In David Browne’s biography of Sonic Youth, Goodbye 20th Century, the band’s bassist, KIM GORDON (born 1953), says: “I felt my job was not to become a good bass player…. My bass playing worked well because it was minimal.” The promise of punk was that you could just pick up an instrument and do something interesting — that who you are and what you bring to the rehearsal space is more important than your skills — and Gordon was one of the first women to make the most of this promise. Sonic Youth’s early basslines were sometimes as simple as Gordon hammering on the root of the chord. Despite her lack of technical expertise (or maybe because of it), Gordon seemed limitlessly, effortlessly cool to me when I first started listening to Sonic Youth as a teenager, because Gordon is not the “girl in the band.” She’s not the singer. She’s stylish enough to have had her own clothing line, but she’s not defined by fashion. And she’s not a diva; by all accounts, Gordon is the rock-solid foundation of the band. Basslines aren’t really noticed unless they’re absent; lead guitarists and vocalists get all the attention. But it’s remarkably easy to envision an alternate-universe Gordon-free Sonic Youth that crashed and burned, or quietly disassembled itself, rather than staying creative and relevant well into their elder statesman of No Wave status.
PUNK, POST-PUNK & ALTERNATIVE on HILOBROW: Joey Ramone | Dez Cadena | Jello Biafra | HR | Mike Watt | Vivienne Westwood | Iggy Pop | D. Boon | John Lydon | Henry Rollins | Palmolive | Plastic Bertrand | Kira Roessler | Lisa Carver | Frank Black | Ari Up | Gary Panter | Paul Simonon | Darby Crash | Penelope Houston | Exene Cervenka | Sid Vicious | Andrew Eldritch | Kate Pierson | Paul Westerberg | Lux Interior | Ian Dury | Stiv Bators | Tom Verlaine | Colin Newman | Johnny Thunders | Poison Ivy | Green Gartside | Lydia Lunch | Mark E. Smith | David Byrne | Debbie Harry | Captain Sensible | Mark Mothersbaugh | Kim Gordon | ALSO: The Original Generation X (1954–63) and the birth of DIY | The Original Stooge | Origin of the Pogo | Shocking Blocking: Rock’n’Roll High School | Punk fanzines from the 1970s | Post-Punk and New Wave on HiLobrow
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Kurt Godel.
READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Blank Generation (1944-53) and the Original Generation X (1954-63).