Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore Reacts to Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un 'Goo' Meme: "Nothing Is Sacred"

"Seeing such demagogue clowns enter into the stream makes me groan, as I’d rather not give any energy to those warmongers"

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jul 3, 2024

Of all the evergreen album artwork meme templates, Sonic Youth's Goo — the band's 1990 major label debut — remains steadfast in its canonical status. 

Last month, a photo of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un taking turns driving a Russian-made limo in Pyongyang, North Korea, was all over the news. A pair of dictators joyriding around together is a sight so disturbing and dystopian that, before long, the internet turned to its go-to coping skill and made it into a series of memes, including attaching "Sonic Youth LP" to the photograph as a recasting of the Goo album cover.

In a new interview with Rolling Stone, the band's Thurston Moore reacted to the most recent, politically-charged iteration of the meme format, telling journalist David Browne, "Seeing such demagogue clowns as Putin and Kim Jong Un enter into the stream makes me groan, as I'd rather not give any energy to those warmongers. But like anything in our punk rock universe, nothing is sacred."

He added, "I don't think either Raymond or Sonic Youth thought that the image would be replicated to the extent it has," referring to artist Raymond Pettibon, a friend of the band, who had contributed a hand-drawn copy of an infamous photo taken in mid-'60s England of Maureen Hindley and David Smith on their way to testify in the trial of Hindley's sister and her lover, who stood accused of killing several children in the Moors murders.

"The whole 'killed my parents and hit the road' text of that particular Pettibon drawing is what I initially reacted to when choosing images for Goo," Moore explained of the artwork, the original version of which includes the text, "I stole my sister's boyfriend. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash, within a week we killed my parents and hit the road."

The musician continued, "The audacious correlation of criminals hitting the road and a rock & roll band hitting the road seemed like an edgy gesture at the time, plus it had a bit of Beat literature Jack Kerouac in there with the whole On the Road motif."

As Moore and others remember it, the first Goo homage was likely the artwork for "Spoo," a 1991 single by Ohio indie band Prisonshake. Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley, who oversees their archives, estimates that "hundreds and hundreds" of parodies are now in existence; the band have even considered collecting them all in a coffee table book.

"These memes take on a life of their own," Pettibon told Rolling Stone. "I hesitate to analyze or make sense of it. Any attempt to do so would be futile and why do so anyway? It might break the spell? Interrupt the flow?"

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