Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have been on my mind, ever since I read Vanity Fair‘s latest trainwreck rerun story about Courtney Love yesterday. I’ll never forget running into Mr. and Mrs. Sonic Youth on Prince Street on the day news of Kurt Cobain’s death hit. “I’m so sorry,” I mumbled, as we stopped on a corner, because I knew they were friends.
“We’re not surprised by his death,” Kim said. We’d all been expecting Kurt to die any day, so wasted was his living. “It was just the way he died, the violence.”
I nodded. I didn’t really know what to say about such an ugly, intimate, yet public loss. It was a raw, vulnerable day for a rock critic to catch indie rock’s ultimate power couple, the coolest people on the planet. Other people would have hugged, cried. But we nodded, shared a moment of silence, then went on our ways.
Even when I’ve been most fed up with hipster culture, I’ve always admired Kim and Thurston. I first met them on Halloween, 1987. Still living in Rhode Island, I was in town for the CMJ Music Marathon. (I was the token woman on the press panel; a Baboon Dooley Spin cartoon later satirized me). I was running with a pack of people that included Kim and Thurston. It was a crazy night; whole blocks of the Village were closed by police because people had been running amok. It was like New York in the ’70s all over again; even K + T were amazed by the randomness of it. I remember feeling like they were reassuring me, the outsider, that this wasn’t normal. They weren’t just Kurt’s mentors and alt-rock’s first parents; Sonic Youth nurtured all of us. It was part of who they were.
I used to run into them — or their nanny — pushing their daughter Coco in a stroller. That was long ago, but I’ve kept my admiration for them as an artistic couple raising a child — a Woody and Mia without the drama. I’ve also made sure not to romanticize them. (Kill Your Idols, as they say.) So I’m sad to hear about their breakup:
It’s really none of my business.
Even though it is.
To understand the importance of Sonic Youth to alternative culture in general and Kurt Cobain in particular, watch David Markey’s great film 1991: The Year Punk Broke.