• Girl in a Band

  • A Memoir
  • By: Kim Gordon
  • Narrated by: Kim Gordon
  • Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (1,892 ratings)

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Girl in a Band

By: Kim Gordon
Narrated by: Kim Gordon
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Publisher's Summary

Kim Gordon, founding member of Sonic Youth, fashion icon, and role model for a generation of women, now tells her story - a memoir of life as an artist, of music, marriage, motherhood, independence, and as one of the first women of rock and roll, written with the lyricism and haunting beauty of Patti Smith's Just Kids.

Often described as aloof, Kim Gordon opens up as never before in Girl in a Band. Telling the story of her family, growing up in California in the '60s and '70s, her life in visual art, her move to New York City, the men in her life, her marriage, her relationship with her daughter, her music, and her band, Girl in a Band is a rich and beautifully written memoir.

Gordon takes us back to the lost New York of the 1980s and '90s that gave rise to Sonic Youth, and the alternative revolution in popular music. The band helped build a vocabulary of music - paving the way for Nirvana, Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, and many other acts. But at its core, Girl in a Band examines the route from girl to woman in uncharted territory, music, art career, what partnership means - and what happens when that identity dissolves.

Evocative and edgy, filled with the sights and sounds of a changing world and a transformative life, Girl in a Band is the fascinating chronicle of a remarkable journey and an extraordinary artist.

©2015 Kim Gordon (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Maskenfreiheit: The Freedom Conferred by Masks

"In general, though women aren't really allowed to be kick-ass. It's like the famous distinction between art and craft: Art and wilderness, and pushing against the edges, is a male thing. Craft and control, and polish, is for women. Culturally we don't allow women to be as free as they would like, because that is frightening. We either shun those women or deem them crazy. Female singers who push too much, and too hard, don't tend to last very long. They're jags, bolts, comets: Janis Joplin, Billie Holliday. But being that woman who pushes the boundaries means you also bring in less desirable aspects of yourself. At the end of the day, women are expected to hold up the world, not annihilate it."
-- Kim Gordon, 'Girl in a Band'

I normally don't read artist, musician, or author memoirs. Just not something I have done much. No real biblioideology behind it, just not my thing. Recently, however, I picked up Patti Smith's Just Kids and loved it, so I thought I should read another rock memoir written by a woman I loved growing up. Different kick ass singer, different kick ass period. In some ways Patti Smith and Kim Deal are very different, but in other ways both women's memoirs are similar and work for similar reasons. They are both raw, emotional, authentic (as much as a memoir is ever really authentic), and interesting. Boring these women were not. So, here is my take, the good, bad, and ugly --

First the Good: Kim Gordon has a narrative talent. Her prose reaches moments of beauty and poignance that are both delicate and strong. While I have always loved Sonic Youth, and known about them in a peripheral way, I never focused too long or too hard on the rock opera that is modern rock. I knew where their music fit in, but didn't care too much about where they fit in. it was nice to be able to place people and places around some of these rock heroes. Danny Elfman, Kurt Cobain, J. Mascis, Henry Rollins, Kim Deal, Beck, etc. I knew each of these musicians and their music, but didn't know how they all intersected with Kim and Thurston. Kim (like Patti Smith) also beautifully describes not just the NY music scene (CBGB, Noise Fest, Hurrah, the Mudd Club), but also the art scene too. I love how absolutely integrated rock was with the art scene (again think Patti Smith, David Byrne, etc) in NY in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Next, the Bad: not much. Sometimes when Kim switches from a traditional beginning, middle, end narrative and inserts about 1/2 into the book a set of chapters that are just additional pieces on albums and songs and her thoughts from the time with Sonic Youth, it all seems a bit neat and experimental; all messing with the format. However, by the end I just thought it was a way to help get past the middle hump. It seemed a bit out of place and get like the publisher asked for the book to be 270+ pages and not 200 pages, so Kim found an expedient way to fill up 70+ additional pages.

And yes too, the Ugly: The divorce of course. Ugh. There is nothing sadder than seeing your idols fall, your heroes transgress, and marriages fail apart. It is personal and vicious and you can tell by Kim's details that it all still stings. Perhaps, getting it all out there for her was a form of therapy. But ouch! I don't feel bad for Thurston, but ugh.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Bland Narration Bogs this Fascinating Story Down

I'm sure it's a great story--I can hear it somewhere in there--but Gordon's monotone, unsure - seemingly unrehearsed - narration is rather painful to listen to. The stumbles &

pauses and lack of any intonation at all, bury the spark of what is a really good story we'd all like to know. *snooze*


11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Deadpan but fascinating

If you don't already love Kim Gordon's deadpan voice from her music projects the performance of this text might surprise you. I found her energy and life story captivating - less in terms of her time with Sonic Youth and more because of her coincidental encounters with cultural figures like Larry Gagosian and Danny Elfman - one of whom she dated apparently? - and her home life and work as an artist. The book did cause me to do an early 90s deep dive into Sonic Youth, X Girl, Mike Mills, and bands I listened to at the time like Pavement. I will listen to this book again.

10 people found this helpful

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Semi-tragic

Exciting but I was frequently filled with a an unusual sadness. Very revealing and honest. I don't how much of the sadness comes from the voice. And how much from the story.

8 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Seems like...

We now know more about the people Kim Gordon surrounded herself with than we do Kim. I understand that it has to be hard to bare your soul to the masses but I'm left feeling like I only got the nickel tour.

7 people found this helpful

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Memory lane guided by Kim Gordon!!

I know this book is about Kim Gordon's life but it also helped me relive many moments of my own life. Sonic youth is my all time favorite band and Kim has been a female inspiration to me to be rebellious of gender stereotypes I have faced. Listening to her softer side made me remember my own fragility, I really enjoyed her mellow voice describing horrors she has been through, the contrast haunted me throughout the day, even when I wasn't listening to the book.

Using you tube, I would look up events she mentioned and this enriched my listening experience greatly, making it almost interactive. Looking at photos of myself at various shows throughout the nineties brought it all home.

If you lived for music in the nineties, this is a must read.

And the writing is quite good, although the sectioning style makes following the linearity of the bio a bit difficult at times. If you don't get stuck on that, you will enjoy her way with words. Well done Kim!

6 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Same old story about New York; endless name-drops

What would have made Girl in a Band better?

Having a professional narrate the story instead of Kim herself.

Would you ever listen to anything by Kim Gordon again?

No.

What didn’t you like about Kim Gordon’s performance?

Lisp and stammering over words; giggles here and there, dead-pan performance.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The book was a slightly interesting intersection of history between rock and art in NY 1980s. Kim gives a fascinating description of L.A. in the 1950s and 1960s.

Any additional comments?

First, I want to say I admire Kim Gordon for writing this book. The theme of anti-female appreciation in rock music resonated with me. That said, I was disappointed. It wasn't a true tell-all; rather, a history of each band's successive album, and a litany of art-world name-dropping. The most confusing part of the memoir were mixed timelines, and a non-consecutive recounting of events. Made it hard to follow the story, remember central characters, and place the story in its proper time.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book!

I loved hearing her story of growing up and how she developed her artistic life. Very honest, real and inspiring.

4 people found this helpful

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1st World Problems

Sonic Youth is legendary and so is Kim Gordon. Love the perspective on the beginnings and endings of the band. Hell hath no fury and I would like to hear Thurston and Lee's take at some point. Kim wanted a bohemian life as an artist and was charmed with the riches of Croesus. Hard to hear the whining and complaining. Guilt of being a 1% because that is not punk rock.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Insight into a life but not epiphanic

Interesting musings on LA, New York, small town Massachusetts and the meanderings of a creative soul. A subjective glimpse into punk rock, and an experimental approach to music and art from the less-often heard perspective of a woman. Certainly interesting enough to keep one's attention but not master storytelling at work. I enjoyed listening to Kim's unique voice (I mean the actual sound of her voice which may not actually appeal to everyone.)

2 people found this helpful