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The first time I saw this t-shirt it was being worn by one of the cool guys in school. I didn’t know anything about Sonic Youth but I did really want the shirt. Unfortunately there was an unwritten rule that if someone from school wore a band shirt first, that was it – it just wasn’t done to go buy your own copy and wear it around.

But I would be sorely tempted only a couple of months later. I was on a family trip overseas when I saw the exact same t-shirt for only six dollars at a garage sale in San Francisco. After guiltily purchasing it, the first thing I decided to do was familiarise myself with Sonic Youth, as it was another unwritten rule that you couldn’t wear a band shirt unless you were a fan of the band. So I purchased a second-hand copy of Dirty two days later and listened to it on high rotation on my discman. And then a funny thing happened – I got into the music.

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Actually maybe it wasn’t that funny, as I was kind of determined. Having familiarised myself with the band, I wore my new Sonic Youth shirt shortly after my return to Sydney. The first three friends I saw immediately announced the same thing: “Coby’s got that shirt”. The inference was inescapable. I feigned surprised the first two times and then finally gave up. So the shirt was forever consigned to the dustbin of history, while the Dirty CD stayed on heavy rotation. It’s a perfect example of band promotional material doing exactly what it’s supposed to. It’s also a perfect example of why I didn’t get much action in high school.

But perhaps we should focus on Washing Machine, the 1995 release from Sonic Youth.

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The polaroid photo featured on the cover was taken after the April 28, 1995 Lollapaloozas show at Amherst College in Amherst, MA. The boy’s shirts had been signed by the support act, Come. The polaroid was found on the floor and then presented to the band, who instantly recognised its potential but had no idea who was featured in the picture or who took it. They enlisted the help of MTV, who ran a news bulletin asking the boys’ permission for the image to be used as the next album cover.

The boys were never identified, so the band cropped off their faces and used the photo anyway. The fact that their identity remains a mystery poses some intriguing questions. As they are wearing Sonic Youth t-shirts, one would assume that they were pretty big Sonic Youth fans. So when Washing Machine came out, why didn’t they instantly recognise themselves as the talent gracing the cover? Did they know it was them but not think it important to come forward? Or were they Amish boys on a seditious, wild night out that can never own up for fear of being expunged from their community?

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It’s an enigma wrapped in a mildly interesting riddle. In today’s online age the band would have identified the duo within a day at the most. So perhaps this tale should be treated as a telling reminder of how much things have changed.

But for me, this album cover will always have a different message. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a glimpse of an alternate teenage reality, where two guys can own and wear the same t-shirt with pride.


Sonic Youth: Washing Machine

sonicyouth_record.jpg

41msmwaazml_aa280_.jpg

The first time I saw this t-shirt it was being worn by one of the cool guys in school. I didn’t know anything about Sonic Youth but I did really want the shirt. Unfortunately there was an unwritten rule that if someone from school wore a band shirt first, that was it – it just wasn’t done to go buy your own copy and wear it around.

But I would be sorely tempted only a couple of months later. I was on a family trip overseas when I saw the exact same t-shirt for only six dollars at a garage sale in San Francisco. After guiltily purchasing it, the first thing I decided to do was familiarise myself with Sonic Youth, as it was another unwritten rule that you couldn’t wear a band shirt unless you were a fan of the band. So I purchased a second-hand copy of Dirty two days later and listened to it on high rotation on my discman. And then a funny thing happened – I got into the music.

lp_kelleydirty.jpg

Actually maybe it wasn’t that funny, as I was kind of determined. Having familiarised myself with the band, I wore my new Sonic Youth shirt shortly after my return to Sydney. The first three friends I saw immediately announced the same thing: “Coby’s got that shirt”. The inference was inescapable. I feigned surprised the first two times and then finally gave up. So the shirt was forever consigned to the dustbin of history, while the Dirty CD stayed on heavy rotation. It’s a perfect example of band promotional material doing exactly what it’s supposed to. It’s also a perfect example of why I didn’t get much action in high school.

But perhaps we should focus on Washing Machine, the 1995 release from Sonic Youth.

lp13y.jpg

The polaroid photo featured on the cover was taken after the April 28, 1995 Lollapaloozas show at Amherst College in Amherst, MA. The boy’s shirts had been signed by the support act, Come. The polaroid was found on the floor and then presented to the band, who instantly recognised its potential but had no idea who was featured in the picture or who took it. They enlisted the help of MTV, who ran a news bulletin asking the boys’ permission for the image to be used as the next album cover.

The boys were never identified, so the band cropped off their faces and used the photo anyway. The fact that their identity remains a mystery poses some intriguing questions. As they are wearing Sonic Youth t-shirts, one would assume that they were pretty big Sonic Youth fans. So when Washing Machine came out, why didn’t they instantly recognise themselves as the talent gracing the cover? Did they know it was them but not think it important to come forward? Or were they Amish boys on a seditious, wild night out that can never own up for fear of being expunged from their community?

260525219_b48e9b2b3b.jpg

It’s an enigma wrapped in a mildly interesting riddle. In today’s online age the band would have identified the duo within a day at the most. So perhaps this tale should be treated as a telling reminder of how much things have changed.

But for me, this album cover will always have a different message. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a glimpse of an alternate teenage reality, where two guys can own and wear the same t-shirt with pride.






13 Comments

  1. This is first time I came to know about Sonic T-shirt, this stuff is affordable.

  2. That was really well written. I haven't heard the album nor had I seen the artwork before, but still, I enjoyed that big time. Oh, and I find it really exciting that the boys were never found.

  3. that was a really interesting read!

  4. Cool story, thanks for sharing! :)

  5. record design by mike mills. not sure if he did the washing machine design though. http://www.mikemillsweb.com/graphics_sonicyouth

  6. record design by mike mills. not sure if he did the washing machine design though. http://www.mikemillsweb.com/graphics_sonicyouth

  7. Im from Western ma. I Saw SY in Amherst ma in 95-96? in a gymnasuim at Amherst college. They were increadable (my spelling is poor LOL). Halfway through the concert I started having stabbing pains in my stomach.. It got so bad I was curled up in a ball in front of the stage.. Ends up I had accute pancreatitice and was rushed from the show in an ambulance and almost died from it..I later found out that the picture from the upcomming album “washing machine” of the 2 guys with the SY t-shirts was taken backstage at that show .,…So whenever I see that CD it reminds me of the SY show I almost died at .

    Mike D from Mass USA

  8. Im from Western ma. I Saw SY in Amherst ma in 95-96? in a gymnasuim at Amherst college. They were increadable (my spelling is poor LOL). Halfway through the concert I started having stabbing pains in my stomach.. It got so bad I was curled up in a ball in front of the stage.. Ends up I had accute pancreatitice and was rushed from the show in an ambulance and almost died from it..I later found out that the picture from the upcomming album “washing machine” of the 2 guys with the SY t-shirts was taken backstage at that show .,…So whenever I see that CD it reminds me of the SY show I almost died at .

    Mike D from Mass USA

  9. Im from Western ma. I Saw SY in Amherst ma in 95-96? in a gymnasuim at Amherst college. They were increadable (my spelling is poor LOL). Halfway through the concert I started having stabbing pains in my stomach.. It got so bad I was curled up in a ball in front of the stage.. Ends up I had accute pancreatitice and was rushed from the show in an ambulance and almost died from it..I later found out that the picture from the upcomming album “washing machine” of the 2 guys with the SY t-shirts was taken backstage at that show .,…So whenever I see that CD it reminds me of the SY show I almost died at .

    Mike D from Mass USA

  10. Thanks brother was very nice of page.

  11. Hi. I was one of the kids on the cover. We bought the tshirts in the parking lot. Picked up tickets at will call, and a friend of mine swiped backstage passes off the check in table. We were in the band’s dressing room hanging out with a group of people and Lee took the photo. They lost our contact info, thus they used MTV to try and contact us.

  12. Ryan is right…I’m the other kid, whose cousin swiped the backstage passes. I met up with Thurston more and got all the extra photos, most including my cousin, who was the only original one of us who bought a different shirt. His individuality at the time cost him fame. Sad.

  13. And hello, Ryan h.

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