It's another Bandcamp Friday which means more Sonic Youth releases from their very extensive archives. This time it's Volume 3 of the Sonic Youth Rarities series, featuring hard-to-find studio recordings, most of which are instrumental. Steve Shelley writes that "This collection spans from the group’s first Peel session - recorded remotely from NYC - to demos and rehearsals for our final record, The Eternal."

Among the compilation's 11 tracks: a 1987 demo of "Catholic Block" which would end up on Sister; the Lord Of Your Thighs / Sweet Emotion 7” from the 2002 Terrastock 5 singles box; the theme from the score of film Made in the USA; an acoustic version of "Star Power" recorded in 2009; and an early version of "Expressway To Yr Skull" recorded by Wharton Tiers for a Peel Session.

You can listen to Sonic Youth Rarities Vol. 3, and read Steve Shelly's track-by-track notes, below.


We were happy to be recording again with friend and engineer/producer John Agnello, and happy to be on a NYC-based indie label - Matador Records - however briefly it lasted. This instrumental was written and recorded in 2008 during sessions for The Eternal and was used as a bonus MP3 for Matador’s Buy Early Get Now program. We did record one more full-length after The Eternal, a soundtrack recording for the French film Simon Werner A Disparu (SYR 9) which was released on our own SYR label.

Made In USA (theme segment)
Spending an extended period of time in LA to work on demos for the soundtrack of the film ‘Made in USA’, we found ourselves recording in the San Fernando Valley at Spinhead Studio, with Phil Newman of Painted Willie engineering. Spinhead, a small demo studio in the valley, was used by various SST groups for practice and recording. The mixes from the demo sessions and the ‘proper’ sessions found themselves on mix tapes that we would make in the years to follow - often preferring the stretched out ambience of the demos which eventually became our self-released Spinhead Sessions. I’m unsure if this early mix of ‘Made In USA segment’ was from the demos or the proper soundtrack recording but at some point it was given to our friend Earl Kuck aka Seymour Glass for his Bananafish Magazine companion CD Step, Step Steppin’ on Satan’s Foot in 1994.

Catholic Block (1987 demo)
This early and extended demo recording of Catholic Block was recorded on an old 4 track deck of Lee's in our basement rehearsal space on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side below where Max Fish and the Pink Pony would later set up. The practice space was operated by the group Konk, who a few years earlier featured Sonic Youth's first drummer Richard Edson on trumpet and percussion. Four-track demos for Sister were recorded with 3 or 4 mics and depending on the song the drum mic would either be pointed at the kick drum or the snare drum. This recording was first made available as a MP3 via Matador for their Buy Now Get Early promotional program for The Eternal.

The Sprawl (cassette rehearsal version)
Another extended instrumental 4-track demo - this one recorded as we were writing and arranging the songs that would make up Daydream Nation. We managed to stay in the same rehearsal space for 2 record’s worth of song-writing but soon we would be forced to move, this time across the Hudson River to Hoboken, NJ where we would write and work on Goo and Dirty. This recording was a contender for the Daydream Nation Deluxe Edition but it didn’t make the cut and has only been previously featured on ’s Mixtape #6 (as a MP3) curated by SY-engineer Aaron Mullan and myself.

This Untitled piece was part of a jam session recorded in November 1991 at our Hoboken, NJ rehearsal space located on Grand Street. The space was owned by cabinet-maker Mario Ragno and had been divided by sheetrock into various rehearsal rooms. Goo and Dirty were written and demoed in this space. We shared the space with friends Cell and Das Damen. This music was given to P.S. 1 for their compilation CD, Volume: bed of sound, in 2000. On the CD we are track #36 out of 43 Untitled pieces. (The Grand Street rehearsal spaces are now condos).

Social Static
Videographer and artist Chris Habib was a frequent collaborator of Sonic Youth, collectively and individually. Chris was often filming Sonic Youth at live events (and in the studio) and he was also our web designer for years. In return Sonic Youth - with Jim O'Rourke - recorded this improv piece of music in 2000, for Social Static a short film Chris was making with the artist Spencer Tunick (who photographs masses of naked people in urban settings). This song was originally available on as we would, from time to time, make select pieces of unreleased music available for download straight from our web site.

Lord Of Your Thighs / Sweet Emotion
With titles borrowed from Aerosmith, this hard-to-find 7” from the Terrastock 5 singles box set released in 2002 on the Time-Lag label was made up of two outtakes of film music, recorded for Oliver Assayas’s Demon Lover, and was released to commemorate psych-rock festival Terrastock 5 which Sonic Youth appeared at, playing a Murray Street-heavy set at the Axis in Boston on October 13, 2002. A few years later we paid tribute to the boys of Aerosmith again, this time in Thurston’s splendid lyrics of New Hampshire from Sonic Nurse.

Star Power (Acoustic ’09)
Recorded at Jackpot Studios, (a fun, beautiful and efficient studio to record in) in Portland, OR while on tour in the USA in 2009. We recorded this new version of Evol’s Star Power to mime to for our upcoming filming and appearance on the TV show Gossip Girl. I had never seen a Gossip Girl episode before and while watching for our performance on the show I was horrified to learn that the program was 60 minutes long and our appearance was in the second half of the program. This new version of Star Power was made available as a download via our friends who run our webstore at and it was featured on Mix Tape #8 on our website.

Basement Contender
Back in the basement practice room - this time in Northampton, MA in 2008, writing and rehearsing songs for what would become The Eternal. Basement Contender was never released and first appeared on Mix Tape #7 on

Expressway To Yr Skull (early version)
This early version of Expressway To Yr Skull was recorded with Wharton Tiers engineering in his makeshift basement studio, Fun City, located in the furnace room of his apartment building. It was my first recording session with Sonic Youth. We had worked on Green Light and Expressway during my first rehearsals with the band in spring of 1985. We were invited to record a session for John Peel but being that we were located in NYC we recorded remotely, not visiting the famous Maida Vale studios in London, where countless Peel sessions were recorded, until the next year or so for our infamous Fall covers session. Regardless, we were in Wharton’s famous basement studio where Confusion is Sex had been recorded - this version of Expressway was not played on Peel’s program until May 19, 1986. During this session we also recorded Alice Cooper’s Hallowed Be My Name, Magic Wand and Come and Smash Me Said The Boy With The Magic Penis.



Sonic Youth Album Guide

More From Brooklyn Vegan