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11 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Sonic Youth

Peter Anderson

Sonic Youth existed for well over 30 years, wreaking havoc first on the New York underground music scene of the early ’80s before becoming one of the most influential art-rock outfits in the world. With such a long and storied career, there’s bound to be some interesting bits of information buried somewhere in Sonic Youth’s history.

Since the band formed in 1981, they’ve gone through a number of lineup changes. They cycled through a handful of drummers until Steve Shelley joined the group in 1985. From that point, the band’s core lineup of Kim GordonThurston Moore, guitarist Lee Ranaldo and Shelley stayed the same. But they would often add members to fill out their sound or collaborate on something new.

Sadly, Sonic Youth disbanded in 2011. They left behind a massive catalog of music, though. And the members all remain active with their individual musical and artistic pursuits. To show our love for one of the most prolific bands ever to exist, we’ve compiled a list of facts that you may or may not have known.


1

Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon played under the names Red Milk, Male Bonding and the Arcadians before settling on Sonic Youth.

 

 

 

2

Lee Ranaldo joined and played his first show with the band on only a day’s notice.

 

 

 

3

Sonic Youth’s original drummer, Richard Edson, began acting shortly after quitting the band. You may have seen him as the sleazy parking garage attendant in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.’

 

 

 

4

According to Michael Azzerad’s book ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life,’ Lee Reynaldo ran a drill through a wah-wah pedal on the recording of “Burning Spear.” The drill proved to be irreplaceable after it broke. Gordon said, “We could never find a drill with the same tone as that one.”

 

 

 

5

During the recording of their 1983 debut, ‘Confusion Is Sex,’ Sonic Youth constantly lost large amounts of recorded music to chewed-up tape, spilled soda and “accidents with magnets,” according to Moore.

 

 

 

6

In the song “In the Kingdom #19″ on 1986’s ‘EVOL,’ you can hear firecrackers going off starting at 0:55. That’s because Moore tossed a lit string of firecrackers into the room where Ranaldo was recording his vocals. The loud “Hey!” is genuine.

 

 

 

7

Lee Ranaldo considers himself an ardent Grateful Dead fan. He said he’s seen them in concert at least 20 times.

 

 

 

8

Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley plays in another band with guitarist Tim Foljahn called Two Dollar Guitar.

 

 

 

9

Shelley and Foljahn played on indie sadcore singer Cat Power’s first three albums.

 

 

 

10

The song “Teenage Riot” is about Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis, whom Moore said “represented our slacker genuis” when they wrote it. It was originally titled “Rock’N’Roll for President.”

 

 

 

11

In 1994, Moore joined an indie rock supergroup that also included Mike Mills of R.E.M., Dave Grohl, Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs and Don Fleming of Gumball. They recorded the soundtrack to the Beatles biopic ‘Backbeat’ as the Backbeat Band.

 

 

 

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