Hero Worship: Thurston Moore

Idlewild's Rod Jones tips his hat to the man who inspired him to pick up a guitar in the first place

Feature by Rod Jones | 03 Nov 2011
  • Thurston Moore

When I was asked to gush in admiration about one of my heroes, I instantly started battling myself in the confines of my scatterbrained mind. "Do I go cool so that everyone thinks I'm cool by association, or do I just shout from the rooftops about Bruce Springsteen and to hell with everyone?" As much as I love The Boss, and really I do... there is someone else.  I feel like I'm cheating on Bruce here, but in terms of the person who inspired me musically and shaped my "Sonic Youth" (sorry) I have to choose Thurston Moore.  

I don't remember the first time I heard Sonic Youth exactly, but I know it was through the thick mist of British heavy metal that filled my listening hours in my early teen years. I'd bought a copy of Daydream Nation on cassette from Jumbo records in Leeds on the recommendation of my best friend's older brother who mentored our early musical growth. Almost immediately, or after the very long intro (which I'm not ashamed to admit passed me by on first listen), I was transfixed by the abrasive yet hooky guitar riff of Teen Age Riot which sounded so foreign and exciting to me.

I played the whole cassette through numerous times in a row, pausing only to turn it over as I didn't yet have one of those fancy players that did that on its own, and soon fell in love with this chaotic but beautiful noise that came from Mr Moore's guitar. It sounded to me like a man arguing with his guitar and then kissing it better afterwards. So angry and noisy but then also melodic and pastoral at times. Add to this his vocal delivery, that sounded like he just didn't give a fuck and almost like he was drunk. This all added up to one thing for a teenage Jones: Thurston Moore was the coolest guy on the planet

I had been brought up in a very classical background with my parents being a conductor and a soprano, pushed to play violin, piano and trombone from an early age. These all went out of the window with the discovery of Sonic Youth and Thurston Moore. Heavy metal seemed so far away from me that it had never inspired me to want to play it, but when I heard Mr. Moore play I felt I needed to have a shot at that. Maybe it was laziness in part; maybe I thought it would be easier to play Sonic Youth than Iron Maiden. He seemed to make it sound so effortless and easy. Enter cruel reality: it really isn't as easy as you might think.

Fom his obscure tunings and customised guitars to his way of playing that sounded like nothing I'd ever heard, he changed the way a lot of people thought about the guitar.  It felt to me that suddenly the guitar had become an instrument I could teach myself and there was no right or wrong way to play it. I could develop my own way and style and didn't need to learn a bunch of scales again. Happy times.

I'm a big fan of prolific songwriters and Thurston is no slouch here. There is an immense body of work from sixteen Sonic Youth albums, several solo albums and multiple experimental noise projects. True, some of the noise projects are challenging at times, but this is a guy who just seems to love to write music and wants to push boundaries and limits. All of this, and he's still able to produce a great three minute pop song with ease (and a 4 minute noise intro...). 

To this day, I still marvel at his ability to write the catchiest of riffs and melodies that sound so effortlessly cool and unique; after making so much music over such a long time he’s still able to surprise me at every turn. A great and inspirational songwriter and probably the ultimate alternative guitar hero. My hero, at least.

Thurston Moore plays The Arches, Glasgow on 28 Nov. Hits Are For Squares by Sonic Youth and a DVD reissue of their 1991 documentary The Year Punk Broke are both out now. Rod Jones & The Birthday Suit release The Eleventh Hour on 11 Nov. http://www.sonicyouth.com