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Sonic Youth Bootleg reissue

Sonic Youth set to reissue out-of-print 1986 bootleg, Walls Have Ears

05 December 2023, 18:36 | Written by Tyler Damara Kelly

Alongside the announcement of reissuing their 1986 bootleg, Walls Have Ears, Sonic Youth have shared a pre-EVOL version of "Expressway to Yr. Skull".

Culled from three 1985 gigs in the UK during a transitional and transcendent time in the band’s story, Sonic Youth’s Walls Have Ears originally appeared as a 2LP set in 1986, not just a live album but an artful tapestry full of live experimentation with songs, between-song tape segues, darkness, humor and audio verité on par with elements of side B of Master Dik. With a bit of complexity to the situation of the release itself. Deleted as quickly as it appeared, it’s now issued for the first time officially under the band’s auspices.

The ’85 shows were the second time the band appeared on British soil, picking up on a newfound high profile in the press after their 1983 London debut. In Britain, SY found its keyhole to the music business via Paul Smith, who was wowed by a cassette passed to him by Lydia Lunch. Smith’s injection into the band’s creative sphere as a sort of de facto manager type was somewhat in guerilla mode, and the Smith-produced ‘bootleg’ of their ’85 UK gigs surfaced much to everyone’s surprise, just before EVOL, their SST debut, was to be released.

The forthcoming 2LP set brimming with primitive classics such as “The Burning Spear”, “I Love Her All The Time”, “Death Valley 69” and “I’m Insane” (uncredited on sleeve). Claude Bessy (French punk raconteur who moved to LA for a period to cofound Slash Magazine) humorously MC’s their intro to an ULU London gig on 30 October with a lob at the indie label zeitgeist: vocally detailing how Rough Trade had come down on distributing the “Flower” 12” for sporting a xeroxed, nude female on the cover.

The record’s second slab spotlights an April 1985 gig supporting Nick Cave at London’s Hammersmith Palais, before their newly-drafted drummer Steve Shelley was in the band, which was one of the final appearances live of Bob Bert, again featuring some molten takes on “Brother James”, “Kill Yr Idols”, “Flower” (Iisted as “The Word (E.V.O.L.)”), “Ghost Bitch” and more.

The long out-of-print 1986 bootleg of Walls Have Ears is set for release on 9 February via goofin'. To listen to the pre-EVOL version of "Expressway to Yr. Skull", visit

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