I DON’T WANNA, I DON’T THINK SO

30 years ago, Spin Magazine published an article in which Kim Gordon, the bass player of Sonic Youth, interviewed the rapper LL Cool J. The original idea, certainly from Kim Gordon’s perspective was to establish that the largely underground New York noise rock scene, of which her band was probably the best known, had much in common with the local rap scene, of which the man born James Todd Smith was one of its biggest commercial success. It should be remembered that, at this point in history, Sonic Youth had recorded for a multitude of independent labels, gathering a fair amount of critical acclaim but not much in the way of sales while LL Cool J had enjoyed hit singles and all sorts of platinum and gold discs for his first three albums.

The outcome was something of a car crash. The rapper ‘s responses to the questions clearly antagonised the bassist almost from the outset as he boasts about his car collection and then makes fun of her knowledge of the emergence of the Beastie Boys out of hardcore rock into rap and the involvement of Rick Rubin, with whom LL Cool J had worked, before he talks about his love for Andrew Dice Clay, a comedian notorious for his sexist material. The lowpoint, however, had to be this exchange:-

KG : “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?”

LLCJ : “It’s not my problem. The guy has to have control over his woman. She has to have enough respect for you to know not to do those things. It’s how you carry yourself.

Later on, he talks about his admiration for Bon Jovi and says he’s never heard of Iggy Pop and The Stooges. I’m not sure how many of his responses were deliberately designed to make fun of the interviewer or whether he was genuinely unaware of so much music history around his home city. Kim Gordon provided this addendum to the interview:-

“It seems pretty obvious L.L. doesn’t have many conversations with white girls like me. And likewise, I don’t have many conversations with rap musicians. But I have more access to his world – even if it is superficial, watching the NYC black video show on UHF or whatever – than L.L. will ever have to mine.”

Nine months later, Kim Gordon had penned a song that would provide her band with something approaching a breakthrough hit, based on her bitter experience:-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – Kool Thing

Chuck D makes a guest appearance, obviously quite comfortable about the music and politics of Sonic Youth and at the same time willing to poke fun at a fellow rapper, albeit one who was almost diametrically opposed to Public Enemy in terms of the music, the look and the acceptance by white America. It’s great fun to listen to, and it’s scary to think that it is fast approaching its 30th birthday.

The b-side to the 7” version of Kool Thing, certainly here in the UK was a cover version of a song written by Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine, and which pre-dated the formation of Television:-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – That’s All I Know (Right Now)
mp3 : The Neon Boys – That’s All I Know (Right Now)

I think it’s a fair assumption to say that LL Cool J would have been completely oblivious to this particular release.

JC

MONDAY MORNING….COMING DOWN (7)

T’internet truly is a wonderful educational tool.

Up until doing the little bit of research for this post, I had assumed today’s song was a cover of a number by The Carpenters:-

mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group – Superstar

The mighty Quinn and his just as mighty bandmates* recorded this for the 1992 album The Phantoms and the Archetypes, with it also appearing as a track on the Stupid Thing single the following year. My previous knowledge of the song stemmed from my childhood when the brother and sister duo enjoyed a Top 20 hit in late 1971 – to be honest, I thought Superstar had been a #1 record, such was the frequency with which I recall hearing it, but I’m thinking now that it was more likely one of those songs that was the subject of numerous requests over the years and I’m conflating things over an extended period.

Not that it matters.

I suppose I should have realised The Carpenters were themselves offering up a cover, given the writing credits go to Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett.

It turns out the song dates from 1969.  The original has a totally different type of the arrangement, with horns and a gospel style backing vocal. It was Bonnie Bramlett on lead vocal, Leon Russell on keyboards and, among others, Eric Clapton on guitar and Rita Coolidge on background vocals. There were a few more versions recorded prior to The Carpenters, including by the likes of Cher, Bette Midler and Peggy Lee. There’s also been a lorry-load of versions since 1971 across a range of genres.

Paul Quinn’s take on things demonstrates that Superstar is, when it all boils down, a torch song of the utmost quality, and it’s a rather sad tale from the perspective of a discarded groupie, one who wasn’t a career groupie interested in quantity of ‘bags’, but who thought the love and affection offered by the musician in question was genuine and meaningful.

Turns out too that one line in the original version was felt too risqué by Richard Carpenter and so he changed ‘And I can hardly wait to sleep with you again’ so that Karen would now sing ‘And I can hardly wait to be with you again”, which is the line also sung by Paul.

The song was later, in 1994, covered by a very unlikely source:-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – Superstar

It appeared initially on the tribute album If I Were a Carpenter and was also released as a single. It has been used on a couple of soundtracks and is the only known version for which Richard Carpenter has expressed a strong dislike.

Oh and *the mighty bandmates referred to at the outset?

James Kirk (ex-Orange Juice)
Blair Cowan (ex-Lloyd Cole & The Commotions0
Tony Soave (ex-The Silencers)
Campbell Owens (ex-Aztec Camera)
Robert Hodgens (ex-The Bluebells)
Alan Horne (music impresario extraordinaire)

Nae bad eh?

JC

ONLY THEIR SECOND TIME ON THESE PAGES

sonic-youth-100-one-hundred-108735

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.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #68 : SONIC YOUTH

A GUEST POSTING FROM JIMDOES

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Here’s an imaginary compilation for a band that surprisingly enough, have never featured on TVV – a definite oversight from JC!

Anyway, they’ve released 15 studio albums and recorded hundreds of songs so a Sonic Youth ICA seems like a pretty daunting task – except I don’t own all those tracks and of those I do own, I only keep about 25 on my Ipod, so they are the ones I am most familiar with.

As a band they were always experimenting and always pushing their sound to new limits and because of this I think they are one of those bands that the more you listen, the more you get out of – there’s so much depth and texture to their music. They are a band that I’ve listened to for nearly 30 years (yikes!) and are the one that I always gravitate to when I am a bit drunk on long train journeys home – they just seem to make sense to me in that state.

I don’t really know the stuff from before Daydream Nation too well either so my ICA will mainly be from then onwards – maybe someone else can do me an ICA of earlier stuff from Sister/EVOL etc? Anyway, here goes – not necessarily the best, just my favourites…

01 TEEN AGE RIOT  (From Daydream Nation)

Best to get this one out of the way early – the opening track on their masterpiece and in my opinion one of the greatest songs ever recorded. I never tire of the Kim Gordon beginning whisper to this song – or the rest of it really. I saw them perform the whole of Daydream Nation a few years ago – one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to (the accompanying picture is from that show – in my opinion, one of the best rock photos ever taken – even if it was on an old Nokia phone) – you know that any show that starts with this song isn’t going to let you down. And it’s the last song that Sonic Youth ever performed together – and sadly will probably never be performed by them again – I can’t see there being a reunion any time.

BEST BIT: 1.22 When Thurston’s guitar kicks in – all euphoria excitement and adrenalin and the promise of what’s to come.

02 SUNDAY  (From A Thousand Leaves)

Sonic Youth are so good at the whole quiet/LOUD/quiet thing – heaven knows how they make all that noise with just their guitars – but they do and I love it.

BEST BIT: 2.21 When it kicks off into that noisy squall – magic.

03 THE EMPTY PAGE (From Murray Street)

I really got into this song after Kim Gordon used it as a reference point in her autobiography. Again it’s got that quiet/LOUD thing going on – there’s a bit of a theme developing here!

BEST BIT: 3.34 Thurston’s voice when he sings “The empty page has wasted down”

04 OR (From Rather Ripped)

Almost my favourite Sonic Youth song – probably no2 after Teenage Riot mainly as that’s got history and it’s the songs you love in your early years that are generally the ones that influence you most. Anyway, I digress – I love the words and the sense of menace and yearning and resignation in this song – I think that’s what it is anyway!

BEST BIT: 2.28 The way Thurston says “Rock” – it really does rock.

05 BROTHER JAMES (From Death Valley 69)

Time for a Kim Gordon song – I’ll admit I first listened to this song because of the name – I’m a sucker for songs with my name in them and believe me there’s loads. This is kind of the opposite of the previous song – Kim Gordon sounds seriously pissed off – screaming the lyrics. Sonic Youth are one of those bands where they are all such great musicians and such a unit that it’s hard to say what stands out – on this track it’s all perfect.

BEST BIT: 2.30 Kim screaming “I don’t wanna hang around” and then things just get faster

06 DIRTY BOOTS (From Goo)

Ok lets play the hits. I remember leaping around indie discos to this song and moshing when they played it – I’m sure there’s plenty of TVV readers that did the same. I’m in danger of repeating myself – Thurston Moore sounds great, Steve Shelley nails it, Lee Ranaldo does his thing and Kim Gordon holds it all together impeccably – almost the perfect Sonic Youth track, if there weren’t so many classics to choose from. Every one of them was at the top of their game when they recorded this and it shows.

BEST BIT: 3.05 HA! Enough said.

07 CANDLE (From Daydream Nation)

I could’ve chosen pretty much any song off Daydream Nation – they are all good but this is one that I played to death in my youth and so was a real highlight for me when I saw them perform it.

BEST BIT: 0.00 The beginning – I love the melody that leads into the song.

08 SACRED TRICKSTER (from The Eternal)

Another Kim song. Where the title of her book ‘Girl In A Band’ comes from.

BEST BIT: 1. 14 Uh-huh Uh-huh. Just because.

09 I LOVE YOU GOLDEN BLUE (From Sonic Nurse)

Sonic Youth do dreamy. Kim Gordon whispering the words – none of their trademark distortion – and in her book it’s a song she says she loved singing.

BEST BIT: 5.46 You expect it to get faster and drown you in feedback but Kim Gordon just whispers the title of the song.

10 THE DIAMOND SEA (From Washing Machine)

At 20 minutes long this is the song that just keeps giving – it’s a showcase for the whole band and encompasses just about every aspect of the Sonic Youth sound. An epic to end my ICA.

BEST BIT: Seriously? All of it.

mp3 : Sonic Youth – Teen Age Riot
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Sunday
mp3 : Sonic Youth – The Empty Page
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Or
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Brother James
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Dirty Boots
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Candle
mp3 : Sonic Youth – Sacred Trickster
mp3 : Sonic Youth – I Love You Golden Blue
mp3 : Sonic Youth – The Diamond Sea

Love from jimdoes

Enjoy