Putting the Spin on the music scene

Journalism student followed his love for music to a magazine career

Putting the Spin on the music scene

Charles Aaron

Photo by: Special

Charles Aaron came to the University of Georgia to be a sportswriter, enrolling as a journalism major in 1980. But rock ’n’ roll turned out to be his real major, and it’s a big reason why he’s the music editor at Spin magazine now.

“I could not have had a better education if I’d planned it,” Aaron (M ’85) says. “Virtually every great underground band of the ’80s played in Athens, and there were all these people who were so into music. It was a combination of a strong journalism school, student paper and music scene, and a bizarre confluence of interesting people. The life of the mind was crackling all over campus, whether I went to class or not.”

The starting point in Aaron’s evolution from covering sports to music was at the 40 Watt Club during an early 1980s show by the hardcore band Bad Brains, an experience he calls “mind-blowing, the most revelatory show ever.” He wrote a 200-word review for the The Red & Black student newspaper and plunged headlong into the Athens music scene with R.E.M., the B-52s and Pylon. It didn’t take long for him to decide that music was a better fit than sports.

After leaving UGA in 1985, Aaron moved to New York and found work writing and editing at Adweek, Sassy and even the Fullbright & Jaworsky law firm. He also spent a decade as a freelance writer, landing pieces in Rolling Stone, Spin, the Village Voice and Vibe. After Aaron interviewed Snoop Dogg’s estranged father for a 1993 Spin feature, the rapper was so incensed that he faxed a two-word expletive in response.

“It’s the typical thing,” Aaron sighs. “You think it’s a good story—and he won’t talk to Spin for two years. So many stories I thought were good, and afterward they won’t talk to us for two years. I still think that story has the best quotes I ever got. Everybody was high and lying, making fun of the weird, out-of-his-depth white guy.”

Aaron joined Spin as an editor in 1996 and moved up to music editor in 2002, helping to coordinate, assign, and edit every issue’s music content from the cover story down to the record reviews and still writing a fair chunk of it himself. As an alternative to Rolling Stone, Spin is the perfect place for him.

“My voice fits more with Spin’s babbling incoherent non-voice, the cacophony of dysfunctional personalities,” he says. “I’ve always believed in the space that Spin occupies, between the margins and the mainstream.”

—David Menconi is the music critic at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.