A Go-Go, look out, there's a new club in town, and it's had a long history of specializing in white-bread kink. (S.T.)

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