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Rarities 1

by Sonic Youth

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Notes by Steve Shelley:
Rarities 1
The first in a series of rare recordings selected from various out-of-print and hard-to-find compilations. This collection begins in 1982 at The Kitchen in NYC (with James Sclavunos on drums), journeys through the 80's and 90's and ends in 2009 at Bad Bonn Festival in Switzerland.

Brave Men Run (In My Family)
My first US tour with Sonic Youth and immediately we hit the Midwest and I'm back on home turf. Chicago along with California and Texas would grow to become one of our favorite places to visit. We played The Smart Bar and later The Metro often, and many times we left with a fine recording of the night's gig. This recording was later mixed again and the entire show was released as Smart Bar - Chicago - 1985

Catholic Block
With 1990's release of Goo on Geffen Records (our second California-based record label) we found ourselves with an even heavier touring schedule and we visited the west coast twice within the year - California becoming somewhat of a second home to us with Kim's parents in West LA and haunts like Rhino Records, The Apple Pan and all the LA-based friends we made while on SST. This show was recorded on multi-track and bits of it were mixed and released through the years - first on the Dirty Boots + 5 Live EP and more recently on Bandcamp as Live In Irvine 1990. This mix of Catholic Block was picked off and given to the Submerge Yourself In Sound CD sampler on DGC/Geffen.

JC from Dirty featured one of Kim's finest lyrics and a beautiful slow-burn of a tune. It's one of my favorite group performances from said LP, almost sublime, that moment musicians search for when they forget who they are or where they are. This performance was recorded in the desert heat of Arizona - recorded and mixed with the power of the sun. I'd love to hear the whole SY set from this show if such a recording exists.

In 1997 we were playing just a handful of shows but they are widely disparate shows. We started the year rehearsing and performing with David Bowie and his band for his 50th birthday party/concert at Madison Square Garden. Soon after that we were playing under a pseudonym at The Cooler - at the time our favorite small club in Manhattan (although we only played there collectively this one time). We played beneath the Manhattan bridge in the concrete Anchorage - where the drummer's throne must've been the best seat in the house with natural reverb and resonance from the curved cement tomb on the scale of the mighty Bonham and another mostly instrumental set. We had spent some time on tour with The Beastie Boys (and The Foo Fighters) in Australia and Asia and we were honored to be invited to participate in and support their Tibetan Freedom Concerts in San Francisco (where oldsters Yoko Ono and Buddy Guy showed the rest of us how it's done), Washington DC and in New York City on Randall's Island. Wildflower - an early version of Wildflower Soul - is performed here and was mixed by old friend and engineer Wharton Tiers.

Free City Rhymes
We were invited to play at the first ATP festival by Mogwai and we were armed with a handful of new songs and one "drone piece". This version of Free City Rhymes has remained an unreleased favorite of mine; originally intended to be included on our SYR 7 12" (J'accuse Ted Hughes), and later to be included on an ATP compilation that never materialized. Although this performance is now on Live At ATP 2000, this never-released mix, by longtime SY-engineer Aaron Mullan, and this performance remain one of my favorites.

Rain On Tin
Invited to play the Bridge Benefit a second time we had a chance to redeem ourselves in the 'acoustic' format after '91's disaster of a set. We'd grown as players since our last embarrassing performance in 1991 (what a year! touring with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, the year punk broke summer festival tour with Nirvana, and then falling flat on our faces at Neil's Bridge Benefit as the year ended) where Willie Nelson and Mickey Raphael killed supreme as we sulked away. But 2004 was a different story - our touring gear was stuck in Mexico so our friend and technician Nic Close arranged for us to borrow some of Neil and Crazy Horse's gear for our two sets - i was playing Ralph Molina's 1960's Ludwig kit (the one he played on the recordings of Down By The River and Cowgirl In The Sand), Jim O'Rourke was using Neil's upright piano that had been used for After The Goldrush and Lee was stationed behind Neil's pump organ for our first tune I Love You Golden Blue. The set went flawlessly and as we left the stage we accepted high fives from Neil and our new friend Paul McCartney (this years Willie award went to Tony Bennett who'd been playing 'acoustically' for decades). Rain On Tin recorded at the Bridge School Benefit was one of the many highlights of, what felt like for us, a triumphant set.

Back in Chicago - playing at The Metro for their 20th Anniversary. Holding back the tempo of 100% and letting - every - note - count!
I have a pre-release CDR of this record but i’ve never seen a finished copy. Metro: The Official Bootleg Series Vol. 1 is listed on DIscogs but with a different track list and no SY on it. Might be a ’true’ rarity!

Unmade Bed 1
Seattle also became a place we felt comfortable in. Always wishing for another day there before the schedule tore us away to the next jewel of the NW - usually Portland. KEXP radio station and sessions at KEXP were part of the reason why Seattle was such a charmer.
It's fun to hear the difference in this tune from week to week - nuance.

Unmade Bed 2
... and speaking of nuance, funny how the same song has a different feel a few weeks later. We're relaxed with the tune and the music pours out of us, We're back in the midwest where i started - also close to Cass Corridor where in the early 80's i would play shows and see local heroes L-Seven.

No Way
One of the best festivals produced in Europe these days - Bad Bonn Kilbi - not too big, and forward-thinking with creative booking by our friend Daniel. In 2009 Sonic Youth played at Bad Bonn and we blew shit up big time - but the song + the music + the rhythm did not stop and we got this wonderful recording of the moment the power cut. Now onward to rarities 2.....


released August 7, 2020

cover photo by Lee Ranaldo
track by track notes by Steve Shelley


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