From the 1990 album “Goo,” this is Sonic Youth’s non-ironic tribute to Karen Carpenter. I can’t say for sure whether this was inspired by Todd Haynes’ legendary underground short “Superstar,” but the spirit is the same. Both “Superstar” and “Tunic” may seem snarky considering that the artists involved came from the underground, but the sentiment is anything but. Which is why the song still packs a punch nearly 25 years later.
When Todd Haynes decided to make a film loosely based on the life of David Bowie, he took a similar approach to his idea that Allison Anders did when she wanted to make a film about a Carole King in “Grace of My Heart.” That approach was to use significant events from their subject’s lives, but make a fiction film and to change things enough to make their films more dramatically interesting. The approach was smart in both cases, because they didn’t have to worry about being factually accurate and could tell whatever story they wanted.
The result isn’t perfect, but Haynes’s film “Velvet Goldmine” is mesmerizing and he hired some great 1990s-era musicians to recreate the highlights from the English glam-rock era. “The Ballad of Maxwell Demon” is Shudder to Think’s variation on Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and “All the Young Dudes” and it’s a damn good song. The lyrics even recall “Dudes” directly: “Six feet down when I’m 25” is similar to the first verse in “Dudes.”