SONIC YOUTH
   
TRACK LIST:

1. The Burning Spear 3:28
2. I Dreamed I Dream 5:12
3. She Is Not Alone 4:06
--
4. I Don't Want To Push It 3:35
5. The Good And The Bad 7:55
 

2006 REISSUE TRACK LIST:

1. The Burning Spear 3:26
2. I Dreamed I Dream 5:16
3. She Is Not Alone 4:02
--
4. I Don't Want To Push It 3:34
5. The Good And The Bad 7:59
 
6. Hard Work [live] 3:19
7. Where The Red Fern Grows [live] 5:47
8. The Burning Spear [live] 3:23
9. Cosmopolitan Girl [live] 3:35
10. Loud and Soft [live] 6:48
--
11. Destroyer [live] 5:32
12. She is Not Alone [live] 3:37
13. Where The Red Fern Grows [demo] 6:45
 

NOTES

"Sonic Youth" was the band's debut record, featuring five songs recorded in late '81 with original drummer Richard Edson. Though considered an EP by some, the band have always referred to it as the first album, and that is the official status appointed to it for the purposes of this site.

The record was finally reissued on Geffen/Goofin' in 2006 w/ seven exclusive live tracks from 1981, and an instrumental demo of "I Dreamed I Dream".

HISTORY

Sonic Youth formed in early 1981, after Thurston's previous band The Arcadians dissolved. The initial line-up featured Thurston on guitar and vocals, Kim on bass, guitar, and vocals, Ann DeMarinis on keyboards, guitar, and vocals, and Richard Edson on drums. Their first known live performance was on May 8th, 1981 at Club 57 in NYC, where they were billed on some posters as "FUCKING-YOUTH" and some as "SONIC-YOUTH" -- the latter was used as a template for the "Confusion is Sex" album cover. Their next known gig was on June 3rd, 1981 at Great Gildersleeves, opening for Glenn Branca, whose ensemble that night featured Lee Ranaldo. A couple weeks later was the Noisefest conceived by Thurston, which took place at White Columns in NYC. Sonic Youth performed on the third day, their set consisted of 4 distinct unique compositions, none of which have seen release -- however, elements of some songs reappear in the material on "Sonic Youth". One song is a virtual reverse art-skronk prototype for "The Burning Spear". Other elements familiar to Sonic Youth's later work were apparent, but several things separated these songs from the shape the band took after Lee joined -- Ann's keyboards, and the dual vocal chanting by Kim and Ann. Lee did perform at the Noisefest -- with Branca as well as with David Linton, the latter of which was excerpted on the "Noise Fest" compilation as well as Lee's "East Jesus" album.

Shortly after the Noisefest performance, Ann left the band, which opened up the door for Lee to step in -- after one practice, they made their live debut with Lee in July @ the Just Above Midtown/Downtown Gallery. The new line-up was already working on the songs that would end up on the "Sonic Youth" record when Edson left the band, leaving the remaining trio to play several shows without a drummer. This only furthered SY's investigation into guitar assault -- entire songs were written around the sounds created by striking drumsticks against guitar strings, or running electric drills thru wah pedals. Edson rejoined the band in September, and when Glenn Branca expressed interest in releasing a record by the band, they cut 5 tracks at Radio City Music Hall over December 1981 and January 1982.

The album shortly became the first release on Branca's Neutral label. Each song was unique in rhythm and overall composition, from the explosive drumstick/drill combo delivered in the lead-off track, "The Burning Spear", to the 8-minute instrumental "The Good and the Bad", featuring Thurston on bass and Lee and Kim on clanging percussive guitars, with several shifts in overall musical direction, from skronk funk rock-out to furious toronados of sound. Though Sonic Youth are largely known for their use of radical alternate tunings, they claim this record was written entirely in standard tuning, though it wouldn't seem to matter on most cuts. "I Dreamed I Dream" is the only song not sung by Thurston, instead it's a duet by Kim and Lee (with lyrics supposedly primarily written by Richard Edson). "She Is Not Alone" continues to evolve -- listen to the back-to-back renditions on "Sonic Death", then listen to one of the completely revamped versions performed since SY began playing the song again in 1999. The record's hectic sound stems from the music itself and not the production -- unlike its follow-up, "Confusion is Sex", this album was recorded to 24-track, and sounds almost polished in comparison to the claustrophobic, destructive overtones of "Confusion".

Following the release of "Sonic Youth", Richard Edson left the band permanently, and was replaced by Bob Bert. With Bert behind the kit, SY continued playing in NYC as often as they could, before embarking on their first real tour in November 1982 -- the Savage Blunder tour w/ the Swans, who also had just one EP to support. Remnants of this tour are documented on the indispensable "Sonic Death", a collage of live recordings from 1981 thru 1983. The self-titled record was reissued by SST in 1987, on all formats -- the CD version came with a booklet of old poster art, and the cassette version played all 5 songs on one side, and all 5 songs backwards on the reverse side. "Sonic Youth" was scheduled for re-release on DGC in '95 along with "Confusion" and the rest, and even had a catalog # in the "Screaming Fields of Sonic Love" liners ("I Dreamed I Dream" appears on the disc, a compilation of pre-DGC SY material). Liner notes by Byron Coley existed, but the disc was never released -- with lack of bonus material as the commonly cited reason.

In March 2006, the eponymous debut was finally reissued (CD on Geffen, 2x12" on Goofin'), with 8 bonus tracks. Seven were taken from a previously unheard September 18th, 1981 performance at the New Pilgrim Theatre in NYC. This is a phenomenal document, featuring early versions of all five of the "SONIC YOUTH" tracks (some with alternate titles and radically different arrangements), the mysterious and legendary "Destroyer" finally unmasked, and a bizarre surprise performance of the CKM (a pre-SY Kim project) tune called "Cosmpolitan Girl"! Anyone who enjoys the "Sonic Death" record as much as I do will no doubt experience moments of deja vu while listening to this gig, as moments from "Loud & Soft", "The Burning Spear" and "She is Not Alone" all appear in that analog collage of live sonic scrawl '81-'83. The final track on this expanded reissue is a longer, instrumental demo of "I Dreamed I Dream" (here titled "Where The Red Fern Grows") from an October 1981 session.

Not included on this release but circulating amongst traders is the very early incarnation of Sonic Youth's performance at the June 18th, 1981 Noisefest show, as well as a very hazy tape of Lee's first gig w/ the band in July 1981, performing two songs as a drumless trio.

PACKAGING

The cover features two similar band pictures next to each other, with a blue border running around the whole photo. The back contains a track list, member list, and all pertinent credits. The SST cassette curiously omits Richard Edson's name in the credits (and also includes a mirror image of the track list, as all 5 songs play in reverse on side 2 of the tape). The cassette itself has "I Dreamed I Dream" typoed as "I Dream I Dreamed" (the same mistake appears on the "Death Valley" 12"), and "She Is Not Alone" and "I Don't Want to Push It" are out of order. The SST CD booklet includes 5 gig posters and a band promo picture w/ individual shots of each member. The Goofin' vinyl reissue comes in a gatefold sleeve with a live '81 photo of SY and the track notes/credits on the left panel, and three gig posters (09/18/81, the show on the reissue, plus 12/13/81 CBGB & 02/19/82 Mudd Club) with a posed band photo on the right panel. The first LP is in a sleeve containing Glenn Branca and Richard Edson's liner notes. The second LP is in a sleeve with Byron Coley and Thurston's liner notes on one side, and the original Neutral back cover reproduced on the other side. The back of the vinyl version calls the last track "WHERE THE RED FERN GROW", rather than "GROWS" as it appears earlier in the track list and on the CD (which contains all of the above elements in a CD booklet, see scans for details).

CREDITS/LINERS

SONIC YOUTH
KIM GORDON
THURSTON MOORE
LEE RANALDO
RICHARD EDSON

RECORDED AND MIXED AT RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL
NEW YORK CITY
ENGINEERED BY DON HUNERBERG
DECEMBER 1981 JANUARY 1982
THANKS: AL ARTHUR   ISA GENZKEN   AMANDA LINN
DAVID LINTON   KEVIN NOBLE   JEFF WALL
PRODUCED BY SONIC YOUTH

2006 REISSUE CREDITS/LINERS

1-5 Recorded and Mixed at Radio City Music Hall, New York City
Engineered by Don Hunerberg. December 1981-January 1982

6-12 Recorded live at Music for Millions Festival, New Pilgrim Theatre, NYC
Recorded on cassette by Dan Graham. September 18, 1981.

13 Recorded at Noise NY sessions
Engineer unknown. October 1981

KIM GORDON
THURSTON MOORE
LEE RANALDO
RICHARD EDSON

Produced by Sonic Youth

Mastered by John Golden at Golden Mastering, 2006
Art Direction: Frank Olinksy
Management: John Silva/SAM
Echo Canyon: Aaron Mullan

All songs written by Sonic Youth and published by Sonik Tooth: Gordon, Moore, and Ranaldo administered by Zomba Music (BMI), Edson (ASCAP).

Thanks: Al Arthur, Isa Genzken, Amanda Linn, David Linton, Kevin Noble, Jeff Wall, Steve Shelley, Michael Meisel, Michele Fleishcli, Monique MacGuffin.

www.sonicyouth.com

ADDITIONAL NOTES

From FILTER magazine 2006 SY discography self-commentary:

"We wanted it to sound like PIL who we were into. It didn't but we were lucky it came out sounding like a record. We did it in 2 8 hr. sessions at a studio at Radio City Music Hall called Plaza Sound. The janitor let us in the back door. - KG"

Etchings (SST vinyl):

  • Side 1: "We love you dinasour"
  • Side 2: "SST's gotta lotta nerve"
The Neutral vinyl had no etchings.

Gig posters are taken from the following shows:

  • 08/09/84 -- Halifax, NS @ NSCAD Cafeteria
  • 02/19/82 -- NYC, NY @ Mudd Club (also 02/20/82)
  • 06/12/85 -- NYC, NY @ Folk City
  • 12/10/82 -- Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's
  • ??/15/85 -- NYC, NY @ Peppermint Lounge (February or March)
A German test pressing of the first album exists w/ catalog no. C-66.23 345-01, a plain white sleeve, and labels reading "Ungeprüftes Muster / Unverkäuflich" which means "uninvestigated sample / not for sale". It's possible non-test pressing versions w/ the same catalog # exist.

Another odd variation is a 12" with no picture sleeve contained all five songs on side 1 (with side 2's tracks appearing first) with the Whores Moaning EP on the other side. I'm not sure what the origin of this is, do you have any information?

For more information on songs (including lyrics, who played what, when the songs were first and last performed, and other trivia), please visit the Song Database.

RELATED RELEASES

  • SONIC DEATH -- collage of live material recorded between 1981 and 1983, including most of the songs from this record.

    RELEASE INFO

    VINYL

    RELEASE DATE
    ORIGIN
    LABEL
    CATALOG #
    03/82
    US
    Neutral
    001
    NOTES: original 12" release. etched: SY-010382-A & SY-010382-B
    02/84
    Germany
    Zensor
    ND 01
    NOTES: date sketchy. blue/black cover instead of white/black
    10/87
    US
    SST
    SST097
    NOTES: SST reissue (also cassette/cd)
    2006
    US
    Goofin'
    GOO-08
    NOTES: 2x12" Goofin expanded reissue. liner notes: glenn branca, richard edson, byron coley
     
    CD

    RELEASE DATE
    ORIGIN
    LABEL
    CATALOG #
    10/87
    US
    SST
    SST CD 097
    NOTES: first (and so far, only) CD release in US.
    10/87
    UK
    Blast First
    ?
    NOTES: first (and so far, only) CD release in UK. may not exist??
    never
    US
    DGC
    DGCD-24510
    NOTES: proposed in '95 but never released...
    03/14/06
    US
    Geffen
    B0006131-02
    NOTES: expanded reissue, finally! liner notes by glenn branca, richard edson, byron coley.
    04/03/06
    Europe
    Geffen
    0602498797914
    NOTES: 2006 reissue. liner notes as above. inserts "made in EU", disc made in germany.
     
    CASSETTE

    RELEASE DATE
    ORIGIN
    LABEL
    CATALOG #
    10/87
    US
    SST
    SSTC 097
    NOTES: only cassette release. features all 5 songs on side 1,
    w/ all 5 played backwards on side 2 (!)
     

    INFO NEEDED FOR THIS RELEASE

  • Any missing scans would be appreciated.
  • Please write me w/ anything that's missing!

  • CD cover


    CD back


    disc


    CD booklet back


    CD booklet 1


    CD booklet 2


    CD booklet 3


    back (SST LP)


    side 1 vinyl (Neutral)


    cassette liner


    cassette side 1 (fwd)


    cassette side 2 (bwd)


    german test pressing sleeve


    german test pressing side 1


    german test pressing side 2


    2006 reissue CD cover


    2006 reissue CD booklet 1


    2006 reissue CD booklet 2


    2006 reissue CD booklet 3


    2006 reissue CD booklet 4


    2006 reissue CD booklet 5


    2006 reissue CD booklet 6


    2006 reissue CD booklet 7


    2006 reissue CD booklet 8


    2006 reissue CD booklet 9


    2006 reissue CD booklet 10


    2006 reissue CD booklet 11


    2006 reissue CD booklet back


    2006 reissue CD back


    2006 reissue CD disc


    2006 reissue 2xLP gatefold


    2006 reissue 2xLP gatefold


    2006 reissue 2xLP sleeve side 1


    2006 reissue 2xLP sleeve side 2


    2006 reissue 2xLP sleeve side 3


    2006 reissue 2xLP sleeve side 4


    2006 reissue 2xLP vinyl label side 3


    2006 reissue 2xLP vinyl label side 4


    test pressing


    test pressing


    SY/WM 12" side A


    SY/WM 12" side B


    SY/WM 12" sleeve w/ sticker


    SY/WM 12" sticker