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The Most Badass Quotes From Kim Gordon's Memoir, 'Girl In A Band'

the Sonic Youth co-founder dishes on music, breakups, and Kurt and Courtney.

The opening pages of Kim Gordon’s new memoir begin right from the end.

“The couple everyone believed was golden and normal and eternally intact, who gave younger musicians hope they could outlast a crazy rock-and-roll world, was now just another cliché of middle-aged relationship failure,” she writes in Girl In A Band. “a male midlife crisis, another woman, a double life.”

Still, despite 30+ years of making music with her famous husband, the Sonic Youth co-founder has always been so much more than a “girl in a band.” Gordon details her entire life-- including her childhood in idyllic Southern California with a mentally ill brother, moving to New York, and her relationship with Thurston Moore-- in a book that’s titled from the one question she’s received most from the music press:

“What’s it like to be a girl in a band?”

Admittedly, Gordon never really gave a solid answer (and not just because it’s a pointless question). Instead, she’s remained a true badass, succeeding not only in music but in writing, fashion, visual art, and even motherhood. Now in her 60s and the leader of her own experimental guitar project, Body/Head, Gordon shares what she’s lived and learned throughout her enviable career in being cool.

Girl In A Band is filled with love, loss, and painful memories, but mostly, it’s a story of starting over. From touring and feminism to hating on Courtney Love, here are some of Kim’s very finest pearls of wisdom.

On her childhood:

“Why is Who am I? considered a crisis? I had no crisis. My identity was straightforward: I had made art since I was five years old, and aside from dance, art was the only thing that interested me. If that didn’t fit into the conventions of the day, who cared?”

“Boys helped kill the time. They had always liked me, though I was never sure if I liked any of them back.”

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On her family history:

“From the few stories I’d heard, the women in my family were incomprehensibly strong. My great-grandmother who sold sewing patterns up and down the west coast in the 1800s. My grandmother, traveling all over with a brood of five kids, finally landing in Kansas during the Great Depression. Stoic, enduring, no questions, no complaints.”

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On making music:

“Punk rock felt tongue-in-cheek, in air quotes screaming, ‘we’re playing at destroying corporate rock.’ No Wave music was, and is, more like ‘No, we’re really destroying rock.’ Its sheer freedom and blazing-ness made me think, I can do that.”

“I remember the thrilling power of loud guitars and finding kindred souls and the man I married, who I believed was my soul mate.”

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On co-founding Sonic Youth:

“By the time Sonic Youth started in 1981, No Wave was essentially over. Maybe it was time to start something new.”

“Sonic Youth would go on for three decades, and our first record was reissued twenty-five years after its initial release. Critics would point out how meaningful the lyrics were, not realizing how random they came about in the first place.”

“I was allergic to making scenes and did everything possible to maintain an identity as an individual within the band. I had no interest in just being the female half of a couple.”

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On hanging with famous people:

“You would think it would have been the coolest night of my life, but it wasn’t. To me, a white, middle-class Southern California girl, Johnny Thunders was just a tired junkie.”

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On being a fashion icon:

“In retrospect, it’s ridiculous that anyone saw me as a fashion icon, since all I was trying to do was to dumb down my middle-class look by messing with my hair.”

“In the video for ‘100%’ I wore a bootleg Rolling Stones shirt that said ‘Eat Me.’ As a result, MTV, which showed any number of videos of naked women grinding away, was reluctant to run ours. They felt my shirt sent a bad message to viewers.”

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On being a mom:

“Truth was, I never wanted to be a housewife. I never wanted to be anything other than who I was.”

“Traveling to California with a two-month-old baby was another ‘new mom’ thing to have to worry about; dripping breast milk during a video shoot is not very rock!”

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On Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love:

“Thurston didn’t have the same thing going with Kurt; he’d be the first to say Kurt and I had some sort of good, inexplicable connection. We weren’t close the way he was to Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, or Tobi Vail, who was his girlfriend, or any of his male friends that he grew up with. I didn’t know Kurt all that well-- two tours’ worth-- but our friendship was unusual.”

“At one point during recording, Courtney told me she thought Kurt Cobain was hot, which made me cringe inside and hope the two would never meet.”

On feminism:

“Today we have someone like Lana Del Rey, who doesn’t even know what feminism is, who believes it means women can do whatever they want, which, in her world, tilts toward self-destruction, whether it’s sleeping with gross older men or being a transient biker queen. Equal pay and equal rights would be nice. Naturally, it’s just a persona.”

“When Sonic Youth toured England, journalists took to asking me a single question over and over: ‘What’s it like to be a girl in a band?’ I’d never really thought about that, to be honest.”

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