We needn’t give you the long story of why we love Sonic Youth. Especially considering that all we really need to do is to show this 1989 cover of The Stooges’ underbelly anthem ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ on Night Music. However, before we jump into that, it is worth remembering just how massively influential the no wave geniuses were. Before Sonic Youth there was nowhere near the needed amount of grit in rock music for grunge to take root. The band allowed all those around them to flourish creatively.
A band’s TV debut is not normally one to be forgotten and Sonic Youth is no different. Whether you’re Nirvana or Joy Division and beyond, the first time you step in front of those cameras the reality of fame suddenly gets a little bit closer. Sonic Youth’s powerful performance is another string in the band’s bow and proves that the band were just as timeless then as they would end up becoming.
The band would make their debut on saxophonist David Sanborn’s late-night music show known as Night Music, having previously been called Sunday Night. The show had a very short run from 1988-1990 but still had some truly incredible acts take on performances in the show and provide their audience with a wild show. Artists such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Miles Davis, The Pixies, Sun Ra, and so many more.
Sonic Youth would make their debut on the show with a special performance of their Daydream Nation song ‘Silver Rocket’ which came complete with a mid-song artistic freakout—classic Sonic Youth if you ask us. But as part of Sanborn’s initial vision for Night Music, the group would also need to perform a cover with the rest of the guests on the show.
Sanborn recalled in a 2013 interview, “The idea was to get musicians from different genres on the show, have them perform something individually — preferably something more obscure or unexpected rather than their latest hit — and then have a moment toward the end where everyone would kind of get together and do something collectively.”
There was nothing left to it except to do it, so as the credits were primed and ready to go, Sonic Youth joined the stage accompanied by Sandborn, members of The Indigo Girls, the Night Music band, and Daniel Lanois for a special performance of The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’.
What ensues is a classic performance from Sonic Youth with Kim Gordon doing her best Iggy Pop impression (and it’s a pretty good one), adding a smattering of guttural growling on top of the brilliant rendition, to seal a wonderful TV debut.
It’s a performance full of raw energy, of direct homage, and a series of crazed musicians clearly emboldened by the song. It’s a pure joy.