“His enthusiasm for playing live music was relentless and unrepentant”
Gary Young, the influential former drummer for California indie rock greats Pavement, has died at the age of 70.
Young was a longtime fixture of the Stockton punk scene, booking acts like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and served in the band the Fall of Christianity before joining Pavement in 1989. He played in the group on their early EPs as well as their classic 1992 Matador Records debut Slanted and Enchanted, leaving their ranks after the Watery, Domestic EP. But while Pavement moved on with present drummer Steve West in 1993, Gary still kept in touch with his old bandmates, producing two songs on their 1999 EP Major Leagues and joining them on a number of dates during their 2010 reunion tour.
Following Pavement, Young released a series of albums under the name Gary Young’s Hospital and also shared the Malfunction EP in 2016 under his own name. One of his best known songs as a solo artist was “Plant Man,” which featured Thurston Moore in its video.
“Gary Young, forever young, playing cassettes of Yes and King Crimson on the road with Sonic Youth, Sebadoh, Cell, Huggy Bear and his genius band Pavement,” the Sonic Youth guitarist wrote on his Facebook page, “handing out dead Autumn leaves to each person entering the gig in Berlin, loving every minute of our lives together even when us kids got grumpy, Gary had FUN, and those of us who got to hang with him will never forget this amazing cat. Photo is by the director Tom Surgal who cast @twodollarguitar and myself as living dancing trees in Gary’s ‘Plant Man’ video. What an honor and what a gift sweet Gary was. Rest in rock n roll peace brother.”
In 2023, a documentary chronicling Young’s life and career, Louder Than You Think, premiered at SXSW.
Below is the full message Pavement collectively posted on social media in honor of their fallen comrade:
Garrit Allan Robertson Young put Pavement on the map. He recorded all of our records from the Slay Tracks 7” through to the Watery, Domestic EP. He did it all in his garage, a studio called Louder Than You Think. Stephen and Spiral knew him from the Stockton punk rock scene and got his phone number from the yellow pages. He made all of their early songs happen as tried to grasp their youthful mayhem and, make sense of it all. That, he did.
He was made to play drums in rock and roll bands. He came from the “Keith Moon school of drummers.” It’s an unofficial school. But, Gary graduated from it with honors. We’ve had the great pleasure of seeing insanely talented drummers. He drummed very hard from a different planet despite being born and raised in Mamaroneck, New York on the easiest birthdate ever to remember (5/3/53).
To us and all who knew him, he was a fearless fireball. His enthusiasm for playing live music was relentless and unrepentant.
He was the the best storyteller we’ve known and a unique judge of character. The things he experienced before we knew him blew our minds.
Gary loved tension. He wanted to make people excited and anxious. He accomplished both.
We embraced him and he taught us myriads of things that we never thought about. He was an educator. In ways, we were his apprentices.
Pavement has been an extremely fortunate endeavor from the start and, somehow, continues to be.
Without Gary, many people would not have noticed us. In all of the best ways, he was a freak show. He was magnetic. He was magical. He was dangerous. We could think of him as an uncle, an older brother that none of us had. But, he was a rare breed called Gary aka The Rotting Man. We loved his parents, Bob Young and Betty Quick. On many occasions, they looked after us.
We all loved him and it was life changing to have a staggering weapon to play music with.
Collectively, our hearts go out to Geri Bernstein, Gary’s wife, who was with him for nearly 50 years, and kept him going and staying as vibrant as possible past the age of 70.
Love you Gary. We’re sure you’re doing handstands off of roofs, biting high hat cymbals, fake drowning at the bottom of your pool and dodging rocks glasses and police-fired bullets aimed at your head.
The Plant Man lives on every time Pavement steps on a stage and will continue to do so. 🥁
Rest in Peace, Gary.
AUDIO: Gary Young “Plant Man”