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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon on Neil Young’s ‘Out of My Mind’

Kim Gordon - Sonic Youth
(Click photo to enlarge)

Kim Gordon has a new autobiography titled Girl in a Band: A Memoir which chronicles her career as the bassist, vocalist and founding member (with now ex-husband Thurston Moore) the ground breaking band Sonic Youth.

Many Neil Young fans first encountered Sonic Youth as an opening act during Crazy Horse's WELD Tour in 1992. In an interview in Wall St. Journal by Marc Myers, Kim Gordon discusses finding refuge in Neil Young's Buffalo Springfield song ‘Out of My Mind’:
Kim Gordon: When I was 14 in the late 1960s, I’d spend hours alone listening to my albums. I loved Buffalo Springfield’s first album, especially Neil Young ’s “Out of My Mind.”

We lived in West Los Angeles—the flat, boring part—and through the music I grew fascinated with the Laurel Canyon scene, where many folk-rock musicians had homes. I had a friend who lived up there, but the houses were all tucked away and inaccessible to me, and I was too young to go to the clubs on the Sunset Strip. So all I had were the albums. I related to the Springfield’s sound—the melancholy melodies, tight harmonies and lyrics with meaning.

As a teen, I often painted in my bedroom as I listened to “Out of My Mind.” The song seemed to be about the alienation of success—how you could become detached from your original community and become screwed up if you couldn’t handle it: “All I hear are screams / from outside the limousines / That are taking me / out of my mind / Through the keyhole / in an open door.”

Back in the ’80s, when I was touring with Sonic Youth, we opened for Neil. I never told him about how much I liked “Out of My Mind.” I was too much in awe of him. Now I wish I had asked him about the song’s meaning.

About eight years ago I rediscovered the song. I live in Western Massachusetts now and hate the winters. Relistening to the music was partly California nostalgia, but I also developed a new appreciation for the song’s craft. Neil’s vulnerability and authentic sound haven’t changed much. As a nonsinger, I relate to that.

I’ve never tried to sing “Out of My Mind,” even by myself at home. Several years ago I did use the song’s lyrics to make a series of word paintings with metallic watercolors on rice paper. But I’ve never shared them with anyone. They’re private.

More on Sonic Youth and Neil Young.

Also, see Sonic Youth and their influence on Neil Young (and vice versa) from excerpts of "I Dreamed Of Noise", The Sonic Youth Biography.

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At 3/12/2015 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

Thanks for highlighting this segment from Kim's book. I've been reading lots of excerpts over the past few weeks, and this is my favorite one. Some of the others have focused too much on old, sensationalized, time-to-move-on information (there were strippers at birthday parties during the Smell The Horse Tour?! I'm shocked, absolutely shocked!) and newer fuel-the-fire tidbits (e.g. more piling on poor Lana del Ray), which seems to have been encouraged by the publisher. I look forward to reading Girl In A Band sometime soon, especially the remembrances of old, dirty NYC days and early Sonic Youth.

The link below has the complete session from last week's visit to the JCC in San Fran, part of the book tour that just completed on Saturday. Kim is interviewed by Carrie Brownstein, and it's enlightening and entertaining in equal measures. As an aside, I saw Sleater Kinney's Boston show last month, and Carrie's guitar playing is even more phenomenal. Can't wait to read her book when it comes out in the Fall.

An interesting note on music writing and pop culture: Kim's book came out the same day as Robert Christgau's new memoir Going Into The City. Not sure if that was just pure coincidence or part of some larger plan. As you might know, during the 80's Robert and Sonic Youth weren't too crazy about each other (see the original title of SY's Kill Yr Idols), but grew much more sympatico after that. I've also read some excerpts from Going Into The City, and there are great stories around the early, early days of seeing Television and The Ramones.

Finally, I just read the full Dylan interview from last month's AARP magazine. Every Dylan interview is an adventure, but this might be the best one I've ever read. To paraphrase an old saying, every decade gets the Dylan interview it deserves...thanks Bob!

“That city I know doesn’t exist anymore, and it’s more alive in my head than it is when I’m there.”
--Kim Gordon from Girl In A Band

"Memory, I realize, can be an unreliable thing; often it is heavily coloured by the circumstances in which one remembers, and no doubt this applies to certain of the recollections I have gathered here."
--Kazuo Ishiguro from A Pale View of Hills

"It made me the listener that I am today. It made me listen for little things: the slamming of the door, the jingling of car keys. The wind blowing through trees, the songs of birds, footsteps, a hammer hitting a nail. Just random sounds. Cows mooing. I could string all that together and make that a song. It made me listen to life in a different way."
--Bob Dylan from interview with Robert Love
AARP The Magazine Feb/March 2015


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