Death Valley '69

Album: Bad Moon Rising (1984)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • "Death Valley '69" is a collaboration between Sonic Youth and Lydia Lunch, who worked in a subset of punk rock known as "no wave" - very loud and discomfiting. She wrote and performed the song with the band.

    The song is filled with disjointed images - a Chevy, someone named Sadie - and takes place in Death Valley, California in 1969. The word "death" and musical tone lead many to believe it's a rather evil song, but Lunch says it isn't. "That's a happy pop song," she said in a Songfacts interview. "Read into it what you will. Evil? I guess. I have far more malignant material than that. More terrifying, that's for sure."
  • Appearing on Sonic Youth's second album, Bad Moon Rising, "Death Valley '69" was their first single. The group never aimed for mass appeal but found a devoted audience and earned steady airplay on college radio. Many bands cited them as an influence, including Nirvana, Pavement, and My Bloody Valentine.
  • The first Sonic Youth music video was for this song. Directed by Richard Kern, it's filled with gore, as we see the band members if various states of dismemberment. The lead in the video is Lung Leg, the actress/model who appears on the cover of their 1986 album Evol.

Comments: 1

  • Clif from The Mountains Of The WorldBeen a listener of Sonic Youth from their first releases. I'm a professional artist. oil painter. I've heard that Gerhard Richter had something to do with album.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Concert Disasters

Concert DisastersFact or Fiction

Ozzy biting a dove? Alice Cooper causing mayhem with a chicken? Creed so bad they were sued? See if you can spot the real concert mishaps.

Roger McGuinn of The Byrds

Roger McGuinn of The ByrdsSongwriter Interviews

Roger reveals the songwriting formula Clive Davis told him, and if "Eight Miles High" is really about drugs.

Jay, Peaches, Spinderella and other Darrining Victims

Jay, Peaches, Spinderella and other Darrining VictimsSong Writing

Just like Darrin was replaced on Bewitched, groups have swapped out original members, hoping we wouldn't notice.

Producer Ron Nevison

Producer Ron NevisonSong Writing

Ron Nevison explains in very clear terms the Quadrophenia concept and how Heart staged their resurgence after being dropped by their record company.

Tommy James

Tommy JamesSongwriter Interviews

"Mony Mony," "Crimson and Clover," "Draggin' The Line"... the hits kept coming for Tommy James, and in a plot line fit for a movie, his record company was controlled by the mafia.

Janis Ian

Janis IanSongwriter Interviews

One of the first successful female singer-songwriters, Janis had her first hit in 1967 at age 15.