KIM: After we'd signed to a major label, Geffen, we were asked to be on this show called Night Music. We were nubies to the whole major label thing and skeptical of everything mainstream, except late-nite TV shows and getting to play on them. Hal Willner we knew by reputation to be a cool guy, but we had never met him. We were told he really wanted us to be on. There was—as with everything Hal curated—an eclectic grouping of people on this Night Music. The Indigo Girls, Diamanda Galás, Daniel Lanois, and Sonic Youth. Also the Late Nite band was there and maybe we were supposed to integrate them into our song?
We also brought Don Fleming along as our faux keyboardist/manager. We didn't have a manager at the time, and I guess we decided to be playful about the whole thing. Hal humored us and let us do what we wanted. We played "Silver Rocket" and then for the finale of the show we did a cover of The Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (at that point it was the only cover we knew). Everyone played with us except Diamanda Galás—maybe a wise choice on her part. But we hung out and it was great getting to know her.
At the time our A&R person wanted Daniel Lanois to produce our record but all we could think of was "we don't want to sound like U2." We gave him one of our tuned guitars to play. I remember it being completely chaotic, and at the end Thurston went up with some big shears and cut all the strings off the guitar that Lanois was playing. I'm not sure what he thought, but by then the credits had rolled out...
Luckily Hal didn't hate us for the joyous mess and after that he asked us along on several projects, the William Burroughs record being one. I can't say I remember much about specific interactions with him that night except that he was incredibly sweet and easy going and didn't seem surprised by anything we did. I feel like he was the first person to support us in the mainstream. Of course it took someone as special as Hal, who was drawn to the dark edges and saw the whole picture.
I'll miss his sweetness and brilliance, and his intuitive imagination. Most of all the chance to work with him again and just hang and laugh.
To see Kim Gordon in Sonic Youth on Night Music in 1989 featuring Diamanda Galás, Indigo Girls, Daniel Lanois, Aretha Franklin (1968), Sonic Youth, and Evan Lurie & His Tango Band, click here.
The Kitchen's online tribute to Hal Willner also features videos with performances by Marcus Miller, Bootsy Collins, Miles Davis, Arto Lindsay's Ambitious Lovers, Youssou N'Dour, Al Green, Leonard Cohen with Sonny Rollins, Living Colour, Christian Marclay, Elliott Sharp, Bill Frisell, Dr. John, Mavis Staples, Lou Reed, John Cale, Pere Ubu with Debbie Harry, Pixies, Sun Ra, Syd Straw, and many, many
more. It also includes texts by Lindsay, Rollins, Reid, Frisell, and Kitchen curator Tim Griffin. It will be up until June 19, and while most of the videos are on YouTube, I don't know whether they'll remain available to watch after that date, so you might wanna capture them somehow.
Sonic Youth's performance of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" is fucking FIERCE - the one on Confusion Is Next
may have the early/no wave/lo-fi edge, but this one's faster, pummeling as hell, with a bitchen free-jazz freakout (something still absent from The Stooges' arsenal on their first album), AND Kim's wearing silver short pants, which are the coolest (and sexiest) homage to Iggy I can think of.