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Sonic Youth Reclaim Two Guitars Stolen In 1999

Written by Marc Zanotti on 25th September, 2012

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Way back before the year began with the numeral ‘2’, seminal rockers Sonic Youth were the victims of a mass heist. On July 4, 1999 a truck containing all of Sonic Youth’s customised equipment was hijacked in Orange County, California. Over the 13 years since the robbery only 5 guitars have been recovered, but in a week of good fortune Thurston Moore’s white Jazzmaster and Lee Ranaldo’s burgundy Jazzmaster have come back into the procession of the band.

According to Pitchfork, Moore’s white Jazzmaster, which was played on songs such as Bull in the Heather and in the music video for Diamond Sea, surfaced on Ebay. According to Ranaldo, the vigilant Belgium fan noticed the modified guitar and then notified the band.

“He wrote saying, ‘Check out this auction. The color’s different, but it definitely looks like your guitar. The serial number matches’,” Ranaldo revealed.

As for Ranaldo’s burgundy Jazzmaster, which features on Sonic Youth’s French Tickler from 1998 record A Thousand Leaves, the guitar was recognised in a forum discussion on OffsetGuitars when it was put up for sale by a pawn shop.

“Three pages into this discussion, someone said, ‘This looks like it’s Sonic Youth-ized or one of those stolen SY guitars’,” said Ranaldo.

“I’m just so curious as to whatever happened to the rest,” Lee added. “It was a massive amount of gear to see only these few guitars come back. I would love to one day know the real story.”

As noted by Pitchfork, the band first started to recover some of their unique equipment back in 2005, with the following tale from Ranaldo explaining how the ‘road to recovery’ all began.

“These two scruffy teenage boys came up. They told us they knew about our stolen guitars. One claimed his uncle was involved with stealing the van. We were like, ‘yeah, sure kid’. But he sent us these anonymous pictures of our gear in basements – foot pedals where you could see our crew guys’ writing on the sides, and somebody’s sneaker on top. These kids were destitute. They’d been kicked out of their homes, living in a car in LA. We said, ‘we’ll give you a few hundred dollars each for them’. It did happen.”

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