Fifteen years ago, Kim Gordon was in the passenger’s seat of her friend’s car, northbound to her home in Northampton, Massachusetts. New York City was engulfed in smoke after the worst terrorist attack in modern American history. “It felt like jumping a sinking ship,” Gordon tells Rolling Stone. “It was just so sad, so surreal.”
“I remember when I got up to Northampton, I heard that Neil Young song about Ohio playing on the radio,” she said. “I really felt the meaning of it in a certain way … This was such a large-scale violent moment in America that we’d never experienced in years and years, not since the bloodshed of the Civil War.”
Gordon is currently half of the experimental guitar duo Body/Head. In 1980, at age 27, Gordon was an artist shuttling her life across the jagged West Side Highway. Over the following decades, she would become the bassist and singer in one of New York’s most significant punk bands, Sonic Youth. The band championed noise and distilled the intensity of downtown’s waning punk scene with the tonal experiments of No Wave. Gordon lived in an apartment on 84 Eldridge Street. She was later joined by a bodega cat named Sweetface and a lanky guitarist who would become her bandmate, then husband, named Thurston Moore.
By 2001, Gordon was living in Northampton with their young daughter, Coco. Gordon was adjusting, awkwardly she wrote in her acclaimed memoir Girl in a Band, to suburban life. But on September 10th, she happened to be in New York for the evening, about a month into recording Sonic Youth’s twelfth album, Murray Street.
“It was the height of a certain decadent moment in New York,” Gordon said. “I was out on a dock at the launch of a Marc Jacobs perfume line. There were thousands of magnolia flowers. It was just one of those magical New York nights.” After the attacks, Gordon didn’t return to her adopted city for a few weeks. Progress on the record came to a halt, because the Financial District recording studio was blocks away from the former site of the World Trade Center.
“I remember my daughter seeing all the flags when we came back; it was like she could sense this surge of nationalism,” Gordon said. “I remember the sense of having to go through the barricade to get to the studio. The street was lined with fencing. It was completely gutted because the power line of downtown went under Murray Street and as a result, it had blown out our board. When we went back to continue working on that record, it was like an oasis. You could just feel everything around you.”
Gordon is currently playing select dates with guitarist Bill Nace as the duo Body/Head, which released its debut album Coming Apart on September 10, 2013.