The XX Factor

Kim Gordon on Kurt Cobain, Breast Milk, and Discovering Thurston Moore’s Affair

Kim Gordon performing in 2014.

Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MOCA

Foxy perpetual girl crush Kim Gordon has a new memoir out Tuesday, called, tongue-deeply-in-cheek, Girl in a Band. For about three decades, Gordon was Sonic Youth’s bass player and one of its singers, until her husband and band-mate, Thurston Moore, had an affair that tore both the band and their marriage apart. Gordon is an artist, first—she came to New York in 1980 and her book has some delightful, gossipy bits about her days in the downtown art scene. It also has a lot of poignant, smart insights on marriage, motherhood, and being a woman and creative soul. Here are five standout moments from Gordon’s memoir—though you should really read the whole thing.


On the first video shoot postpartum, 1994:

When Coco was two months old, Thurston and I flew to L.A. to shoot a video for our cover of the Carpenter’s song “Superstar,” shot by Lance Accord—who brought in a gold microphone that, to my mind, made the whole video—with Dave Markey directing. I loved Thurston’s singing, and the whole production looked gorgeous (“Superstar” has some of the best lyrics ever.) I was still feeling heavy with extra baby weight and managed somehow to fit into a giant red velvet prom dress. Traveling to California with a two-month-old baby was another ‘new mom’ thing to have to worry about; dripping breast milk during a video shoot is not very rock! [Ed note: Disagree. It’s totally rock.]


On Lana Del Rey:

Today we have someone like Lana Del Rey, who doesn’t even know what feminism is, who believes it means women can do whatever they want, which, in her world, tilts towards self-destruction, whether it’s sleeping with gross older men or being a transient biker queen. Equal pay and equal rights would be nice.

On her friendship with Kurt Cobain:

Later, soon after Kurt and Courtney got together and had their baby, Frances Bean, we were playing in Seattle, and the two of them came to see us. After the show, Kurt cornered me in the dressing room. ‘I don’t know what to do,’ he said. ‘Courtney thinks Frances likes me more than her.’…I remember that conversation vividly, so telling in so many ways, the first being that Kurt had no one he felt comfortable asking for advice; the second being that yes, Courtney was utterly self-absorbed; and finally, that Kurt probably did spend more time with Frances than Courtney did.


On writing the song “Swimsuit Issue”:

After the band signed with Geffen, a story came out about an executive there who had sexually harassed his secretary. That was the inspiration for “Swimsuit Issue.” I found it strange that Geffen, like a lot of companies, had a “Secretary’s Day,” but secretaries never seemed to get promoted to anything above that level. The song was meant to spotlight that hypocrisy.

On discovering Moore’s affair:

And so it all started, in slow motion, a pattern of lies, ultimatums, and phony promises, followed by e-mails and texts that almost felt designed to be stumbled on so as to force me to make a decision that he, Thurston, was too much of a coward to face. I was furious. It wasn’t just the responsibility he was refusing to take; it was the person he had turned me into: his mother. I could either put up with the humiliation, or I could end things.