Good example of the non-NYC world beginning to come to grips w/ how stellar the early SONIC YOUTH stuff was, circa 1983-86. This is from Barbara Rice and her TRULY NEEDY fanzine (#8), published in Washington DC in early 1984.
The classic albums course that I teach with Harry [Weinger] at NYU, we wanted to study the idea of a canon. The kind of notion that something is automatically classic because it’s told to you that it’s classic. Picasso paintings are in that canon. Basquiat’s in that canon. The Beatles are in that canon. Miles Davis is in that canon. Like, this is great because we were told at three years old by our parents that this is great. So I wanted to study seven records outside–not outside of the canon, but that really aren’t discussed.
The obvious thing would have been to do, like, Blood on the Tracks by Dylan, you do Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones, you do Sgt. Pepper’s by the Beatles, you do Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols. That’s the obvious canon that everybody studies. So I figured I’d use my resources and knowledge to study the records that don’t get that treatment. So we chose, week one we chose all three volumes of Live at the Apollo by James Brown. Studying how the live album revolutionized and gave birth to a career.
And then the lesson that I learned while teaching this was that the common denominator that all these records had –
Week two was Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin, tied with My Life by Mary J. Blige.
Week three was Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear. The only class that I had to miss because of an emergency. I had to take off that week.
Week four was Off The Wall by Michael Jackson.
Week five was Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
Week six was There’s a Riot Going On, Sly and the Family Stone
Week seven was Dirty Mind by Prince.
And the final week was Three Feet High and Rising by De La Soul, tied with Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys.
You can think ?uestlove is kind of a name-dropper and try to not love him because of it, but then he teaches a “great albums” course at NYU and completely ditches the White Man Canon of Great Albums for a bunch of awesome albums by people of color (and Paul’s Boutique), and you realize that doing anything but admitting that the dude is very much good people is really just impossible.
Sonic Youth - Kill yr Idols: I don’t know much about this pressing. Bootleg or a reissue I haven’t heard about? I’m not sure. There is no text on the label. Found for 15 bucks in Origami Vinyl in Los Angeles
I’m watching this mediocre documentary about the No Wave scene and the early 2000s NYC bands it influenced. It’s called Kill Your Idols; I first watched this online five years ago. Haven’t seen it since, but I’ve thought about it a lot.
I’m always interested in movies that express truths they weren’t necessarily trying to get across. Like you watch a movie about a break-up and it’s written by a guy and the female characters are all petty and the male protagonist is a hero and you can watch this movie and think “this is a great look into this sociopath’s mind.”
Anyway, so Kill Your Idols worships these old No Wave bands and treats everything they say as gospel. And there are great musicians here— Glenn Branca and Martin Rev and Michael Gira have every right to be put on this pedestal. BUT. The documentary also features Arto Lindsay from DNA saying he was influenced by Rimbaud and “anti-bourgeois thought,” and then it cuts to him playing bad music. I like a lot of noise. I like a lot of aggressively off-putting music. But the footage of DNA in this film is bad.
Toward the end, Lydia Lunch of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks talks about how the most boring thing a musician can do is pick up a guitar. If bands are looking for new sounds, they shouldn’t play the instrument. And yet she’s been shown playing guitar in at least three archival clips in this movie. As far as I can tell, that’s the only instrument she’s used to make music.
We see the no-wavers say there is no future of punk music. It’s all been done before. By their metric, the current crop of New York punks (including Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Dice and the truly awful ARE Weapons) completely suck.
This movie is actually about how the no wave generation have adopted the views of the same baby boomers they were originally trying to piss off. This movie is about how even a dude who walked on his guitar, slunk offstage and called it a show will eventually look into a camera and say “my generation was the last authentic one” and “it was better in my day.”
It’s supposed to be a movie about how much better music used to be, but it’s actually about how Lydia Lunch has a ton in common with the person who scoffs at the radio and says “in my day, every song was great and only the best artists made it.” Kill Your Idols is about how punks grew up and became sad, inverse versions of themselves.
I’m going to the NY Comic Con next week, and Grant Morrison will be there, which means odds are good that I will finally meet the dude who’s been my life-hero role-model worship-subject since I was 15 years old. Probably just briefly. Probably just in the context of an autograph line. But still! That’s weird.
What do I even do?
I can’t just get an autograph and say “I’m a fan” and shake his hand and walk away. I can’t meet someone who’s been that big of an influence on me and treat it like not a big deal. But I also can’t have a fan meltdown and spill my guts and be an embarrassing mess. I don’t even know what to say; “you changed my life” sounds hollow, and he’s heard it all before.