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Baker's Dozen

Maximum Drama: Lee Ranaldo's 13 Favourite Albums
Nick Hutchings , November 8th, 2017 10:01

From the peak of CBGB new wave to the group he calls 'the defining band of the 90s', former Sonic Youth man Lee Ranaldo takes Nick Hutchings through the thirteen albums that shaped his life


The Beatles - Meet The Beatles!

I chose Meet The Beatles!, not With The Beatles, it was the first album (released by Capitol) in America. It’s mostly coming from With The Beatles, but I think there’s a few songs on there that are not on Meet The Beatles!.

I’ve been talking about Sgt. Pepper and Revolver recently because those records are to the fore in terms of my new record but I chose this one because The Beatles are such an undying, unending influence and that’s the record I heard first.

I was very young when it came out but for some reason my father brought it home and he brought home the singles that preceded it on these obscure little labels in America – Vee-Jay Records, Swan Records before Capitol took over, so I have all those records.

I always cite Meet The Beatles! because I’m so very happy that, even though I was very young, I was able to experience the arc of The Beatles career in its time rather than coming to it afterwards. When Steve Shelley joined Sonic Youth, he’s a huge Beatles freak and we’d ask “What was your first Beatles record Steve?” and he’d say the red one or the blue one, the two doubles that came out after they dispersed and we’d be like “ok…” It doesn’t really matter where it starts, it’s not like an ‘I’m better than you’ sort of thing, but to have experienced that momentous change in music and culture in our society in its time is a very important thing to me in terms of who I am and how it shaped me.

It all really started with that record. Pop music was always on the radio, but that record changed something in me. You never think when you’re a little kid that you’re going to grow up to be a pop musician, you never really think that it’s going to happen for you. But that record changed the things I found important in my life and it just made music such a central obsession and just showed how intelligent that process can be. It can start with something as simple as that record that’s got ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ on it, songs of that ilk, to go through to ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘I Am The Walrus’ and all these super sophisticated musical compositions. So just watching that arc gave me a lot of inspiration on a lot of levels and it didn’t even have to be for music it could be for whatever you wanted to do in terms of showing how deeply and committedly you could throw yourselves into the work you were going to do.