Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I wanna be your Thurston Moore

BDR points out that today is Thurston's birthday, someone who's been one of my guitar heroes for a good while now even if I can't call myself the world's biggest fan as much as some.

I got some Sonic Youth albums from the library in the formative years but it was the lesser works in their career, the Silver Sessions of straight feedback and Experimental Jet Set which didn't stick at the time. One of my classmates junior year wore his sister's Sonic Youth shirt and his Rollins Band hoodie almost daily, and told me that Teen Age Riot changed his life. Most of my crew's inside jokes involved obscure references to Nirvana and Black Flag, geeky teens that we were. The first time I heard that song on the radio, at 2am on a hot summer night, it was revelatory for me too, though the band was one that we more talked about than actually listened to, because there is a difference. I wanted to play guitar that weird, and had a brief all female band that tried to be like Sonic Youth but we weren't so good and like most things, it fell apart.

My freshman year as an art major with oil paint in my chopped-up hair at a small conservative school in the heartland was made bearable by the art majors several years my senior who liked weird Brazilian movies and similar tuneage. One of our professors was a Fluxus alumnus who traded art in the mail with Yoko Ono and it was the most wonderful artistic community I've ever been around, and I would have maybe stayed if all the people I really liked weren't 26 to my 19 and on their way to graduating or getting the hell out. There was probably a reason why the campus tours never came to the art building, where we oddball Jesusheads with our grungy clothes and piercings congregated to talk theology and books and listen to Ani Difranco and Bjork and Sonic Youth. The year Murray Street came out, we gathered in a classroom late at night after painting and blissed out to Rain on Tin.
There was someone I had a small and of course unrequited crush on during those days and we drove up with one of his other friends to Cleveland one night listening to Washing Machine. I still remember him singing along to the guitars at the end. I was too shy to say much to him then, and I probably still would be now.

I transferred to Kent the following year due to economics, profound loneliness, and coming near to a nervous breakdown from the prior year. I made friends with a girl who loved loud tuneage as much as me and we lived together two years, went to shows, and watched old VHS tapes of MuchMusic and Daria and wish that we were as cool as Kim Gordon. I had MySpace for a couple weeks with a picture of her up instead of me, and got lots of "friend requests" from dudes who didn't know better and realized this whole social networking thing with strangers is kind of stupid.
She had copies of Goo and Dirty. I have to admit that I prefer their more accessible material to the more arty-farty stuff. It's not that I don't like things that are a little more complex, but sometimes I felt like it was just too arty, and I wanted a verse-chorus-verse and some fabulously squalling guitars and jams. I still don't don't own any of their albums, and compiled my favorite tracks onto a cassette tape that I listened to when I shelved library books at work.

Some friends of mine who lived out of town came in for a festival our old alt-rock station had. We met up and I had the closest thing to a romantic moment I've ever had with anyone sitting drenched on a lawn and listening to Schizophrenia.  Incidentally, the guy ended up having a breakdown a year or so later and this song kind of haunts me now.

I realized then I'm not a super-fan when I didn't hear the songs that I wanted to hear, which were these.

. I never could do Kim's voice, finding her songs generally uninteresting, but I loved Thurston's guitar work, in part because I couldn't figure out how he did it, and how he managed to sound so epic without being technical. Celebrity followers have their own couples, but for a lot of us, there was Thurston and Kim, making music and having a kid and being arty and old and still cool. My dad refers to the band as "Sonic Old" which may not be entirely inaccurate. It was kind of surprising that they split, because I dropped out of the loop on those things for awhile, but I'm past the point of assuming that things last forever most of the time as it is.


  1. Your stories are always way more interesting than mine. I should hire you to write my blog.

    1. Should I become a spambot? Does that count as winning the future?

    2. As long as you don't forget the WD-40.