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Members include BobBert(joined group, 1982, left group,1985), drummer; RichardEdson(left group, 1982), drummer; Kim Gordon (born April 23, 1953, in Rochester, NY), bass player, vocalist; ThurstonMoore, (born July 25, 1958, in Coral Gables, FL), vocalist, guitar player; LeeRanaldo, (born February 3, 1956, in Glen Cove, NY), guitar player, vocalist; SteveShelley (born June 23, 1962 in Midland, MI; joined group, 1985), drummer. Addresses: Record company--DGC Records, 9150 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90068.
More than image, style, or even substance, the punk rock movement of the mid 1970s challenged the mainstream musical establishment. It was in the years following this movement and during Sonic Youth's beginning in 1978-79 that no wave rock named for its lack of discernible musical influences began evolving into1990s grunge. Sonic Youth embodied the sound and attitude of the popular new genre and the group quickly became one of rock's most successful and highly acclaimed bands.
According to Ira Robbins, "latter day rock and roll revolutionaries have shown a marked tendency toward swift burnout. They reveal their raw vision to the world, but the world, being the philistine place that it is, turns away; the musicians move on. Sonic Youth, unlike so many of the noise bands that formed in New York at the beginning of the '80s, had the fortitude to hold on long enough to develop its ideas well beyond the original stances. As a result, the quartet has gotten better and better, moving from cacophony to chilling beauty, arising from the underground to become its emissaries to the real rock world . ... More than just updating the noise rock innovations of Jimi Hendrix or the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth took them some place fresh."
Sonic Youth was formed in New York City in the early 1980s, when Thurston Moore met Lee Ranaldo. They were both involved in musical collaborations with guitarist and composer Glenn Branca at the time. In 1981, the two guitarists, Moore and Ranaldo, united with bassist and art school graduate Kim Gordon and drummer Richard Edson to create Sonic Youth.
They signed to Branca's Neutral label and before the band had released their first record, Edson left the group and was replaced by drummer Bob Bert. In 1982, Sonic Youth released their debut mini-album entitled Sonic Youth. It was followed the next year by Confusion is Sex. The early Sonic Youth records were characterized by large amounts of distortion and feedback which was the result of Moore's and Ranaldo's penchant for tuning their guitars to various "hot rodded tunings." They also chose to play their instruments with drumsticks and screwdrivers. Death, urban decay, and the squalidness of life were the issues that Moore and his soon-to-be-wife Gordon mined for lyric inspiration. As Moore told the Boston Phoenix, "when we started we were being very reactionary, pulling against the norm at the time [and] trying to bring back and update the elements we liked that came out of bands like the Stooges and the MC5."
They slowly started to build a loyal cult following that spawned such hardcore contemporaries as the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, and Black Flag among others. A European tour produced the 1983 German-only release Kill Yr Idols which was an EP of distorted soundscapes. The following year, Sonic Youth released Sonic Death which featured performances from their European tour. This album was released on Moore's Ecstatic Peace label.
By 1985, Sonic Youth began to change its sound somewhat as they toyed with sound dynamics, more unusual tunings, and song stylings. Also at this time, the band began to send out demo tapes to various independent labels. They were eventually signed to Blast First in England and to Homestead in America. They then released Bad Moon Rising, about which the New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll said "hit on a direction that incorporated swirling Branca style guitar textures into more traditional pop-based song structures." At the beginning of 1986, Sonic Youth had a new American label the Black Flag bankrolled SST and a new drummer, Steve Shelley, who replaced Bert. They began to work on their next album E.V.O.L, or love spelled backwards. The next year saw the release of Sister, which served as the musical primer for such bands as Sebadoh and Pavement.
Another label change, this time to Enigma, followed in 1988. At this time, the band decided to engage in a side project called Ciccone Youth. The resulting album, the Whitey Album, featured covers of Madonna songs, thus giving the band their pseudonym. Also that same year, Sonic Youth released their critically acclaimed classic underground album Daydream Nation. This album further elaborated on the theme of alienation which pervaded the two previous Sonic Youth releases. Daydream Nation contained the song "Teen Age Riot" which shot to the number one spot on the British independent singles chart and the American alternative singles chart.
They continued to travel the globe throughout the late 1980s, and with 1990 fast approaching, it was time for Sonic Youth to move on yet again. They left both their English label, Blast First, and their American label, Enigma, and signed on to the major label DGC. 1990 heralded Sonic Youth's major label debut, Goo, which featured the hit single "Kool Thing," a collaboration between Gordon and Public Enemy's Chuck D. The album introduced the band to a wider, more mainstream audience in America. This increase in popularity helped Sonic Youth become the opening act for Neil Young on his tour. Two years later, the group released Dirty. The album was more politically charged than any of their previous work, due in part to its release during an American election year. On Dirty, there was a song denouncing the southern Senator Jesse Helms called "Chapel Hill" as well as a tune called "Youth Against Fascism."
Additional tours preceded 1994's Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Starwhich was the first Sonic Youth album to make its way into the top 40 albums chart in America. Their continued success helped Sonic Youth become the headlining act at Lollapalooza in 1995 and to tour with R.E.M. The following year, they released Washing Machine.
In 1998, Sonic Youth released A Thousand Leaves, the first record to be solely recorded in their own studio. As Moore stated in the Sonic Youth DGC web site, "in an attempt to make our albums dateable, we'll now include an answer song to some aspect of popular culture on each album. We're not, as some people maintain, obsessed with pop culture, so much as we're obsessed with its possibilities for stratification and dateability."
by Mary Alice Adams
Sonic Youth's Career
Formed in New York City in 1981; signed to Neutral and released Sonic Youth, 1982; released Confusion is Sex, 1983; signed to Zensor and released German only Kill Yr Idols, 1983; signed to own Ecstatic Peace and released Sonic Death, 1984; signed to Homestead and released Bad Moon Rising, 1985; signed to SST and released E.V.O.L, 1986; released Sister, 1987; signed to Enigma and released, as Ciccone Youth, Whitey Album, 1988; released Daydream Nation, 1988; signed to DGC and released Goo, 1990; released Dirty, 1992; released Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star, 1994; released Screaming Fields of Sonic Love, 1995; released Washing Machine, 1996; released A Thousand Leaves, 1998.
- Selected discography
- as Ciccone Youth
- Whitey Album , Enigma, 1988.
- as Sonic Youth
- Sonic Youth , Neutral, 1982.
- Confusion is Sex , Neutral, 1983.
- Kill Yr Idols , Zensor, 1983.
- Sonic Death , Ecstatic Peace, 1984.
- Bad Moon Rising , Homestead, 1985.
- E.V.O.L. , SST, 1986.
- Sister , SST, 1987.
- Daydream Nation , Enigma, 1988.
- Goo , DGC, 1990.
- Dirty , DGC, 1992.
- Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star , DGC, 1994.
- Screaming Fields of Sonic Love , DGC, 1995.
- Washing Machine , DGC, 1996.
- A Thousand Leaves , DGC, 1998.
- Contemporary Musicians,vol. 9, Gale.
- Robbins, Ira, editor, Trouser Press Guide to 90s Rock, Fireside, 1997.
- Robbins, Ira, editor, Trouser Press Record Guide, fourth edition, Macmillan, 1991.
- Romanowski, Patricia and Holly George Warren, eds., New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Fireside, 1995.
- Boston Phoenix, July 17, 1992.
- Musician, September 1992.
- People, May 11, 1998.
- "Sonic Youth Biography," www.allmusic.com(April 16, 1999).
- "Sonic Youth ," Geffen Rcords Artist Page, www.geffen.com/sonic-youth/bio/index.html (April 16, 1999).
Sonic Youth Lyrics
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