"Teen Age Riot"
Single by Sonic Youth
from the album Daydream Nation
ReleasedOctober 1988 (1988-10)
RecordedJuly–August 1988
StudioGreene St. Recording, New York City
Length3:50 (single version)
6:57 (album version)
LabelBlast First
Sonic Youth singles chronology
"Teen Age Riot"
"Silver Rocket"

"Teen Age Riot" is a song by American rock band Sonic Youth, and the first single from their 1988 album, Daydream Nation. It received heavy airplay on modern rock stations and considerably expanded their audience (along with the album itself).

"Teen Age Riot" is one of Sonic Youth's most recognizable songs,[1] yet it is something of an oddity amongst their repertoire, consisting of a traditional verse-chorus pop song structure.

The song was included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and is an on-disc track in Rock Band 2.

Lyrical themes

The song is about an alternate reality where J Mascis is president of the United States. In the liner notes accompanying the deluxe edition of Daydream Nation, Byron Coley quoted Thurston Moore on "Teen Age Riot": "It was actually about appointing J Mascis as our de facto alternative dream president".[1]

Song structure

The album version of the song has two distinct parts. The intro section features a repeating, hypnotic guitar melody, and Kim Gordon reciting in a stream-of-consciousness manner such utterances as "You're it, no you're it / Say it, don't spray it / Miss me, don't dismiss me / Spirit desire / We will fall." ("We Will Fall" is a reference to the Stooges' song of the same name from their debut eponymous album). After 80 seconds, all instruments stop, and Moore breaks through the fading instruments with a fast, distorted, noisy guitar riff, opening the main section of the song. The riff leads to the dynamic guitar melody that plays throughout the rest of the song with the vocal melody, sung by Moore. The riff that opens the section is repeated once again afterwards in the song, with all of the instruments accompanying it in an interlude that leads to the song's last few lines.

As with many Sonic Youth songs, the guitars were unconventionally tuned; in this case, Moore's pentatonic tuning was (reading from left to right, the lowest-pitched string to the highest-pitched string) GABDEG and Lee Ranaldo's tuning was GGDDGG, as published in a Guitar World interview with the band.[2]

Some live performances of "Teen Age Riot" omitted the opening section sung by Gordon, notably the live version recorded and released with the deluxe edition of Daydream Nation. The opening section was also cut from the song's music video.

Music video

The video for the song was Sonic Youth's fourth overall, excluding the low-budget Ciccone Youth videos; the band directed it themselves. It included clips of many icons of alternative music culture such as Mascis, Mark E. Smith, Johnny Thunders, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Sun Ra, D. Boon, Mike Watt, Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Blixa Bargeld and Kiss.

Formats and track listing

UK and US 12-inch single (BFUS34)
  1. "Teen Age Riot" (Gordon, Moore, Ranaldo, Shelley) – 3:50
  2. "Silver Rocket" (Gordon, Moore, Ranaldo, Shelley) – 3:47
  3. "Kissability" (Gordon, Moore, Ranaldo, Shelley) – 3:08
UK and US 7-inch flexi disc single (CAT064)
  1. "Teen Age Riot" (Gordon, Moore, Ranaldo, Shelley) – 6:39

Chart performance

Chart (1988) Peak
US Alternative Airplay (Billboard)[3] 20


  1. ^ a b "Teen Age Riot". Allmusic.
  2. ^ Guitar Player, Issue 259, Vol. 25, No. 8, August 1991
  3. ^ "Sonic Youth Chart History (Alternative Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved 7 August 2017.

Coley, Byron and Farell, Ray; Liner Notes, Daydream Nation, 'deluxe edition', copyright 2007 Geffen Records.