Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Old Guitar Tourturers Never Die..

...they just have Fender create customized guitars to their specs!

No really, I read the other day that this being the 30th year since Sonic Youth started gigging, Fender is creating a custom Thurston Moore guitar and a Lee Ronaldo version, all tricked out to their specs. Ignoring the irony of custom Fenders for guys who started their career abusing pawn shop guitars with screwdrivers on stage, reading this just took me back.

A long way back, say about 20 some years ago when I thought Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising was the coolest album in the world. It was back in that era discussed in the blog recently when people bought music based on cover art. Then it was so exciting to get home from Iowa City or Minneapolis or wherever we'd road tripped to a big record store and see what it actually sounded like.

Once of my housemates at the time was a little punk alterna-guy and our other three were very, very mainstream. After one play of Bad Moon Rising up in my attic bedroom, the cool housemate and I looked and each other and went "Whoa!!" or something similar. The other housemates yelled up from downstairs "Who's being killed up there? What the hell our you two listening to?"

You need to understand, even though we were in a band together, a band that covered a Sonic Youth song and a Joy Division song, it wasn't a very good band, and the punk scene in Cedar Falls, Iowa wasn't much of a scene.

The punks from Iowa City were just so much cooler. They had bigger hair, sharper jewlery, more holes in their clothes, the names of bands we'd never heard of spray painted across their t-shirts and actual Doctor Martens, back when they were really orthopedic looking. Cedar Falls punks just had army boots.

They also had their underground shows at a place called "the Church" a funky old church sans pews that could be rented really cheaply. We had our shows at Dean's Parkade Lounge, a ratty bar downtown that had a long room on the side where people had wedding dances.

So when I saw one of the Iowa City punks had on an actual store-bought Sonic Youth t-shirt I had to ask. They had played at "the church" a few months ago. She described it as "A religious experience."

The next time they came through the Midwest, it was at First Avenue so a carload of us roadtripped up after classes. Of course we got there at 8:00 and the show didn't start for hours. The thrill of the night was when Kim Gordon walked past our table with her bags of shopping in downtown Mpls. The place was empty, Sonic Youth seemed grumpy about that and the show wasn't really that good. I wasn't really into their next album, Evol, and never really into Sonic Youth after that, although of course the rest of the world was, soon enough.

And that Iowa City punks vs. Cedar Falls punks thing? I can't think of any of the Iowa City bands of the mid-1980's who ever made it very far. From Cedar Falls, of course, came the mighty House of Large Sizes, who definitely played around for over a decade. They still do a few reunion shows every year. (Remember, OK, this was all pre-Slipknot, and they were from Des Moines, anyway.) No custom Fenders for Dave and Barb of HOLS, but I did run into them last summer in Cedar Falls. Raising a son, living out in the country, growing vegetables and running their vintage shop.

Sounds just about right to this old Iowa punk.

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