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The pre-fame shout out Nirvana received in a Sonic Youth video


Sonic Youth were the elder statesman of the alternative explosion of the 1990s. Having helped acts like Dinosaur Jr. and Bikini Kill cross over to larger audiences, the New York noise rockers were held in high esteem by their peers and often were looked to for advice on how to be successful in the music industry without compromising your values or sound. Without Sonic Youth, there likely wouldn’t have been a Nirvana.

The Seattle trio supported Sonic Youth on a 1991 European tour, which also featured acts like Gumball and Babes in Toyland. When major labels approached Kurt Cobain and the band with offers to jump from Sub Pop to a bigger audience, Cobain opted to go with the David Geffen-owned DGC Records, primarily because Sonic Youth were signed to the same label.

Sonic Youth’s 1990 LP Goo, their first major-label effort, acted as a kind of blueprint for alternative rock acts to follow as the grunge gold rush began to take hold. The band could release radio-ready singles like ‘Kool Thing’, along with high-concept MTV videos, without ever seeming like they were selling out. It was in one of those videos that Sonic Youth gave a nod to Nirvana, at a time when only hip underground music fans knew who the band were.

The ‘Dirty Boots’ video is a relatively straightforward affair, featuring the band playing in an underground club. Two kids meet, mosh, and fall in love before sealing their newfound connection with a kiss while Sonic Youth thrash away. It’s a great time machine back to an earlier era, complete with wild ’90s haircuts, and it should come as no surprise that the girl at the centre of the video is wearing a Nirvana T-shirt.

But the ‘Dirty Boots’ single and video actually came out in April of 1991, a full five months before Nevermind was released. The actress, a fan by the name of Lisa Stansbury, was actually picked out for the video when the band saw her dancing at a Dinosaur Jr. show in Hoboken, New Jersey. It’s unclear whether the Nirvana shirt was hers or given to her to wear in the video, but it’s a design that predates Nirvana’s post-major label merchandise.

Check out the video for ‘Dirty Boots’ down below.