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On Deck: Sonny Smith

By ; January 14, 2013 at 7:31 AM 

Sonny Smith

On Deck is a column dedicated to giving artists some room to talk about what they’re currently listening to and to explore some of their favorite and most influential records.

Sonny Smith seems to digest genres like other people tear through boxes of chocolate.  It can get messy, but there will always be something that you absolutely love when you’ve finally gone through the whole thing.  Through the surf pop and classic AM rock of full-time band Sonny & the Sunsets, Sonny Smith lovingly weaves tributes to the artists which he so obviously holds in high esteem–artists like Jonathan Richman, Buddy Holly, and The Ventures.  But on his latest musical adventure, the absurdly elaborate 100 records project, Smith created 100 fictional bands and wrote a single for each, including an A-side and a B-side.

Making its way through various art studios and museums across the US, this musical art project was displayed as a jukebox with full artwork for each single.  If you haven’t heard any songs from this collection, head over to Polyvinyl’s website for a few examples.  Listen to the song “If You Don’t Make A Change” by Don Adora’e–one of the many fictional bands Smith created–below.

When asked to contribute to our On Deck feature, Smith, currently in Costa Rica, decided to forgo the traditional list format and instead gave us what amounts to a travelogue of musical memories.  These are records and songs that touch on some distinct memory or specific time in his life.  From Graham Nash to Norma Tanega, Smith draws on various avenues of musical association to give us an aural diary of certain parts of his past.  Enjoy his musically-minded recollections in our latest installment of On Deck.


Philip Glass - Solo Piano

A long time ago, I was borrowing a car–someone’s car–and in the old tape deck, there was a tape of Phillip Glass’ Solo Piano. I took the tape. I stole it from my friend. I’ve had the tape ever since and am still in love with it; I listen to it all the time. So even though I stole my friend’s tape, I’ve proven my love for it.

Around this time, I was also in Central America, and someone had a song on a mix.  It was using the theme song from Taxi, the 70’s TV show. It was called “Cab Fare” by Hieroglyphics. I never knew much about them, but I listen to that song all the time, and it reminds me where I was at that time.

Not too long ago, I was driving along with someone in their truck. She had Graham Nash on her stereo. It was from Music for Beginners. It was “Military Madness”–I think–or ‘I Used To Be A King’. She turns to me and says, “This record saved my life!”  Ok, I want to be saved too.  So I went home and bought it, and I listen and think about her saying that. People say that it’s hyperbole, but it’s literal too.

Graham Nash - Songs for Beginners

Lately, I noticed a song on my iTunes but I don’t know how it got there–called “If It’s Alive, It Will’ by Angel Olsen. I don’t know anything about her, but it is a great song. I dont’ know how it got on the computer, but that’s how these things happen these days. She’s singing something about thoughts existing in more than one person’s mind. I’m not sure…I’m not sure if that is possible. Oscar Wilde, he said it’s not possible, metaphysically, to have the same thoughts as someone else. He says it in the transcripts of his trial. Well, who knows. I’m only pondering, but it’s a superlative song.

I was sleeping in a yurt, in the backyard of a promoter, in Switzerland. She was showing me so much stuff, I couldn’t keep it in my mind, but one was Norma Tanega. And she was playing the song “You’re Dead,” which is so strong. So strong. Like a punch to the face. A beautiful punch. And then later, off other record her song “Jubilation.” An ideal, promising vision.

When I was seventeen, I made these two friends. They were Italian, and they were older than me, 25 or so. They showed me a few songs on the guitar–“Under the Boardwalk,” “Stand By Me,” “Jealous Guy,” and a few others. They always brought me around in their car.  We were in Portugal, and they’d go into these euro clubs and score these chicks and get them to come with us somewhere to party–an apartment, or a rooftop somewhere, or something.  They’d ask me to play these tunes. Then they would shag these girls, right in front of me, while I was playing “Stand By Me.” So I always remember those songs.

Be sure to check out Sonny Smith’s upcoming release 100 Records Vol. 3 out January 29th via Polyvinyl Records.


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