Will Get Fooled Again

by James Greer

Page 112 of the April 1993 issue of Spin magazine, embedded above for your reading pleasure (and because this entire post depends on you being able to read it), is not, I hope, too difficult to navigate. If you get lost, go to Google Books and search Spin Magazine, Jim Greer, New Market, in that order. Capitalization is unimportant. Otherwise you should be able to zoom in, up, and around the article at will. Which you should do, because this was like the Rosetta Stone of magazine-based April Fool’s jokes. Which is to say, this happened, man. (I am employing hyperbole in the service of irony, if you’re taking notes.)

Editor Craig Marks had an idea for the April 1993 issue. Because of the way magazines work, or used to work, he had this idea in January 1993. I was driving across the United States of America at the time. (Have you heard of this place? It’s wild. It’s untamed. It’s really boring almost always, except when it’s not.) At one of my stops, Craig called me and asked if I wanted to write a fake scene report about a random town in Anywhere, U.S.A. We were in the middle of the post-Nirvana goldrush, and anything or anyone equipped with musical instruments who could be categorized as “indie” or “alternative” was being signed by the major labels (there was more than one back then) at an alarming rate. This explains, but does not excuse, the Lemonheads—whose singer, Evan Dando, was featured on the cover of this same April issue tongue-kissing the actress/director Adrienne Shelley (many years later tragically murdered, which is in no way anything other than horrible, horrible, horrible)—in one of the most repulsive covers in Spin‘s long (some would argue too long) history.This was neither Evan’s nor Adrienne’s fault: whoever thought up the idea; whoever took the picture; whoever approved the picture for use as the cover of a rock ‘n’ roll magazine is/are to blame. These people know who they are. Probably.

As it happens, I had been passing the long hours driving from New York to San Francisco in part by making up band names. I don’t know why. It was just something to do. I was traveling solo, and listening to a lot of American Music Club, one of my all-time favorite bands, who had also recently signed with a major label, entirely justifiably if not entirely happy-ever-afterly. When Craig suggested the fake scene report thing, I started coming up with different anagrams of “April Fools” or April Fools Day” and so on, because I think I’m in love with anagrams. Only one of those (I think) remains in the article—the name of the record label “Flap Or Soil,” which I thought was a dead giveaway, but no. The rest were either inside jokes or just names I thought were a) funny or b) plausible.

Mid-January, dead of winter, is a stupid time to drive cross-country. I was in Wyoming traveling along I-80 when a blizzard hit, closing the interstate. I was lucky enough to snag one of the few remaining rooms at some dreadful sub-Motel 6 otherwise populated by truckers and people who should have been truckers, and possibly cannibals, at the last exit before the highway closure. Stuck for two days, I wrote the fake scene report and somehow figured out how to fax it to Spin HQ using nothing but chewing gum and two paper clips.

I had set the piece in Omaha, because I had recently passed through Omaha, but Craig, who apparently used to spend his downtime scouring atlases (this is before Google Maps, if you can even remember back that far), discovered a town called New Market, Virginia, and thought that a better fit, both as a tell and for irony’s sake. It was an inspired choice.

What neither Craig nor I expected was that anyone would take the story seriously. Nonetheless: I have it from reliable (second-hand) sources, people who live or have lived in the New Market/Harrisonburg area, that at least one A&R guy from at least one major record label flew all the way there looking for the imaginary bands I discussed in the article. The town’s Chamber of Commerce was apparently flooded with calls fielded by confused officials who tried to explain that there was in New Market no diner called “Happy Chef,” or club called “Stinky’s.” Amazing.

I’d like to think that this article in some small way contributed to the downfall of the parasitic major label system, but that would be giving myself way too much credit. I will say that if only one A&R guy wasted his company’s time and money on a fruitless search for a scene that did not exist… Wait. That pretty much describes every major label A&R guy in the history of rock. Never mind.