Sonic Youth began in 1981 in downtown New York City with Thurston Moore on guitar and vocals; Kim Gordon on bass, guitar and vocals; Lee Ranaldo on guitar and vocals; and Ann Demarinis on keyboards (she played for a very short bit). The first drummer was Richard Edson. This is the band that made the eponymously titled mini-LP released in 1982 by Neutral Records, a label founded by NYC guitarist/composer Glenn Branca.
Lee and Thurston were witness to the original 1976-77 NYC CBGB/Max's scene of Television, Patti Smith, Suicide, the Ramones, etc. Kim was in Los Angeles at the time studying as a visual artist. She came to NYC, met up with Thurston, and they started playing together during the era (1978-79) of what is termed No Wave - harsh, challenging and abrasive music informed by rock, noise, jazz and modern composition/experimentation. Through the mutual acquaintance of Branca - then known as a remarkable iconoclast of the new radical rock composer scene - they joined forces with Lee, who was playing with Branca's ensemble. With cheap guitars tuned to various hot-rodded tunings, they wrote songs like no one else. The vibe was fresh and, though mirroring the nihilism of No Wave, had notions of forward positivity.
Richard Edson left to be replaced by Bob Bert, and for an interim, Jim Sclavunos. These drummers helped record the 1983 LP Confusion Is Sex, again on Neutral.
Young post-punk hardcore bands like Black Flag, the Minutemen, the Meat Puppets and the Butthole Surfers became contemporaries, and Sonic Youth bought a van and crashed around the U.S.A. all through the 1980s, playing in front of initially small - and completely freaked-out - audiences.
Bert toured with the band as ft travailed through Europe throughout early 1983. They released an EP of their most outward and wild music to that point called Kill Yr Idols, which was available only in Germany (Zensor Records). The European tour produced a self-released cassette titled Sonic Death (Ecstatic Peace, Thurston's own label, which he still maintains).
In 1984, after sending tapes to specific independent record labels - remember, at this time there weren't many dealing with underground music as such, and most of them seemed to reside in the U.K. -they got a call from Blast First, a new label in London that had been dealing with Lydia Lunch (whom Thurston had been playing with in a band called In Limbo that also featured Edson on drums and Sclavunos on sax). They recorded the Bad Moon LP and Blast First released it. Gerard Cosloy started work at a label in the U.S. called Homestead and arranged for the release of the album stateside. Homestead also released a 12-inch entitled "Flower"/"Halloween." By then Sonic Youth's sound had developed into a more mature pop/noise hybrid, with a genuine experimental flair for structure.
The band then went to London and destroyed all who heard and watched. At that point, the U.K. ene was touting the death of the electric guitar. In a New York minute, Sonic Youth wiped that concept out. They encouraged Blast First to bring over Big BIack and the Butthole Surfers to further the explosion of recognition for the new U.S. underground. Things have not been the same since.
Upon returning to the U.S. from 1984's touring, Bert up and left (later to join post-SY noise freaksters Pussy Galore). Steve Shelley, from Michigan, was asked to join after he sent cassettes of his bands the Crucifucks and Spastic Rhythm Tarts to Thurston. Lee and Thurston saw Steve play a hard core matinee at CBGB with the Crucifucks and knew he was the choice. Steve's formidable drum skills upped the band's musicality a level and everyone yelled "Hup!"
Black Flag had a label called SST in L.A., and in the mid-'80s this was considered the vanguard of underground, independent music being made in the U.S.A. Sonic Youth signed to SST in 1986, thus severing their ties with Homestead (sorry Gerard); the band stayed with Blast First for the U.K. and Europe. Sonic Youth then recorded E.V.O.L., expanding on their dusted, Mesa Boogie explorations of the American landscape and all its mysteries.
In 1987 they recorded Sister, which would inspire legions of gig-goers a half generation younger than SY (Pavement, Sebadoh, etc.). This LP touched on themes of hyper-irreality and disloctaion.
After touring non-stop, they stopped and decided to leave SST for a record deal with Enigma (now defunct). They recorded The Whitey Album under the aegis of Ciccone Youth, an idea born of Madonna, who at one point was making out with a friend of theirs but who later became a superstar, appearing on the cover of Time magazine. The album was an effort to create music that was completely studio based and skullfucked. Mike Watt, while sitting in on the Bad Moon Rising sessions, helped formulate the idea of recording a cover version of Madonna's "Burning Up," while Ciccone Youth recorded "Into the Groove," as "Into the Groove(y)." That was where the Madonna flirtation ended (save for the cover art), and the rest of the session was complete out/machine groove/psyche.
Sonic Youth then recorded Daydream Nation, a double LP that brought them to the attention of the critical elfte and won the band year-end best-of awards up the butthola. This LP encapsulated all that had been brewing musically and lyrically with the band through the 1980s.
At decade's end, SY parted company with Blast First and Enigma and signed to a major label, DGC. This was considered insane by many on watch as there was really no history of independent bands (besides maybe R. E.M.) succeeding within the realm of the corporate music industry Sonic Youth had helped build an alternative to.
SY released the LP Goo in 1990 and then Dirty in 1992. Both were chock-block-full of heady, heavy swirl and strum. Sonic Youth noticed a new generation of music lovers digging them and their contemporaries on a massive scale. And then Nirvana sold a zillion records and the industry was a new deal - sort of.
SY toured and toured and in 1994 they released the odd and rather zapped LP Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. In 1995 they headlined the mythological Lollapalooza tour and toured with R.E.M. The following year they released Washing Machine, a Dixie-fried noise-rock lightning storm.
In 1997 SY built a studio, played the Tibetan Freedom festival for the 2 nd year running, and recorded a series of EPs on their own homegrown label, SYR. This music was extrapolated, mostly instrumental forays into wild improvisational meditations and sub/conscious structural creations. This work helped develop the 1998 LP A Thousand Leaves.
SONIC YOUTH NEW LP "RATHER RIPPED" DUE FOR JUNE 2006 RELEASE
Sonic Youth are putting the finishing touches on their upcoming new record. Basic tracks were recorded with engineer TJ Doherty at legendary Sear Sound Studio. Sear Sound has been the site of recording previous SY albums 'Sister' and 'Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star', and Thurston's 'Psychic Hearts'. Overdubs were recorded with TJ at Sear Sound as well as with engineer Aaron Mullan at the band's own studio on Murray St. - A few vocal overdubs were even done at J Mascis' in house studio in Amherst, MA. with engineer John Agnello. The band spent the most of February mixing with John Agnello at Sear Sound and later at Water Music in Hoboken, NJ. Cover art for the album can be seen on their site.
'Koncertas Stan Brakhage Prisiminimui' is the sixth album in the band's Sonic Youth Recordings series. This CD edition of the SYR series is a recording of the benefit concert held at and for The Anthology Film Archives on April 12, 2003. Sonic Youth performed with drummer/percussionist Tim Barnes. Part of the proceeds of this CD will again benefit the Anthology Film Archives.
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