It was earlier this year that jimdoes, in pulling together an excellent ICA on Sonic Youth, took a deserved sideways swipe at me for never previously having featured the band.

It’s now been 35 years since Sonic Youth began to make music and 5 years since they broke up. They’re yet another act who have never appear to have been all that bothered about breaking into the mainstream or even enjoying moderate chart success, even when during the 90s they were on the roster of Geffen Records, part of the giant MCA media operations.

One of the reasons they weren’t here before the ICA is that I can’t really class myself as a fan of Sonic Youth; I’m more of an admirer owning a couple of albums and a copy of the DVD compilation of the videos they have made over the years to go with the various singles from the 90s.

One of the albums I do have is Dirty released in 1992. Or as someone once said to me, the record the band made when asked to try to come up with something as spectacular as had been delivered by Nirvana.

Dirty was produced by Butch Vig, who was of course at the helm of Nevermind.

Dirty, unlike any other Sonic Youth LP spawned four singles, two of which made the Top 30 in the UK charts.

This was the lead-off single and opening track on the LP (together with its b-sides):-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – 100%
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Creme Brulee
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Genetic
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Hendrix Necro

Released in July 1992, it peaked at #28 in the UK, and provided the band with their biggest ever success in their homeland with a #4 placing on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. While this was impressive enough for a band that had always been cult more than anything else, it was probably a disappointment to the label bosses who must have realised that Sonic Youth just wouldn’t ever make the crossover to mass popularity and millions of sales the world over.

The video was one of the first to be made by acclaimed director and occasional actor Spike Jonze.

Two and a half minutes that did more to glamorise skateboarding than just about anything else and thus made walking around pedestrianised areas in city centres a dangerous occupation forever more.

But you gotta admit its a cracking tune.


  1. The vinyl version of this was 10″ with the two tracks on each side cut next to each other, so when the needle went down you didn’t know which track was going to play.

  2. I remember buying that record and being massively disappointed by it. I’m still non plussed by it now.

  3. Outside of Daydream Nation, the band has always been a challenging listen for me. I do like 100% though. Sonic Youth always seemed to be so well reviewed and revered, and I often found myself wondering what I was missing. Funny thing is I have talked to a few pals about Sonic Youth through the years, and they all felt the same way. Starting to sound a bit conspiratorial now. I’ll stop now.

    Sorry about the Blue Jays, JC. The team really took you on a roller coaster ride this season, didn’t they?

  4. This one’s kind of an intense track for me. Sonic Youth are a pure downtown NYC band, but 100% is about a murder that took place in Venice, CA. Joe Cole was the roommate of Henry Rollins from Black Flag. The two were held up outside their apartment and Cole was shot and killed. This was in December 1991. I had relocated to Santa Monica, CA a few months earlier, and this shooting took place less than a mile away from my apartment. NYC was still pretty dangerous at the time, so I was really bummed about this nearby violence happening so shortly after I left the big city for quieter, sunnier, mellower pastures. (Rollins is still out here, by the way, and has a weekly radio show called ‘Harmony In My Head’.)

  5. This song and it’s parent album are both really good. It was interesting to hear what Sonic Youth did with a budget and a producer. Kind of agree that overall they are easy to dip in and out of.

  6. If ever a band tried to keep from being held down and catergorized, it was Sonic Youth. I was a fan in a flirtatious way. I enjoy a few album and love a few singles. I covet my Ciccone Youth LP and Sister might be my favorite album – start to finish.
    Thurston Moore may be the most unapproachable musician in history – if recognized. A friend of mine was working at a record convention, selling his pretty amazing collection of 60’s and 70’s Brazilian rock albums and other sundries when Tom Verlaine came up to his booth and was amazed by the albums on offer. He engaged my friend in some friendly banter and acknowledged my friends huge fandom of all things Verlaine/Television. As he tells it Verlaine looked up at one point and called over a friend to check out the Brazilian wares…”Hey Thurston, you have to see this stuff” was my best approximation of what he said – to which Thurston Moore ambled over and was instantly mesmerized. Moore got all trainspotting about Brazilian psychedelia and hard rock and ended up buying 75% of the music for sale. Later my friend saw Moore purposely ignoring anyone who would recognize him or attempt to engage with him.

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