Here’s some great footage of Sonic Youth being interviewed in the late 80’s - before grunge, before Nirvana, just on the cusp of signing with Geffen and the release of the Goo and Dirty albums. My God, how different things were then. The MTV interview piece makes this abundantly clear, with its declaration of Sonic Youth being “the biggest underground band in the whole country.” This was in 1989, and oh how different things would be just two years later.
Thanks to my older brother having purchased a copy of Goo on cassette when it was released, I was exposed to Sonic Youth at a young age, and before Nirvana became the de facto coolest band in the universe. I also had the utterly mind blowing “Teenage Riot” taped onto the end of one side of a C90 (remember them?) by one of the cool older kids at school. Thanks Simon Doyle!
Although Daydream Nation is generally regarded as their opus (and it is fantastic), Goo has really stood the test of time. Depsite the band coming in for a lot of flack for signing to a major and for daring to write *gasp* songs. The sleeve is now one of the most popular t-shirt designs on the planet, even appearing as a tattoo on the arm of an America’s Next Top Model contestant. “Kool Thing,” with its famous Kim Gordon and Chuck D monologue, has become one of the band’s best known singles.
Of course, the musical landscape has changed massively since these clips were filmed, but time captured here was one of massive change in tiself. The underground punk and hardcore ethics of the 80’s were mutating into something much more corporate and accessible to the mainstream. Punk rock was losing it’s sheen as the coolest, edgiest music with the growing popularity of hip-hop and the advent of acid house. For a while it seemed like Sonic Youth might be left behind by these changes. But the truth is that, despite their bevy of famous friends, tourmates and collaborators, Sonic Youth are a scene all unto themselves. They may not have become the biggest underground band in the world, but they didn’t need to. Their legacy is assured.
Here’s that MTV clip:
Here’s a great 1988 interview with Thurston Moore and drummer Steve Shelley, from a British or Japanese TV show (it’s an English presenter, but with Japanese subtitling):
Another interview with Kim Gordon from 1988:
Part two of the above interview, this time with Thurston Moore: