You Say It's Your Birthday: Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth

Lee Ranaldo is blowing out 42 birthday candles today. As a guitarist for

experimental rockers Sonic Youth, the most successful group to come out of

the post-punk, no-wave movement, Ranaldo's work can be heard on such

noise-punk classics as "Death Valley 69," "Expressway To Yr. Skull" and

"100%," among others. Sonic Youth's pioneering mixture of punk-rock's

energy with the experimental spirit of legendary avant-garde jazz greats

Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman has produced a canon of work that has

influenced every band that ever called themselves grunge and introduced a

whole new generation of fans to the joys of feedback. Ranaldo first met

future bandmate and fellow guitarist Thurston Moore in the early '80s when

the two were playing in composer Glenn Branca's all-guitar orchestra. In

1981, the duo formed Sonic Youth along with bassist (and Moore's future

wife) Kim Gordon and drummer Richard Edson. The band was an underground

critic's darling from the get go. Its 1982 self-titled debut, 1983's

Confusion Is Sex and Kill Yr. Idols and 1984's Sonic

Death were all filled with a lot of experimental white-noise and were bought

mostly by a devoted cult audience.

Sonic Youth began to branch out with 1985's Bad Moon Rising, an

album that contained some actual pop-hooks and legitimate attempts at song

structure. Even more critical acclaim followed as a result, but Sonic

Youth remained true to their indie roots for much longer than anyone would

have thought possible. 1986's Evol, 1987's Sister and 1988's

Daydream Nation were all indie releases that inched further toward

quote-unquote-listenable, mainstream rock 'n' roll without losing the edge

that earned them their fan base in the first place. Sonic Youth signed

with Geffen in 1989 and released Goo in 1990. It was the first

Sonic Youth album to hit the Billboard charts (#94) and gave the group

its first singles on MTV and the radio -- "My Friend Goo" and "Kool Thing."

Later that year, Sonic Youth toured as an opening act for fellow

feedback-aficionado Neil Young. In 1992, the group released Dirty and

received a whole new round of attention from the media as the inventors of

the just-then exploding grunge-scene. Sonic Youth have continued to tour and

release vital albums throughout the '90s, both as a group and in their solo

projects. As of this writing (February 1998), birthday boy Ranaldo has three solo albums

to his name: 1987's From Here to Infinity, 1994's

Envisioning and 1995's East Jesus. As of late, Sonic Youth

have been concentrating on releasing a series of experimental rock EPs,

each with liner notes written in a different language.

Other birthdays: Dennis Edwards (the Temptations), 55; Eric Haydock (Hollies), 55; Melanie, 51; and Dave Davies (the Kinks), 51.