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‘No Nirvana’: Jane’s Addiction, Sonic Youth, Screaming Trees & more live on UK TV in the early 90s

An early shot of Jane’s Addiction.
The Late Show was a multi-topic program broadcast on BBC2 which featured issues of cultural importance such as art, books, films and segments dedicated to more socially conscience topics such as military conflicts and religion. Not to diminish such things, they also featured live musical performances by musicians and groups such as XTC, the ethereal Jeff Buckley and The Stone Roses who appeared on the show in during its first year in 1989. In 1993 The Late Show broadcast a special called “No Nirvana” that featured a collection of what is referred to as the all encompassing sounding “contemporary American rock bands” that had previously appeared on the show. 

The title of the show was allegedly intended to be a joke directed at The Late Show itself because for some reason the band had never appeared on it. Most likely because they had suddenly become the biggest band in the world after the release of their 1991 album Nevermind. The grouping for The Late Show’s late-night Contemporary American Rock lovefest delivered was to say the least, a pretty solid knockout punch when it came to the lineup. Though they were part of the original broadcast, performances by Pearl Jam (doing “Alive”) and Rage Against the Machine (performing “Bullet in the Head”) are not included in the footage below. What you will see are Jane’s Addiction pulling off a great version of “Been Caught Stealing,” Sonic Youth’s killer version of “Drunken Butterfly,” Seattle grunge heroes Screaming Trees led by a long-haired Mark Lanegan doing “Dollar Bill,” and more from the likes of Belly, Dinosaur Jr. (with a nearly unrecognizable J Mascis), Smashing Pumpkins, Minneapolis band Sugar, and R.E.M.

Watch after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Kool Thing’: Kim Gordon’s 1989 interview with LL Cool J that inspired the Sonic Youth song

In the September 1989 issue of SPIN magazine, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon interviewed LL Cool J to get a feminist perspective on the male-dominated world of hip-hop. The result was an awkward and unintentionally hilarious conversation that served as the inspiration for the 1990 song “Kool Thing” which was Sonic Youth’s first major label single). At the time, LL was promoting his third studio album, Walking with a Panther, the cover which depicted the rapper posing alongside a cuddly and adorable black panther sporting gold chains.

“I had a thing for male Black Panthers, I also loved LL Cool J’s first record, Radio, which was produced by Rick Rubin.” Kim recounts in her memoir Girl in a Band. She had said publicly that Radio was one of the albums that turned her on to rap music, and that “Going Back to Cali” was one of her favorite music videos because as someone who grew up in L.A. she appreciated “the humorous way it made fun of the 1960s archetypal Southern California sexy white-girl aesthetic.” LL’s publicist couldn’t believe that anyone in Sonic Youth knew about LL Cool J and happily granted an interview which took place during a rehearsal break for an upcoming tour. “I’ve never interviewed a pop star before, and having just seen LL on The Arsenio Hall Show I’m nervous.” Kim prefaced in the SPIN magazine interview titled “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy.”

“When I — the Lower East Side scum-rocker, feeling really, really uncool — arrive at the rehearsal studio, the dancers are taking a break. They’re real friendly; we talk about my shoes for a second. They are three girls — one of whom, Rosie Perez, is in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing — and a young boy. A bunch of other people are just hanging out. LL is preoccupied talking to some stylists, gesturing about clothes. Occasionally he shoots a look my way; I have no idea if he’s expecting me or he’s just looking at my out-of-place bleached blonde hair. LL slowly approaches, checking me out but stopping to talk to friends. I jump up, walk over, grab his hand, introduce myself and say, ‘Can I shake your hand?’ He’s aloof. I marvel how boys who’re tough or cool to cover up their sensitivity keep attracting girls and fooling themselves.” Kim and LL sat down at a nearby empty studio and she began the interview by asking him to sign her Radio CD. She then gave him a copy of Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album (a pseudonymous side project of Sonic Youth and Minutemen/Firehose member Mike Watt). When she told LL Cool J that The Whitey Album sampled beats off his records he laughed out loud and said, “I got a CD in a couple of my cars, I’ll play it.”

They began discussing sports cars and LL’s newly purchased home he called “Wonderland,” as LL flipped through The Whitey Album CD packaging. He pulled out and unfolded an insert which featured a photograph of a young girl with dozens of black & white flyers for hardcore shows plastered all over her bedroom wall. “Who’s this girl? It must have been a long time ago for it to say The Negroes.” LL mistook a flyer he noticed for Necros (a punk band from the Detroit music scene.) “That’s the Necros, an early hardcore band. Are you familiar with the early hardcore scene?” “Uh-uh, what is that, like heavy metal?” “No, not at all! It was basically kids talking to other kids. The Beastie Boys were part of that. I remember when they were a hardcore band.” LL processes the information and then quips, “The Young and the Useless?” (referring to an early 1980s punk band that included future Beastie Boys member Ad-Rock, and so, cool points for LL Cool J). “That was another band. The Beastie Boys had their same name when they were a hardcore band. Hardcore was so fast that if your ears weren’t attuned to it you couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t meant for anyone outside the scene. Like rap music, some of it is so fast, unless you’re familiar with the slang you can’t get it. That’s why so many people who were into hardcore listen to rap. It’s something that excludes white mainstream culture.” Gordon explained. “That’s interesting, I never really knew anything about that.” Cool J said.

Photo from Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album CD insert fold-out
While Kim Gordon’s connecting the dots between hip hop and the early hardcore music scene made for a great start to the interview, things then took a dive when she asked him about the females fans who admire him. “What about women who are so into you as a sex object that they take a picture of you to bed with them and their boyfriends or husbands start freaking out?” “It’s not my problem,” LL responded. “The guy has to have control over his woman.” Gordon plays along without confronting LL Cool J about his misogynist comments. “Are there any female sex symbols that you relate to?” Kim asks, “Oh yeah, every day on the way to work.”

“It was totally ridiculous for me to assume that we had anything in common” Gordon later admitted in a 1991 telephone interview with the Phoenix New Times. “That’s why I tried to make the article show how elite and small the downtown scene that I come out of is. I was trying to make fun of myself. I don’t know if that came across.” Six months after the interview was published, Sonic Youth recorded the song “Kool Thing” at Sorcerer Sound Recording Studios in New York City. Although LL Cool J’s name is never mentioned, the song’s lyrics contain several references to the rapper’s music. Kim Gordon sings “Kool Thing let me play it with your radio” (a reference to LL Cool J’s single “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”). The lyrics “Kool thing walkin’ like a panther” are a reference to the LL Cool J album Walking With a Panther. She repeats the line “I don’t think so” over and over again which is also a repeating line in the LL Cool J hit “Going Back to Cali.”

Elissa Schappell, author of the short-story collection Blueprints for Building Better Girls, perfectly summarizes the clash between Gordon and Cool J in an essay she wrote for the anthology book Here She Comes Now: Women in Music Who Have Changed Our Lives:

“Kim was able to take the disastrous interview and elegantly turn it into something much larger than its parts. Working at SPY I was used to putting myself into the path of trouble, and when it found me I took notes. Kim had taken notes and then transformed the experience into a sharp and witty social critique of gender, race and power that you could dance to. ‘Kool Thing’ is more than Kim’s assault on LL Cool J’s ego, but a self-mocking jibe at her own liberal politics. The sarcasm in her voice when she addresses ‘Kool Thing’ (Public Enemy’s Chuck D) in the breakdown is self-mocking — the female voice inflated by privilege and naïveté. (‘I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me? I mean, are you going to liberate us girls from the white male corporate oppression?’)

More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
The wonderful, endless world of ‘Goo’ album remixes
12:45 pm


Sonic Youth
Raymond Pettibon

Chronic Youth
Raymond Pettibon’s provocative imagery for Black Flag in the early 1980s remains some of the finest specimens of album art ever created. I can still remember seeing those CDs in the store all clustered together, hardly believing my eyes. Slip It In, My War.... I think my favorite cover was Family Man.

After Sonic Youth jumped to DGC after Daydream Nation, they saw an opportunity to give Pettibon a more mainstream platform. For Goo, SY’s first album for DGC which came out in 1990, Pettibon repurposed a 1966 news photograph of Maureen Hindley and her first husband, David Smith, who were witnesses in the Moors murderers trial in the U.K., to create an instant classic, indeed one of the most iconic album covers in rock history. Surely many among the DM readership can recite Pettibon’s ineluctably lurid caption by heart: “I stole my sister’s boyfriend. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. Within a week we killed my parents and hit the road.”

Something about Pettibon’s deadpan use of comic strip tropes and the curiously cocked head angles of the two principals has made the Goo cover a nearly irresistible object of appropriation and parody. The Tumblr Goo Mashups provides a handy collection of Goo-related images. There have been reworkings that reference Star Wars, Breaking Bad, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Adventure Time, Bob Dylan, The Simpsons, Twin Peaks, Tom Waits, and on and on.

Goo mashups are so plentiful that not even the Internet can contain them all. About two months ago I was in Stockholm and a guy passed me on the street wearing a Goo shirt addressing North Korea with its odious dictator Kim Jong Un on it. The banner text was something like “Double Pleasure,” as I recall. Never did find anything about it online. (I don’t think it’s this one.)

Here are a few choice examples:

Batman & Robin

Daft Punk
Many more examples after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father’: Sonic Youth, the Wedding Present and the Fall’s tribute to the Beatles

In 1988, NME got in on the ground floor of the burgeoning turn-of-the-‘90s fad for tribute compilations when it released Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, a song-for-song recreation of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by various artists with popular or cult followings in the UK, including several tracks that have held up quite well by the likes of the Fall, Courtney Pine, and Sonic Youth.

At the time, the original album had recently been the subject of much 20th-anniversary fawning by midlife-ing Baby Boomers, but in hipper circles its rep was in the shitter, as undergroundists vastly preferred a heavier psychedelia stripped of that acutely Barrett/McCartney/Davies’ penchant for Edwardian whimsy. In just a few years, the rise of Brtipop would slow much alt-handwaving of the Beatles’ legacy, but in 1988, the advance guard would have been happy to bury it. Accordingly, much of Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father drips with a viscous irony. The Scottish soul-pop band Hue and Cry attempted a pretty drastic transformation of “Fixing a Hole,” but it falls short of its ambitions. The Three Wize Men’s version of the title song is similarly transformative, and it certainly has moments, but it’s acutely ‘80s UK hip-hop, of which I’m really not a fan. YMMV, of course. Wet Wet Wet’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” is icky and fey, and only merits mentioning because that band was a big enough deal at the time that they alone probably accounted for at least half of the copies of the record sold. The Triffids’ version of “Good Morning Good Morning” is not only the worst thing on the album, it might be the worst thing period.

The comp shines more brightly when its artists aren’t afraid to get weird without trying to erase the source material. The Wedding Present’s contribution, an amped-up version of “Getting Better” with Talulah Gosh’s Amelia Fletcher, is exactly as you’d expect that band to perform the Beatles—poppy and bouncy, yet aggressive and clamorous as all hell. Sonic Youth, in the thick of their dense, twisty, and epic Daydream Nation era, are a beautiful match for George Harrison’s raga-rock freakout “Within You/Without You,” and in fact that cover eventually re-emerged on one of Daydream Nation‘s later reissues. The very very eccentric Frank Sidebottom—the spherically-headed masked singer who inspired the 2014 film Frank—does an absolutely wonderful remake of the very very eccentric John Lennon music hall paean “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” The Courtney Pine Quartet’s instrumental take on “When I’m Sixty Four” is a tremendously fun piece of lounge jazz. But the original album’s great set-piece—“A Day in the Life”—is also the tribute’s huge closer, and that song is handled with incredible reverence by the Fall. You’d figure of all bands the Fall would have been likely to go in for the piss-take, but no. It’s quite a stunner.
Listen after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Teen Age Riot: Ferocious Sonic Youth concert from German TV, 1996
01:26 pm


Sonic Youth

On Easter Sunday in 1996 there was a big festival in Düsseldorf, Germany—the German TV show Rockpalast was there and captured some outstanding footage of Sonic Youth in its prime, supporting their ninth album Washing Machine, from which most of the material played in the show stems.

Other acts participating in what came to be called “Osterrocknacht” (Easter Rock Night) were Cypress Hill, the Walkabouts, Smashing Pumpkins, the Afghan Whigs, Garbage, and Chumbawamba (a year before their breakout hit “Tubthumping”).

Sonic Youth doesn’t play a single song from before Daydream Nation. In fact, 9 out of the 11 songs come off of SY’s two most recent albums, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star and Washing Machine.

The first three songs amount to throat-clearing before the band starts really kicking ass on “Washing Machine.” The camerawork, audio, and editing are all excellent, and the 21-minute finale of “The Diamond Sea” has to be seen to be believed.

Teen Age Riot
Bull in the Heather
Starfield Road
Washing Machine
Junkie’s Promise
Sugar Kane
Skip Tracer
The Diamond Sea


via Fluxtumblr

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Sonic Youth raw and live in 1991

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Gila Monster Jamboree’: Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets and Perry Farrell live in the Mojave Desert, 1985
09:01 am


Sonic Youth
Meat Puppets
Redd Kross
Perry Farrell

Sonic Youth’s West Coast debut took place at the Gila Monster Jamboree, one of three not-totally-legal shows Desolation Center put on in Southern California during the mid-‘80s. If you wanted to attend, you had to buy a ticket, sign a release form, and then make your way to a remote rock in the Mojave Desert. Run by Stuart Swezey of the great AMOK bookstore and press, Desolation Center specialized in setting up wild shows at nontraditional venues, as the ‘90s Sonic Youth biography Confusion Is Next explains:

Previous Desolation Center events had included a boat cruise around San Pedro Harbor featuring the Minutemen, and a Mojave Desert show starring the coruscating German band Einstürzende Neubauten and high-gauge explosives. The Sunday-night bill pitted Sonic Youth against the Meat Puppets, an acid-punk trio from Phoenix, Arizona, signed to SST; Redd Kross, a seventies-inspired punk band led by teenage brothers; and Psi-Com, a [sic] unfortunate group headed by one Perry Farrell—later front man for the infinitely more successful Jane’s Addiction.

A map to a halfway point, Victorville, was provided with each ticket; exact directions to the festival site were given verbally from there. Despite a rash of free LSD and a late-night slot that forced Sonic Youth into the chilly desert air, the show was an unqualified success. Regardless of the prevailing hippie aesthetic (which the members of Sonic Youth found nothing if not anachronistic), Sonic Youth for the first time met their true contemporaries face-to-face: postpunk musicians who regarded rock and punk with equal doses of admiration and derision.


Directions to Gila Monster Jamboree (larger image here)
A more recent Sonic Youth bio, Psychic Confusion, includes eyewitness detail from Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert and Meat Puppet Curt Kirkwood:

“We went to this weird goth guy’s house the day before, to check out the drum kit I’d be borrowing,” remembers Bob. “The place was full of wild reptiles. He was the singer of Psi-Com; years later, I would realize he was Perry Farrell, of Jane’s Addiction.”

“Gila Monster was a pirate thing,” explains Kirkwood, “the kind of thing Meat Puppets used to play in Arizona, where people would bring kegs. But Stuart did it on a much larger scale.” The generator and crappy PA system were set up at Skull Rock, a knoll deep in the Mojave Desert, eight miles from Joshua Tree.


“It was well lit, because it was full moon,” remembers Kirkwood. “Clear viewing, you can go hiking around, you don’t need a flashlight or nothin’. It’s real nice. You were surrounded by the desert, you kinda had to sneak in. There was slippery stuff going on all around; there were 500 people there, and I think a lot of them were on LSD. There was this bizarre feeling of paranoia. Loads of people were just sitting there going, ‘woooah, woooah’, tripping in the desert, all these punk rockers from LA. It was a pretty SST-heavy affair. Like I said, we’re all friends, Redd Kross, Sonic Youth, all the attendant freaks from SST. It wasn’t real loud, it was pleasant.”


Sonic Youth in Southern California, 1985
I’ve yet to come across any recordings of Redd Kross at Gila Monster Jamboree, and while audio of Psi Com’s bad night (according to Perry Farrell: The Saga of a Hypester, after their set ended, the frontman hid behind a rock and sobbed) certainly exists, all the links I’ve found are dead. However, you can hear all of the Meat Puppets’ performance, comprising most of their not-yet-released masterpiece Up on the Sun, in glorious FLAC or just-fine MP3 at the Meat Puppets Live Repository.   

A ticket to Gila Monster Jamboree
And here’s Sonic Youth, two months before the release of Bad Moon Rising, busting a gut for “Brother James” under the desert stars. We learn from Lee Ranaldo’s liner notes for the VHS of Sonic Youth’s set, released in 1992, that a crew from Flipside Magazine shot the video, and that the Meat Puppets were the last band to go on, playing “on into the night as the desert cold set in, under a big ring around the moon.” If you’ve ever wondered how Sonic Youth pulled off “Death Valley ‘69” without Lydia Lunch, wonder no more.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
100%: Sonic Youth live at Brixton Academy, 1992
09:43 am


Sonic Youth

Well, THIS rules. The wonderful music blog Aquarium Drunkard has shared a set of MP3s documenting a 1992 Sonic Youth performance at Brixton Academy. That show was legendary and has fortuitously been preserved in really high quality—the bill that night also included Pavement, whose set was recorded for broadcast by the BBC. That Pavement set became the essential bootleg Stray Slack, which DM’s Martin Schneider mentioned in a post just under a year ago. The Beeb kept the recording going for Sonic Youth, and their set was the subject of the bootleg Splitting the Atom, though I’m unclear on whether that boot was indeed the actual BBC tapes, or an audience recording. A shaky-cam video exists of the set as well, but the sound frankly blows.

This was around the time when Sonic Youth had begun encroaching on the mainstream, and were accordingly upping their rock-out levels for the album Dirty, from whence half of this set is drawn. There isn’t much deep catalog here, they were clearly in promotions mode: EVOL is represented by “Tom Violence,” and a spirited take on Sister‘s opener “Schizophrenia” is present, and a couple of tunes hail from Goo—amazingly, there’s not even a single track from their untouchable landmark Daydream Nation. It does, however, include the awesome Lee-song “Genetic,” a live staple at the time that, amazingly, never made it to an album. It lived on the b-side of the “100%” single.

You can download the set here. The songs aren’t indexed, so they may appear in your player in alphabetical order. Aquarium Drunkard has the correct order listed, if you’re a stickler.

Since extant video of the set is basically trash, here’s an appearance from around the same time on Later with Jools Holland, featuring “Drunken Butterfly,” “Sugar Kane,” and “JC.”

Many thanks to Geoff Grant for finding this find.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Stray Slack: Incredible full Pavement concert, Germany 1994
Sonic Youth and Mike Watt vs Madonna

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Mike Kelley fronts Sonic Youth, 1986
10:36 am


Sonic Youth
Mike Kelley

The first time I visited New York’s SoHo district in 1992 I remember seeing a large print of the cover art for Sonic Youth’s Dirty hanging in a loft window. Earlier that year, my art teacher had complained about Sonic Youth’s use of Mike Kelley’s “Ahh. . . Youth!” on the Dirty sleeve, so I probably wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Kelley had fronted the band during a 1986 performance.

In the mid-‘80s, Kelley worked on a project called Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile. It consisted of a series of paintings, a cave-like installation called The Trajectory of Light in Plato’s Cave, and a poetic text. The project culminated a December 1986 performance of the text by Kelley and an actress named Molly Cleator, backed by Sonic Youth.

Alec Foege’s old Sonic Youth bio Confusion Is Next gives some background on the collaboration:

In December 1986 Kelly invited the band to provide sound effects and incidental music for three performances of his piece Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile at Artists Space in New York. Kelley recited an hour-and-a-half poem he had written and dramatized with the help of actress Molly Cleator while the band droned on.

Plato’s Cave had begun “as a project about the possessive,” Kelley said in one interview, “about how ascribing a quality of possession to something would equalize everything. Like, if I said that this was an exhibition of everything from Lincoln’s house, it links all this random stuff together that has no link except as a possible way to psychoanalyze Lincoln. Everybody asked me why I picked those three people. I made a whole list of possessives that were in common usage and I just picked the three that sounded best together. . . . Then I wove a set of associations between them.”

The band got together with Kelley a couple days before the performance. Kelley went through the script and told the band what he wanted at certain cues—a chunky rock sound, a bang, a spooky noise.

“I wanted to play with rock staging,” Kelley says. “For a lot of the performance, they were behind a curtain, so you didn’t even see them. I was trying to play against this rock-star thing, where there’s a shift of focus to somebody who in normal kind of rock-theatric terms would be the singer.” Kelley’s actions made him the center of focus—the singer, as it were—even though Sonic Youth’s accompaniment accentuated his actions and words with kabuki-like synergy, rather than in the traditional way in which a rock band interacts with a vocalist.


Kelley and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo discussed the show in a 2009 interview:

Then, to connect your and Mike’s practices—I understand that Sonic Youth provided the soundtrack for Mike’s piece Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile at Artists Space in 1986. How did that collaboration come about?

LR: I think Mike and Kim [Gordon] had been friends in LA. Mike was coming to New York to do this piece at Artist Space and asked us if we would work with him. Steve [Shelley] had just come aboard as our permanent drummer, and we were at the point where we were past just trying things, and had really formed a language that we were all comfortable working with.

MK: That’s right—I knew Kim in LA before she moved to New York. At that time she was not yet a musician; she was a visual artist.  I watched the development of Sonic Youth, and I liked the music and I liked them as people. In that particular performance I wanted to have a live sound element modeled after kabuki theater, where there are musical sections that play off the language in a quite disjointed way.  I also wanted to play with the idea of rock staging. A lot of the audience was there to see Sonic Youth specifically, because at that point they were a known band, so I had some parts where the band was really foregrounded and others where they were completely hidden—behind a curtain, for instance—so you couldn’t see them. And it was great, because they sometimes were doing music not at all typical for Sonic Youth—at one point, for example, I asked them to repeat a riff from “Train Kept A-Rollin’” over and over.

Kim Gordon reminisces about her relationship with Kelley in the video clip below, produced as part of this year’s Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA. (Kelly committed suicide in 2012.) She says a few words about the performance:

Plato’s Cave, I felt like we were some kind of a Greek chorus to it, and I always thought of Mike as a performance artist more than a visual artist. And at some point, I realized the work was the performance.


You can listen to the 38-minute (not hour-and-a-half, pace Foege) Plato’s Cave performance in its entirety here. A CD is available from Kelley’s label Compound Annex.


Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Beck, Thurston Moore, and Mike D’s ridiculous jam on MTV, 1994

Mass culture machines love the status quo—a salesman, after all, is fattest and happiest when he knows what’ll sell and how to sell it. So when a sudden zeitgeist shift catches them with their pants down, it can be illuminating to watch them try to pull them back up. When the reset button got pushed in the early ‘90s and cult figures whose worldviews revolved around aggressive abnormality suddenly became the new rock royalty, things could get pretty damn funny.

One noteworthy moment was when Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore guest hosted MTV’s late night alternaghetto 120 Minutes. In the 1980s, that show featured some legitimately outré artists, but by 1994 watching that show was no longer significantly different from listening to commercial radio. Because of Moore’s untouchable underground bona fides, featuring him injected a fresh dose of off-the-path credibility into that show, and his interview with the then newly-rising Beck was pretty hilarious. Watch it here, it’s worth a few minutes of your life.

But weirder still is this bit of insanity from the same broadcast—Moore, Beck, and the Beastie Boys’ Mike D collaborating on a noise jam. This is what happens when you let the freakshow into the big tent—Dada in mass media. Rigoddamndiculous.

Hat-tip to Mr. Rob Galo for this find.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Strangest Bedfellows: Sonic Youth jam with the Indigo Girls, 1989
09:57 am


Sonic Youth
Night Music

Saxophonist David Sanborn’s late night program, Sunday Night (eventually re-named Night Music), ran from 1988-1990, lasting just 44 episodes. In that short time, Sanborn racked up an impressive and diverse list of guests—some rarely seen on American television, including The Residents, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Miles Davis, The Pixies, Sun Ra, Bongwater and Conway Twitty. Sanborn’s show also had its fair share of unusual, one-off collaborations.

The idea,” Sanborn recalled in a 2013 interview, “was to get musicians from different genres on the show, have them perform something individually — preferably something more obscure or unexpected rather than their latest hit — and then have a moment toward the end where everyone would kind of get together and do something collectively.”

One evening in 1989, Sanborn had on Diamanda Galas, the Indigo Girls, Daniel Lanois, Evan Lurie, and Sonic Youth, who were making their TV debut.

After pulling off a ripping version of “Silver Rocket” early in the program (which included a lengthy mid-song freak-out), Sonic Youth returned for an even more chaotic finale.

Joining the band to cover the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” are Sanborn, Lanois (then in the running to produce Sonic Youth’s major label debut, Goo), Don Fleming (Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L., etc., and acting as SY’s manager), the Indigo Girls (!), and members of the Night Music Band, including one guy rocking the keytar.
Sonic Youth on Night Music
Kim Gordon does her best Iggy growl, and the entire band—heck, everyone on that stage—is clearly enjoying this moment. Fleming seems to be having the most fun of all, singing back-up vocals with the Indigo Girls and sidling up next to Sanborn during his solo.

Obsessed with wreaking a bit of havoc at the taping, Fleming bought along a toy plastic whistle for the “I Wanna Be Your Dog” jam. During Sanborn’s sax solo, Fleming ran over and began playing in unison. If that wasn’t a strange enough spectacle, Fleming then decided to see if woodwinds could feed back and began smashing the whistle into an amplifier. “I was like, ‘What the fuck?’” Sanborn recalls. “But it was kind of funny. Weird theater.” (Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth)

Watching the credits roll—as this unlikely of alliances rages on—only adds to the bedlam and hilarity of the clip, which concludes before the performance actually ends. Somehow, the lack of closure is also fitting; it’s as if the chaos lasts an eternity.

25 years on, TV still rarely gets get as crazy this unless it’s on BRAVO.

Here’s the full episode (“Silver Rocket” starts at 6:50; “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at 42:30):

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Sonic Youth and Mike Watt vs Madonna

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Half Japanese ‘Overjoyed’ mini-doc features members of Sonic Youth, REM, and Velvet Underground

It’d be tempting to dismiss this “mini-documentary” as a mere advertisement for a record release if the subject weren’t the incandescent and seminal lo-fi band Half Japanese.

Since their debut triple-album‘s 1980 release, the band, helmed by Mr. Jad Fair, have advanced an influential primitivist approach to rock music, which has made them one of those bands that see little marketplace success but are utterly beloved by other musicians. So beloved, in fact, that Fair’s bandmates have over the years included, among many others, noted producer and Velvet Monkeys/Gumball honcho Don Fleming, Shimmy-Disc boss and Bongwater multi-instrumentalist Kramer, and Velvet Underground drummer Mo Tucker.

So when it was announced that Half Japanese would be returning with a new album after a thirteen year layoff, it was surely an easy matter to find plenty of glowing testimonials from folks you can trust. (It’s worth noting that Fair has spent that downtime pursuing the visual arts, and if you can catch an exhibit, I recommend it, his work is great fun.) Overjoyed will be released by Joyful Noise on September 2, 2014, and members of REM, Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, NRBQ, Teenage Fanclub and many, many others are eager to tell you all about why you should care. If what you see here whets your appetite for more, you really need to see the 1993 documentary The Band That Would Be King. I’ve said this before, many times, but as far as I’m concerned it bears infinite repeats: if that doc doesn’t make you want to start a band, you might have no soul.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Virtuosity in minutes: Half Japanese’s only guitar lesson you’ll ever need
‘Indie, punk, Motown, Brill Building and Velvets’: meet the street karaoke maestro of Los Angeles

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Sonic Youth and Mike Watt vs Madonna

I wish more of the discussion that takes place about Sonic Youth would bring that band’s collective sense of humor to bear. Yes, they are of course very very important, so talk of their innovative early days is all alternate tunings, noise, and no-wave nihilism. Their later days, it’s all blah blah blah elder statesmen of alternative rock—which, again, yeah, they absolutely were, but they’ve done some funny, funny shit that’s every bit as praiseworthy. Last fall, we showed you their preposterous video “Lou Believers,” but there’s much more to share, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

In 1986, Sonic Youth teamed up with Minutemen/fIREHOSE bass player Mike Watt for a Madonna covers 7”. Having temporarily re-dubbed the band “Ciccone Youth” in a nod to Madonna’s disused surname, they recorded ridiculous travesties of the pop icon’s hits “Burnin’ Up” and “Into The Groove” (renamed “Into the Groovy”), with the latter introduced by way of “Tuff Titty Rap,” which gave Thurston Moore a fine forum in which to be a complete fucking goofball for 40 seconds.




The band was giving vent to a bizarre Madonna obsession in other ways at the time—on their EVOL LP, released the same year, they listed the song “Expressway to Yr Skull” as “Madonna, Sean and Me” on the album cover, and as “The Crucifixion of Sean Penn” on the lyric sheet. Two years later, Ciccone Youth expanded the gag to a full album’s worth of, um, stuff. The Whitey Album included all three tracks from the single, plus a mix of the inane (“Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening to NEU!,” “Silence,” both of which are exactly as stated by the titles), some material that recalled SY’s experimental early days before they fully embraced pop song structures, a bit of spoken word, and a version of “Addicted to Love” (about which, previously on DM, enjoy all the Robert Palmer white-knights in the comments). Check out Dave Markey’s video for the Whitey cut “Macbeth.”

The Whitey Album is singular in the Sonic Youth catalog—the only other SY release I can think of that approaches its pure diverse weirdness is the Master=Dik E.P., released six months earlier, the title track of which just happens to be laden with “Ciccone” references. Six months later and the goofing off would be over. In October of 1988, Sonic Youth would release their 2XLP masterwork Daydream Nation, which left zero room for doubt that the band belonged in the pantheon of art-rock’s greats. Enjoy a bonus video of that album’s “Silver Rocket,” from a STUNNING network TV performance on the far too short-lived Night Music.

Big hat tip to Rust Belt Hammer for inspiring this post.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
BASS IN YOUR FACE: Isolated bass parts of Sonic Youth, Rolling Stones, The Police, Rick James & more

Poor bass players. In the hierarchy of rockbandland, even the mercenary backup singers get more love. Like a drummer, a crummy one can wreck your band, but unlike a drummer, even a superb bass player can fade into the background, seeming for all the world like a mere utility placeholder while the singer, guitarist and drummer all get laid. Before the ‘80s, the bass player was perceived as the would-be guitarist who couldn’t make the cut and got offered a reduction in strings as a consolation prize. Since the ‘80s, bass has been the “easy” instrument a singer hands off to his girlfriend to get her in the band.

It’s all a crock of utter shit. A good bass player is your band’s spine, and is a gift to be cherished.

An excellent online resource for bassists,, has links to an abundance of isolated bass tracks, from celebrated solos to deep cuts to which few casual fans give much thought. There are, of course, song-length showoffs like “YYZ” and “Roundabout,” but there are unassuming gems to be found too. Check out how awesome Tony Butler’s part is in Big Country’s kinda-eponymous debut single. It wanders off into admirable weirdness, but when the time comes to do the job of propelling the song forward, this shit is rocket fuel.


Though Sting has been engaged in a long-running battle with Bono to see who can be the most tedious ass to have released nothing of worth in over 25 years, listening to his playing in the Police serves as an instant reminder of why we even know who he is. The grooves in “Message In A Bottle” are famously inventive and satisfying, but even his work on more straightforward stuff like “Next To You” slays. You can practically hear the dirt on his strings in these.



Funny, as much of a trope as “chick bass player” has become, loads of time spent searching yielded almost no isolated tracks from female bassists. Which is ridiculous. The only one I found was Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, heard here on “Teenage Riot.” It takes a bit to work up to speed. Taken on its own, it’s a minimal, meditative, and quite lovely drone piece.


Here’s a gem—a live recording of Billy Cox, from Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, eating “All Along The Watchtower” for breakfast.


This one was a revelation—the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman on “Gimme Shelter.” I knew this was a great bass part, but there’s stuff in here I’ve never heard before, and it’s excellent. I should have been paying more attention.


But is there “Super Freak?” Oh yeah, there’s “Super Freak.”


I searched mightily to find isolated bass tracks from Spinal Tap’s gloriously excessive ode to both low-ends, “Big Bottom,” before I realized there would be absolutely no point in doing that. So I leave you with the unadulterated real thing.

Previously on DM: The incomparable James Jamerson: isolated

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Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, & more: 1991 comp CD accurately predicted ‘90s indie rock

Wayne Coyne double neck
In August of 1991, a month before Nevermind was released, and when hair metal was still pretty much the only thing on the radio that bore any resemblance to rock, a tiny indie label called No.6 Records released a compilation of guitar instrumentals called Guitarrorists. It featured names that would be familiar only to resolute undergroundists at the time, but many of them would soon find mainstream attention—these guitarists were members of bands like Afghan Whigs, The Butthole Surfers, The Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, and other, less immortal bands that would nonetheless experience some success within a few years of the comp’s release. And it should go without saying that a lot of it is fantastic.
Guitarrorists CD Cover
Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne’s “I Want to Kill My Brother: The Cymbal Head” is an insane, noisy, and dynamic journey through Coyne’s very strange mind:

Wayne Coyne - “I Want to Kill My Brother: The Cymbal Head”

Big Black/Rapeman/Shellac guitarist and Nirvana recording engineer Steve Albini’s contribution “Nutty About Lemurs” sounds unsurprisingly abrasive and, well, very very Albinilike.

Steve Albini - “Nutty About Lemurs”

A big curveball on the album is “A Little Ethnic Song,” by Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis, which sounds nothing like the first thing you thought when you read his name. And it’s really wonderful.

J. Mascis - “A Little Ethnic Song”

Tom Hazelmeyer never became a household name playing guitar for Halo Of Flies, but as big boss man at Amphetamine Reptile Records, he shaped the sound of the ‘90s bludgeon-rock underground as much as anyone. He’s lately turned up on the rock radar again, guesting on guitar with the Brisbane band No Anchor. His Guitarrorists contribution is the skin-flaying “Guitar Wank-Off #13.”

Tom Hazelmeyer - “Guitar Wank-Off #13”

Interesting for how far this selection sticks out from the crowd, and for how lovely it is amid the sea of distortion that is much of the comp, here’s “I Really Can’t Say,” by Kathy Korniloff from Two Nice Girls, a folk-rock band from Austin, notably loud-and-proud out lesbians at a time when that kind of openness was still highly unusual, and far riskier than it is today. They broke up in 1992, but scored some college radio love with a gem of an anthem called “I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control and Beer.” 

Kathy Korniloff - “I Really Can’t Say”

Lastly, though there are contributions on the CD from all three guitar-wielding Sonic Youths, only one of them seems to have found its way online. Here’s an appropriately stark fan video for Lee Ranaldo’s pensive acoustic solo “Here”:

Lee Ranaldo - “Here”

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Sonic Meth: Sonic Youth meets ‘Breaking Bad’ tee-shirt

Raymond Pettibon’s cover art for Sonic Youth’s Goo album meets Breaking Bad in this droll tee-shirt mashup.

It reads: “I stole Combo’s mom’s RV. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. With-in a week we killed Krazy-8 and hit the road.”

Pettibon’s original illustration was based on a 1966 news photo of Maureen Hindley and David Smith, witnesses in the case of the “Moors murders” serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, as they to made their way to the trial.

It’s available at Society 6 for $18.00.

Via Suicide Watch

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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