Looking back at Sonic Youth’s 1985 performance on Brighton Beach
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you perhaps one of our favourite performance on British soil. It comes from Sonic Youth and sees the band spilling ‘Blood on the Beach’.
There are many rumours and myths in the illustrious grounds of rock and roll. Most of them start and end with a bluff of machismo, a drunken bet or downright stupidity. But there was one particular Sonic Youth rumour which had us all scrambling for our large magnifying glasses this week; Sonic Youth’s ‘Blood on the Beach’ tapes.
The document in question is a ramshackle VHS tape which saw Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, and Steve Shelley who had recently cemented his place in the band behind the drums, performing on the pebble beach of archetypal English seaside town, Brighton.
While rumours were rife of its existence and subsequent extinction, we took ourselves off to the one place where darkness breeds with malice and is flecked with God’s inspiring light of grace. AKA the internet/YouTube.
It was naturally, when on the increasingly large wave of ‘web’, pretty quick to find the murmuring of the tape but we wanted to see the cherished footage, to see the bastions of noise rock push the envelope while being eyeballed by burly British bellies and thieving brutish seagulls.
The footage is comprised of two shows. The first sees the band on Brighton beach performing with a quite beautifully designed banner adorning their stage saying “Jesus Is The Answer”, a mentally provocative statement in the bohemian town. While that point is yet to be proven, one thing is for sure, Sonic Youth did not hold back for the small city of Brighton.
They turned up the distortion, ladled on mountains of feedback and probably scared the bejeezus out of the locals passing by licking on ice cream.
The band performed ‘Brother James’, ‘Inhuman’, and ‘Making The Mature Scene’ intermittently cut between Moore messing around with a horn and answering every question he faced with a sardonic and sarcastic response. Somethings change others stay exactly the same.
The clip really is Sonic Youth hitting every mark you’d expect them to. Describing the gig they had just completed on the beach as “a bad publicity stunt” they also describe their “rock sound” with rolling eyes and words which belie their “this fucking guy” sentiment.
While finding some more time to blow the gigantic horn they’ve found (in fact they then take it on stage with them) the band get ready for their proper performance of the evening at the legendary Zap Club. The band are in fine fettle and deliver a truly powerful and encompassing performance.
With a set filled with amazing tracks like ‘Brother James’, ‘Green Light’, ‘Kill YR Idols’, ‘Flower’, ‘I Love Her All The Time’, ‘Ghost Bitch’, ‘Burning Spear’, and ‘Expressway’ to punctuate their growing influence.
Arriving in 1985 to the seaside town of Brighton, more used to the candy rock than anything else, Sonic Youth would’ve arrived unknown and relatively unheard of. But, we bet, that by the end of the day the whole town was talking about who made “all that racket on the beach”, which is probably all they ever wanted.