Sunday 7 October 2007

Ciccone Youth

Sonic Youth's seventh album sort of originated with a long-running band joke involving SY's claim to one day cover the Beatles' White Album in its entirety -- somehow this project morphed into a twisted beatbox/sampler experiment masquerading as a tribute to Madonna... SY even took Madonna's surname for their own, calling themselves "Ciccone Youth". The first Ciccone Youth single, featuring SY's version of "Into The Groovey" and Mike Watt's cover of "Burnin' Up" was initially released in 1986. Ciccone Youth unveiled themselves again on the "Master-Dik" EP, and decided to round out an entire album in late '87/early '88. Supposedly the finished project was put on hold until after the release of Daydream Nation, to ensure that attention wouldn't be diverted from the more "serious" album effort. In any case, "The Whitey Album" is a weird, wild, hit-or-miss collection of sampled beats, fresh rhymes, 80s pop covers, and a few really good tunes.

Their Madonna obsession already apparent in gig posters and song titles, SY recorded their own version of her single "Into The Groove" along with a brief but amusing Thurston freestyle vocal jam called "Tuff Titty Rap" during the EVOL sessions in March 1986. The songs were recorded for a proposed Madonna "tribute" 7" to be released on New Alliance, the A-side featuring Mike Watt's rendition of "Burnin' Up" (a full band version, not the solo demo that ended up on the Whitey Album). This single came out in late '86 under the alias "Ciccone Youth", and both artists went on their merry way. Ciccone emerged again during sessions for a piece entitled "Master-Dik", of which 2 versions were mixed -- one w/ live drums which was the bonus track on the Sister CD, and one w/ a robotic beatbox track, released on the "Master-Dik" EP (though not technically credited to Ciccone Youth, Thurston's insistent cries of "We're Ciccone" seem pretty clear). Toying with drum machines and samplers must have delighted the band enough to make an album project out of it, and so they did, recording from November 1987 through January 1988 with Wharton Tiers at his studio.

Dinosaur guitarist J Mascis stepped in to guest on one track, "Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening To Neu" (which also featured Kim discussing management duties with Susanne Sasic, SY's lighting director). They recorded a few fairly tuneless destructive beatbox explosions like "Needle-Gun" "Hendrix Cosby" & "March Of The Ciccone Robots", some nicely constructed instrumental jams like "MacBeth" and "Third Fig", a revamped drum machine driven version of "Making The Nature Scene" from Confusion Is Sex, and more. Steve reads one of Lee's poems. Kim sings a haunting tune called "G-Force", which is reprised instrumentally as "Platoon II". She also sings Robert Palmer's hit "Addicted To Love", recorded at a karaoke booth in a mall (a video was produced in the same fashion). And for your easy listening pleasure, a solid minute of silence is offered (their radio edit of John Cage's "4'33"). The album is rounded out with the 3 tracks from the '86 Ciccone single (though Watt's "Burnin' Up" is an alternate solo demo). "The Whitey Album" finally saw release in January 1989, several months after Daydream Nation. "Sonic Youth" were not credited on the release, instead each member was given a secret Ciccone codename (a hilarious NME gag "interview" gives these identities a life of their own). Around this time an "Into The Groovey" single/sampler CD was released, along with a 12" promo insightfully titled "The Whitey Album Promo". The Whitey Album CD was reissued by DGC in 1995 w/ liner notes by Mike Watt. The CD versions feature an unlisted bonus version of "MacBeth", which appears to have an official title on the longbox scan to the right -- anybody who can tell me what the sticker says would make my day.
Source | Sonic Youth

Mp3 | Ciccone Youth - Into the Groovey
Mp3 | Ciccone Youth - Me and Jill
Mp3 | Ciccone Youth - Burnin' Up (Mike Watt orig. demo)
Mp3 | Ciccone Youth - Me and Jill - ( Chicken Lips Rework )

Video | Ciccone Youth - Addicted To Love ( Robert Palmer cover )
Video | Ciccone Youth - Macbeth

Sonic Youth

Label | Geffen