While we don’t make a habit of tooting our own horn, anniversaries are a time for reflection, and on this page we’re highlighting the cover stars we featured before the rest of the world caught on. Whether it was their first-ever magazine cover, or the first time they got the front page stateside—these artists represent some of the times we were driving the bandwagon. Their sounds buoyed us through 30 years, and these covers once graced the walls of many a future AP star.

NINE INCH NAILS (AP 31, JULY 1990)

First national magazine cover

Trent Reznor was still living in a “run-down half-house” in Cleveland when he was interviewed for Nine Inch Nails’ first cover, though 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine had earned the father of modern industrial near-universal acclaim. Reznor was humble and unfazed, spending a good portion of the interview debating a new horror movie with roommates over pizza and Nintendo, eagerly awaiting the next episode of Twin Peaks.

 

NIRVANA (AP 44, JAN/FEB 1992)

First national magazine cover

After their first major-label release Nevermind catapulted Nirvana to MTV star status, the Band That Changed The World were experiencing some growing pains—like being mobbed for autographs after effectively growing up in a scene that advocated killing all rock stars. Since signing to DGC, the group had shot past Guns N’ Roses on the Billboard chart, and were considering “changing our band name, getting plastic surgery and growing mustaches” if they got too popular. Noticeably absent in the article? The word “grunge.”

 

MY BLOODY VALENTINE (AP 45, MARCH 1992)

First national magazine cover

When Dave Segal caught up with Kevin Shields, guitarist/songwriter/wunderkind behind shoegaze titans My Bloody Valentine, he was just as shy as his chosen genre might suggest. He called his band’s most recent offering “baby music,” though Loveless would go on to become an essential talisman for ’90s alternative rock. Segal coined the term “wombient” to describe their sound, a label that would come in handy when the band returned 21 years later with 2013’s m b v.

 

SMASHING PUMPKINS (AP 61, AUG 1993)

First national magazine cover

The cover image was cozy enough—but all was not right behind the Smashing scenes. The group had just finished Siamese Dream with Nevermind producer Butch Vig, and Bil… er… William Corgan hadn’t told the press that he was playing most of the instruments on the record—until this article. AP’s Eric Gladstone put it on the page, which, according to Corgan, cemented his reputation as a “control freak.”

 

RADIOHEAD (AP 87, OCT 1995)

First American magazine cover

Radiohead nabbed their first cover stateside after releasing The Bends, an expansive rock offering that hinted at their later experimental leanings and effectively shirked the “one-hit-wonder” mantle they’d been carrying since 1992’s “Creep.” Writer Randee Dawn heard an early version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” during the band’s Philly sound check. Our gold record of The Bends hangs proudly in our offices to this day.

 

FOO FIGHTERS (AP 90, JAN 1996)

First national magazine cover

As a member of Nirvana, Dave Grohl had been penning Foo Fighters songs on an 8-track recorder as early as 1989 (Hands up, who has the Pocketwatch cassette?), saying that he “didn’t want to be a drummer for hire at 26.” Still embarrassed of his voice, the man that would become rock’s most-recognizable ambassador took writer David Daley on the first night of their European tour.

 

WEEZER (AP 102, JAN 1997)

First national magazine cover

“So you’re the guy who’s going to break up Weezer.” Thus began Dave Daley’s tense series of interviews with the members of the world’s biggest “dork rock” band for their AP cover story following the release of then-maligned, now-beloved emo epic, Pinkerton. Back then, the members were at odds with idiosyncratic frontman Rivers Cuomo, but the group reunited for a triumphant (and harmonious) return with 2000’s Green Album.

 

TAKING BACK SUNDAY (AP 176, MAR 2003)

First national magazine cover

When TBS showed up for their first major cover shoot, they’d been on a Fight Club binge (the movie, not the extracurricular activity). The dark, gritty sets for the inside photo spread fit their current obsession, a pop culture favorite that would influence the video for their latest single, “Cute Without The E (Cut From The Team)” off 2002’s landmark Tell All Your Friends.

 

FALL OUT BOY (AP 193, AUG 2004)

First national magazine cover

Before 2005’s From Under The Cork Tree made them crossover sensations, then-cult favorites Fall Out Boy were getting ready to play a packed show—at a Country Day school. (The band were paying a favor to Pete Wentz’s mom, who still worked at his alma mater.) The group were one of the first that knew how to galvanize their fans via social media, inspiring righteous frenzies at local venues before a major label had even heard of “guyliner.”

 

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE (AP 197, DEC 2004)

First American magazine cover

MCR’s first cover story came complete with illustrations of the band drawn by Gerard Way. (He would reimagine the story and visuals entirely for AP’s 300th issue.) That year, the band that best paired drama kid ethos with punk flair released Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, the album that would make them TRL staples and crossover kings. Way, in the meantime, was more concerned with stabilizing his fledgling sobriety, while maintaining his signature live-wire persona for shows.