In The Beatles, George Harrison often suffered the indignity of being limited to two songs per LP. It worked fine at the start of the group, when he was the junior partner in the band. By the end of The Beatles’ tenure, the rule had become a severe limitation on their potential. By 1969’s Abbey Road Harrison was pumping out classics and the album would have benefited from more Harrison songs as opposed to ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ and seven minutes of I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’.
Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo described his experiences in the band as George Harrison syndrome. Most vocals were handled by the husband and wife team Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, and Ranaldo was generally limited to a couple of songs on each studio album.
Tensions reached a head on 1992’s Dirty – when the album was trimmed from 19 tracks, one of four songs removed was Lee Ranaldo’s ‘Genetic’. Unusually for Sonic Youth the song was personal for Ranaldo – he was going through a separation and the song addressed his feelings for his son.
Moore argued that Sonic Youth usually released songs that the quartet worked up together, and ‘Genetic’ deviated too far from the template. Some sources suggest that Ranaldo considered leaving the band over the issue, although according to Ranaldo in David Browne’s Goodbye 20th Century, “it never got that extreme.” Band politics eventually settled down, although Ranaldo didn’t contribute any songs to followup album Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star as a result of his disappointment at having his songs cut from Goo and Dirty.
In hindsight, Dirty was an intermittently excellent but somewhat compromised album from Sonic Youth. Production was handled by Butch Vig, who’d recently taken Nirvana from the fringes to the big time, and it felt like a similar gambit for Sonic Youth (the album peaked at #6 in the UK, but was less successful in the US charts). Like a lot of albums from the CD-dominant era of the early 1990s, Dirty is a little long, but ‘Genetic’ would have been a great fit, toning down the uncomfortable strain towards mass acceptance.
Let me tell you every thought that I’ve come to
When I think of all the things that you do
I can’t see if you’re the only one, it’s hard to say
And I think it’s all the same to me today
I can see you too
If I can just see you this one time
I sit alone everyone’s at home
I see it, I believe
Somehow I know it’s true
Your genetic kiss to me
I live inside of you
I have heard it said before it’ll never happen
Had it drilled in since a kid it makes my head spin
I’m still looking for these thing that I can’t find
Thought just come and go swirling through my mind
I see me and you
Then it’s him, I’m thinking of
We sit alone, no one else at home
I taste it, I feel
And now I know it’s true
Your genetic kiss reveals
I’ll always be with you