When you’re 9 years old, the music you listen to is the music you’re exposed to. Simple as that. Either by your parents playing it, songs on the radio or TV, or the stuff you already have on cassette or records. (Well, CD now i suppose.)
So surprisingly enough, in 1987 I wasn’t trawling independent record shops for the latest American lo-fi no wave indie rock. No. I was listening to “Bad” by Michael Jackson and “True Blue” by Madonna. Over and over again.Like most other kids my age. And I was also watching Top of the Pops on BBC 1 every Thursday night without fail. In fact this programme is where I would get my first listen of a lot of bands and artists well into my teens.
I heard Sonic Youth for the first time in 1993. A year after my ears had been opened to the tidal wave of alternative rock coming from America. Sugar Kane was the first song I was played. It was the single on 7 inch pinched by my friend from his older sister’s bedroom. We heard a lot of music this way. The song was an easy road in and I liked it. Little did I know it was pretty much unrecognisable from their early material.
Anyway in April ’93 the legendary video “1991:The Year Punk Broke” was released which documented Sonic Youth’s ’91 European Tour and included performances by them plus many support bands including Nirvana. A friend of mine had taken the audio from the video and put it onto a cassette which he played one saturday on a portable stereo while a group of us hung out in a local park. A live version of “Schizophrenia” is the first track and it caught my interest straight away. “This is the Sugar Kane band?!”, I remember thinking.
I didn’t dive straight into their back catalogue, which was probably a good thing because I don’t think my aural taste buds would’ve been ready for that yet. But I did watch the documentary and get a copy of “Dirty”, which I loved and I followed them from that point forward. It took a while for my palette to appreciate the more abrasive and experimental songs on each album but I got there eventually. Probably around the time of “A Thousand Leaves” in 1998, which is weird because that is my least favourite album.
“Sister” though is my joint favourite along with “Daydream Nation” and “Dirty” (It might be their most commercial, but come on it’s bloody good). And it’s definitely my favourite album of 1987.
This opening tom tom beat and chiming chord intro will always get my hairs standing on end. It sounds like discovery and a world of musical investigation opening up to me. Here’s “Schizophrenia”