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POP EYE

Rolling Stone Cover Has Editor Spinning

October 08, 1995|Steve Hochman

Being the cover boy of both Time and Newsweek the same week was one of the best things that happened to a relatively unknown Bruce Springsteen 20 years ago.

The vibes aren't so good around Alanis Morissette's similar achievement this month, when she will become the first living person to be on the covers of the nation's leading music-oriented magazines, Rolling Stone and Spin, simultaneously.

The problem? When Morissette agreed to do a Spin cover story for the November issue (on newsstands Tuesday), she accepted the magazine's condition that she not be on the cover of the rival publication for several months.

It's a common demand in the competitive magazine world, especially between these bitter rivals. The long-established Rolling Stone has been battling the perception in the industry that Spin, though having considerably less readership, has a better reputation these days for exposing cutting-edge artists. The only previous mutual cover subject was Kurt Cobain after his 1994 suicide.

So when Rolling Stone approached Morissette's representatives about a story, they said sure, as long as it's not the cover. Rolling Stone's editors said no problem, but later changed their minds. Their Morissette cover issue will be in stores just days after Spin's.

"We made Rolling Stone aware of the agreement we had with Spin," says Morissette's publicist, Mitchell Schneider.

His reaction to the change: "We were surprised."

If he was surprised, Spin editor Craig Marks was livid, accusing Rolling Stone of a breach of trust and calling the incident "another example of them feeling compelled to chase us because they're losing ground."

Rolling Stone managing editor Sid Holt shrugs off those remarks.

"I don't have an obligation to Spin more than I do to any other magazine," he says. "It's like saying the New York Times stole the O.J. Simpson story from the National Enquirer. We finished this issue just as Alanis' album became No. 1, so there's no doubt that [making her the cover] was an appropriate thing to do."

But what about Rolling Stone's agreement to honor Morissette's Spin cover exclusivity?

"We put a big story on the cover, which is what I get paid to do," Holt says. "It's called capitalism."

Observes one music publicist: "Rolling Stone can get away with this because they're Rolling Stone."

It's not the first Stone vs. Spin cover controversy. Last year, Liz Phair backed out of a planned Spin interview when Rolling Stone promised her a cover.

Says Marks, "From now on, I'm going to have to be really strict about any cover artist doing any stories--not just covers--with any of our competition."

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