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.
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