Updated: Jun 16, 2021
Sonic Youth is one of the highly influential forerunners of the alternative rock bands of the 19080s and 90s. But like other bands with inner-band romance, the group broke up in 2011 after the singer-bassist Kim Gordan and singer/guitarist Thurston Moore filed for divorce. The couple had been married for 27 years. In this post on our series of famous musicians and their relationship, we take a look at Sonic Youth’s rise and fall.
Formation of the band
Thurston Moore met Kim Gordon in New York City in the late 1970s when Moore’s band broke up and he began jamming with a friend’s band which featured Gordan. Gordan had intended to pursue art in New York, but she formed a band with Moore in 1981 naming it Sonic Youth. The band added Lee Ranaldo after the pair met Ranaldo at the Noise Fest in June 1981. Gordon and Moore married in 1984.
The band added a permanent drummer, Steve Shelley in 1986. Their first recordings were heavy on white noise and feedback but by 1985, with the release of Bad Moon Rising, the group found its own sound. Still specialised in creating mammoth walls of sound, their rhythmic underpinnings gave the songs a greater sense of structure. Sonic Youth won critical acclaim in their 1988 double LP Daydream Nation. The album came in second on the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll and topped the year-end album lists of the NME, CMJ, and Melody Maker. Rolling Stone hailed Daydream Nation as one of the best albums of the decade and named Sonic Youth as the “Hot Band” in its “Hot” issue.
Success and longevity
The band retained its underground edge and penchant for experimentation ranging from the straightforward pop approach in their album Goo and Dirty to the orchestral sweep of Washing Machine and Thousand Leaves in the decade of the 90s. In the late 1990s. The group released a series of experimental albums on their own label collaborating with polymath musician Jim O’Rourke. O’Rourke became a full-time member of Sonic Youth and played on tours in the early 2000s. But he departed in 2005.
Disbandment due to divorce
The group’s 2009 album The Eternal was released on June 9. The final album recalled Sonic Youth’s early 1990s sound and was a final statement from the band as one of indie rock’s most revered acts came to an end in 2011 with the divorce between Gordan and Moore. Although it was not known what caused the divorce, Kim Gordan’s interview with Elle revealed it was Moore’s affair with a younger woman that dealt the death blow to their relationship. It was a book editor whom Moore had been working with for years.
Although Moore has said that he finds the blame on him for splitting up Sonic Youth strange as he had never wanted to disband the group. Moore had said the bond that existed between the group is something that defines him forever and for him, it goes on and won’t end.
An interesting fact is that bassist/singer Kim Gordan never considered herself a musician. She never felt like a competent bass player and admitted to never training as a musician.