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Kool Things

Spin, September 1990. Article by Jim Greer.


"Maybe you should come over and fellate my guitar, Steve." Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore is lying on his back on the foil-covered floor of a downtown Manhattan production studio. He wants drummer Steve Shelley to give his guitar a blowjob because the band is shooting a video, and they know what plays well on MTV.

Actually, Manhattan's underground scuzz-rock heroes were originally going to call the new album Blowjob, but they settled instead on Goo. Which propably made their new record company, Geffen, happy, at least until its executives saw the cover art: an illustration by renowned artist Raymond Bettibon. The drawing itself - a guy and a girl in a car - presented no problems. But the accompanying text - which read in part, "Within a week we killed my parents and hit the road" - gave some Geffenites fits. "They were still talking at sales meetings about an alternative cover," says bassist Kim Gordon, "even though our A&R person knew quite well that there was no way we were going to do that."

After nine years of doing pretty much anything they want, Sonic Youth are finding the adjustment to corporate-label life somewhat difficult. Not that they don't make an effort to understand the compy's position: "I mean, all it takes is one kid to go kill his parents and have our record in his room," says Gordon. "But still, the cover art isn't just decoration. It's important to us".

There were also some problems with the video they're shooting for Goo's first single, "Kool Thing". Gordon had wanted to wear a beret and carry an uzi - anyway, she'd threatened to - but Geffen didn't find that idea particularly appealing. "To me, our music is elitist in a way," says Moore. "We're tied in with this elitistic aesthetic. Just the fact that each of us was one of those kids who would say 'Fuck Led Zep, let's drive into the city and see a Ramones gig'. And the next day in high school you'd tell somebody that and they'd think you were a total alien".

I don't want to subject anybody against their will to something that's outside their sensibility", he continues. "Why should Geffen force-feed anything down anybody's throat? Guns N' Roses are easy because it's a path that's already been paved by all the lame rock classics. But us - who are they going to feed us to?"
 

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