Say what you want about their music, but you must give Sonic Youth credit for one thing --- they photographed well. Like the Velvet Underground and The Clash before them, for whatever reason, Sonic Youth had a real knack for striking compelling poses and/or just exuding an aura of punky insouciance in many a photo. Not to take anything away from myriad photographers who worked with the band, back in the day, but I largely credit Sonic Youth's own compelling visual aesthetic to the dichotomy between Thurston Moore's gangly height and boyish visage and Kim Gordon's signature, icy cool. Don't take my word for it, do a Google image search, and you'll doubtlessly see what I mean.
As I'm wont to do, I was struck reasonably recently by just such a photograph. I'm not talking about the one above -- that was snapped by one Alan Reevel for a 1986 issue of England's Melody Maker. No, the picture I'm discussing was a portrait of the band standing in front of the gates of a church. What made it significant, to me, at least, is that the church in question was Old St. Patrick's on Mott Street. Back in the early 90's, my friend Sean lived across the street, and we delighted to find that not only was Moby a neighbor of his, at the time, but that both the Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth kept practice spaces in the building's basement. You can actually see that basement in the clip for "Three MC's and One DJ" by the Beasties. In any case, that explains why Sonic Youth might've been photographed on that particular strip. As a side note, that patch of Mott Street also plays heavily in Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets," as well as the intro for the enjoyable ludicrous video for "Jump Around" by House of Pain.
Anyway, at one point doing during my travels around the web, I came across the photo of Sonic Youth on Mott Street and set it to one side, so to speak. This past weekend, meanwhile, while out walking around Manhattan with my kids, we passed by the very spot in the picture and, as I am prone to doing, I asked my kids to replicate the shot. That they still play long, at this late stage of the proceedings, is a testament to their patience -- witness comparable incidents here, here and here.
The trouble is, when I came back to whichever desktop I thought I'd reserved that original photo of Sonic Youth posing on Mott Street in front of Old St. Patrick's -- I couldn't find it. Did I misfile it? It wasn't on my desktop, it wasn't in my trash. It wasn't in my download folder. Where did I originally spot it? Tumblr? Flickr? Instagram? Facebook? Pinterest? A random Google search? I tried re-Googling, but the image in question never came up. I tried variations like "Sonic Youth" "SoHo," or "Sonic Youth," "Mott Street," or "Sonic Youth" "Old St. Patrick's." I went further down that rabbit hole, Googling "Sonic Youth" "Downtown," "Sonic Youth" "East Village," "Sonic Youth, Lower East Side." Lots of images came up, but not that one. I plugged in years 1986 through 1995. Nothing. I scoured other likely sites. Zip. As is so often the case -- I started to wonder if I imagined it.
So, now -- while not quite as feverish as my search for the location of that Lunachicks photograph, we have an inverted photo quandary. I don't know who took the picture or when, nor where I found it, but I vividly remember a photograph of the -- I think -- Steve Shelley-line-up of Sonic Youth posing in front of Old St. Patrick's on Mott Street in SoHo, relatively similar to the photo of my children below.
Can YOU find it?
ADDENDUM: The mystery has been solved. Click here.