Here’s an interesting interview with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, shot on a roof in downtown Manhattan in 1988. This footage is completely raw and unedited, with cuts and sound interruptions intact. As such, it takes Kim a couple of minutes to get into the swing of things, but she talks about life as a woman in a rock’n’roll band, art, sex, playing bass, her projects Harry Crews (with Lydia Lunch) and Ciccone Youth, and she reads extracts from a book called So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star. The interview is about 20 minutes long and is split into two parts.
There’s a fascinating must-read short profile of Kim Gordon in this month’s Elle by Lizzy Goodman. In it, the Sonic Youth co-founder discusses being single again at the still Sonically Youthful age of 59, divvying up those pop culture treasures she and Thurston Moore must’ve amassed over the years and her breast cancer treatment:
“We have all these books, records, and art and are getting it all assessed; that’s what is taking so long,” she says after ordering a glass of rosé. But both have moved on. Among her suitors are a restaurateur, an architect, and an actor. “It’s just weird,” Gordon says of navigating new romance. “I can’t tell what’s normal.” And Moore has regularly been seen with the same woman, fueling the rumor that his affair helped doom their marriage. “We seemed to have a normal relationship inside of a crazy world,” Gordon says of her marriage. “And in fact, it ended in a kind of normal way—midlife crisis, starstruck woman.”
Some years ago, a woman Gordon declines to name became a part of the Sonic Youth world, first as the girlfriend of an erstwhile band member and later as a partner on a literary project with Moore. Eventually, Gordon discovered a text message and confronted him about having an affair. They went to counseling, but he kept seeing the other woman. “We never got to the point where we could just get rid of her so I could decide what I wanted to do,” Gordon says. “Thurston was carrying on this whole double life with her. He was really like a lost soul.” Moore moved out. Gordon stayed home and listened to a lot of hip-hop. “Rap music is really good when you’re traumatized,” she says.
The first few months were rough. “It did feel like every day was different,” she recalls. “It’s a huge, drastic change.” But slowly things improved. She adjusted to the framework of semisingle parenthood. (Coco, their only child, is now a freshman at a Chicago art school.) Gordon kept their colonial filled with friends—a musician, a poet, and Moore’s adult niece, with whom Gordon has remained very close. “Sometimes I cook dinner and just invite whomever,” she says of her improvised family life. “Everyone helps out a bit with the dogs. It’s a big house. It’s nice to have people around.” Things were stabilizing. Then Gordon was found to have a noninvasive form of breast cancer called DCIS. “I’m fine; it’s literally the best you can have,” she says of her diagnosis, which required a lumpectomy. “I didn’t do radiation or anything, but I was like, Okay, what else is going to happen to me?”
Age may weary and death may claim, but the ears will not condemn this fine selection of essential listening from Blondie, Joe Strummer, Ian Dury, Sonic Youth, David Bowie, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen taken from Later with Jools Holland.
01. Blondie - “Heart of Glass” from 1998
02. Joe Strummer - “London Calling” from 2000
03. Ian Dury - “Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” from 1998
04. Sonic Youth- “Sacred Trickster” from 2009
05. David Bowie - “Ashes to Ashes” from 1999
06. Johnny Cash - “Folsom Prison Blues” from 1994
07. Leonard Cohen - “Dance me to the End of Love” from 1993
Is this the end for Sonic Youth? It’s not clear yet whether the divorce of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore (announced last month) will affect the future of the band, but if it’s the case then this may well be their last ever concert. This Brazilian broadcast has popped up a couple of times over the last few days, but any excuse to post about this great, seminal band is worth it. If they do announce a split a more in-depth retrospective will appear on DM, but for now here’s something to remind us of how good they are. Almost 70 minutes of high quality noise-rock action in suitably dramatic weather conditions, it sees the band playing a selection of some of their best material from a 30 year career (from “Death Valley 69” to “Mote” to a rousing “Teenage Riot” finale), and they play it all on top form. Below is part one, parts two and three are after the jump:
Sonic Youth live at SWU Festival, Brazil (part one):
1987’s Put More Blood Into the Music is an impressionistic documentary directed by George Atlas about Sonic Youth and the city that bred them. With Lydia Lunch, Kramer, John Zorn, Gerard Cosley and more.
Today is Kim Gordon’s birthday - founder member of Sonic Youth and Free Kitten, producer, actress, designer, director, all round one of the coolest people in rock’n'roll. Here’s a few clips in celebration - any excuse to post about Kim or Sonic Youth on DM is worth it.
Kim Gordon reads the Riot Grrrl Manifesto
Kim Gordon talks to Style.com about her label X-Girl, shopping in New York and working with Chloe Sevigny.
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. Despite 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 itself. 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.
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
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