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Tuesday 26 September 2023

Burning Groove

Everyone loves a cover version, don't they? In 1987 Mike Watt, suffering from depression in the aftermath of fellow Minuteman D. Boon's death, pitched up in New York and stayed with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore for a while, playing bass on some of the sessions that would become the EVOL album. In an effort to get Watt active and enthusiastic about music again they hatched a plan that become Sonic Youth offshoot Ciccone Youth. Watt covered Madonna's Burning Up (as Burnin' Up) playing all the instruments (except for a Gregg Ginn guitar solo). Watt's cover is rough and ready, fuzzy and lo fi, a thing of beauty in many ways. 

Madonna's original dates from 1983, early 80s New York dance pop that has buckets of charm and some key Madonna tropes already well in place.

Burning Up

The sessions Watt played with Sonic Youth resulted in this cover of Madonna's 1985 smash Into The Groove.

Into The Groove(Y)

Like Watt's cover it's lo fi and sounds made for ghetto blasters and C90 cassettes, with grungy bass, a hissing drum machine and handclaps and Thurston's ultra- drawled vocal. When playing in the studio Sonic Youth would play the original version through one of the channels and fade it into and out of their own version. Yes, I'd love to hear a recording of that too. In the meantime here's Madonna's Desperately Seeking Susan associated single. if you get both playing at the same time on your computer you might be able to recreate Sonic Youth's experiment. 

Into The Groove

When Ciccone Youth's album The Whitey Album came out in 1988, a few months after their landmark Daydream Nation, many people assumed they were taking the piss or covering Madonna ironically. Thurston says this was most definitely not the case, that they loved the song, danced to it in NY clubs and were paying tribute to the woman who'd played in two No Wave bands, including one (spinal Root Gang) that eventually transformed into Swans. Sonic Youth loved that someone from their downtown scene had broken out and become huge. 

The Whitey Album probably overdoes it, fifty minutes when it could have been a really good twenty minute EP but Sonic/ Ciccone Youth were into sprawling records in 1988. The album includes the track Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening to Neu, a track with J Mascis on guitar and the first time I was aware of Neu's existence and Ciccone's cover of Robert Palmer's Addicted To Love, a cover with a vocal recorded by Kim in a karaoke booth and the video filmed with her lip syncing, looking cool as fuck in cut off jeans, while footage of the Vietnam War is projected behind her. 

Bizarrely, Robert Palmer had already crossed over into the US 80s indie- punk scene with his cover version of Husker Du's New Day Rising, played live at San Diego University Amphitheatre in 1987.  

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