As a pioneer of alternative rock, former Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore possesses unparalleled insight into the genre’s formative years. A particular aspect in which he holds expertise is the connection between Kurt Cobain, the late leader of Nirvana, and Sonic Youth.
Cobain openly expressed his profound admiration for Sonic Youth, citing the New York band’s influential 1988 release, Daydream Nation, in his extensive list of favorite albums. The camaraderie between Nirvana and Sonic Youth was evident when they toured together in 1991, just before Nirvana’s breakthrough.
In her enlightening memoir, Girl in a Band, Sonic Youth bassist and vocalist Kim Gordon shares her perspective: “Kurt was funny and fun to be around, and soaked up any kind of personal attention. I felt very big sisterly, almost maternal, when we were together.” In a nod to the Washington trio, Sonic Youth paid tribute by covering their unconventional track, ‘Moist Vagina.’
Given this close relationship, Sonic Youth members often reflect on the impact of Kurt Cobain, who tragically passed away in April 1994, and the significance of Nirvana to the world. This theme is deeply explored by Thurston Moore in his new memoir, Sonic Life. In an interview with Mojo, the guitarist was asked if he discovered anything new about his friendship with Cobain while writing the book. Moore responded with a poignant account of Nirvana’s uniqueness, emphasizing that they “stood alone.”
He remarked: “I don’t know if it elucidated anything more than what actually happened, which was this turning of the culture on its ear and offering it to the rest of the world. However, it wasn’t as if bands like Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, The Jesus Lizard, or whatever bands Kurt was associated with were going to become the next big thing.”
Moore concluded: “In the end, it was all these bands none of us had ever worked with on the road, like Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam – because they were making the music more accessible. Around this time, we had an A&R person at Geffen saying, ‘You guys can be the Pink Floyd of the underground.’ I was, like, ‘No, we can’t.’ I realized that would be false. Nirvana stood alone – just this charmed thing.”