Spinhead Sessions: SONIC YOUTH Newly-Uncovered 1986 Instrumental Demos


Back in 1986, filmmaker, Ken Friedman tapped Sonic Youth to produce a soundtrack to his new crime spree/road trip black comedy, Made In U.S.A..  This was during an important transitional period in the history of the group, marked by the addition of Steve Shelley, whose unmistakable drumming style premiered on EVOL their recently completed third studio LP and the first after signing to Greg Ginn‘s legendary Southern California indie punk label, SST Records (Black Flag, Meat Puppets, Hüsker DüMinutemen, etc).  The release showcased the band experimenting in ways that continued their EVOLution away from their No Wave roots, calcifying into moments with more defined song structures and clarity that would go on to help characterize much of their sound, in later years.  The SST debut highlighted their trademark ability to conjure up brilliant tsunamic soundscapes only to reduce them into delicately wound chrysalises incubating the next floating passage, or triumphant crescendo to materialize from them.  Somewhere between EVOL‘s release and Sister, their 1987 followup, which saw them taking a larger step toward more traditional song structures, New York‘s experimental noise titans got to work trying to hammer out some tunes for what would become a mostly forgotten 80s flick starring a pair of actors who previously played supporting roles to Kevin Bacon in Footloose (Chris Penn and Lori Singer).

While Sonic Youth did appear on the final soundtrack, it was only in the form of a single track, the score that they created being scrapped along with decisions to lighten the tone of the film and, presumably, to make it more accessible.  You may be aware that the soundtrack that they created did, eventually, receive a physical release in 1995, but what you may not know is that, prior to recording that version, the band entered North Hollywood‘s Spinhead Studios to record a “rehearsal” where they laid down early concept instrumental pieces with the plan to modify and build upon them to create what would become their much different final soundtrack.  What was interesting to witness when their version of the soundtrack finally hit shelves, 9 years after its recording, was how different some of the material sounded than what they were doing, during that era.  With a clear focus on creating music specifically for the task at hand, the album incorporated such things as a solo acoustic guitar cut and a fairly straight ahead driving rocker, demonstrating particular sensibilities that the general public may not have been as aware that Sonic Youth possessed, at the time.  The rehearsal recordings, referred to as “Spinhead Sessions,” are now slated for their own release this June and, if the sample track that we’ve heard from it is any indicator, this thing possesses a life of it’s own.  Uninhibited by the restraint of the film, by outside producers, or even the idea that these recordings were anything more than an opportunity to experiment with loose concepts, the 7 tracks on this release have the promise to deliver some of the purest recorded material from one of the most important musical projects of our generation, during one of the most vital points in their endless development.

Check out the track “Theme With Noise” below, and try to remind yourself that, while it may sound fresh to you, it was originally recorded a full 30 years ago!

Then go pre-order Spinhead Sessions, prior to it’s JUNE 17th release, by clicking through THIS LINK.

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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