He enrolled in a college in Connecticut, but split for New York City before he could attend. I’m sure his parents weren’t pleased, but it turned out pretty well for birthday boy Thurston Moore. Moore quickly immersed himself in the avant garde scene, but his first band in NYC involved a brief stint in the hardcore band Even Worse, with Big Takeover publisher Jack Rabid. A few years down the line, Moore and future wife Kim Gordon started playing together, leading to the formation of Sonic Youth. Lee Renaldo was pulled away from Glenn Branca’s guitar ensemble, and eventually, Steve Shelley took over on drums. Sonic Youth carved out a new path for rock music in the ‘80s and ‘90s, eventually making their music more accessible, but never straying too far away from something challenging. Moore and Ranaldo created new guitar sounds, with unusual tunings and an adventurous spirit. Moore was also a mentor for many artists and went on to make some fine solo records. And, I’ll always be a fan knowing that Moore and temporary Sonic Youth bandmate Jim O’Rourke used to sing Sparks songs in a karaoke bar in Europe. In honor of Mr. Moore, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle, and share the first 10 songs that come up.
The Swingin’ Neckbreakers – Better Times (Kick Your Ass): A rumbling Yardbirds-style track from the great New Jersey garage rock band from the ‘90s. Frontman Tom Jorgenson really gets to shouting as the short track quickly builds in intensity.
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Clear Spot (Clear Spot): Produced by Ted Templeman, Clear Spot is easily the best of the albums where Captain Beefheart tried to meet the mainstream halfway. While a less crazed Captain is a less interesting Captain, this comes off like a really quirky Howlin’ Wolf homage, which ain’t bad at all.
Martin Gordon – Why Do I... (Baboon in the Basement): From the belated solo debut of the former Sparks/Radio Stars/Jet bass player. Gordon showed that he could still pen witty power pop numbers consistent with his past bands. He also knew he needed a good singer, and Swede Pelle Almgren does a great job on this fun song.
Linus of Hollywood – Shine (Your Favorite Record): Before embarking on a soft pop solo career, Linus was part of the punk-pop band Size 14 (“Clare Danes Poster”). This guy has a way with a melody and could pen songs on par with Margo Guryan (who he later reissued) and Paul Williams. This is a really pretty, sweet piano ballad.
The Wannadies – You and Me Song (The Wannadies): Great modern power pop from the Swedish band with the suicidal name. Like a lot of Swedish bands in the late ‘90s, this relies on dynamics and copious beds of guitars. When this song explodes into the chorus, it’s all bliss. Great tune.
Pete Shelley – I Don’t Know What It Is (Homosapien): The second best song on the first solo album from the leader of the Buzzcocks. And it’s structurally just a variation on “Homosapien”, with an insistent repetition that builds tension that is released from time to time.
The Foundations – Build Me Up Buttercup (Build Me Up Buttercup): Classic R & B pop from this group of British emigres. As much as I love this original rendition, the best version of this song is the remake by Wonderboy, led by Robbie Rist (yes, Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch).
White Denim – New Blue Feeling (Corsicana Lemonade): This Texas band has finally morphed into some weird blend of prog, the Minutemen and Southern rock. This is actually a poppy mid-tempo number – perhaps their nod to Atlanta Rhythm Section, thought mixed with a fey late-60's bridge. An interesting and compelling mixture of styles.
The Rolling Stones – Stupid Girl (Aftermath): Not a song you’ll find on oldies radio and a bit too deep of a cut for most classic rock stations. But this is a nice snotty putdown, though the playing is a bit subdued. You hear this and think how The Knack got pilloried for misogyny. I actually prefer the version by Ellen Foley.
XTC – When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty (Drums and Wires): What a loaded album. I really like the first two XTC albums, but they went up a few levels with their third album. Andy Partridge reined in some of his nervous energy, which works to the advantage of this very clever and sweet song about having a major crush.