Gary Young, Pavement’s original drummer, has died. The news was confirmed by his wife, Geri Bernstein Young. Young was 70.
Born in Mamaroneck, New York, Young was a well-known “punk-rock hippie” and also answered to “the Plantman.” While living in Stockton, California, Young played around in local punk bands, including the Fall Of Christianity, and booked acts such as Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, and Black Flag.
When Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kanneberg (or, if you like, S.M. and Spiral Stairs) formed Pavement in the late 1980s, they went to record at Young’s Louder Than You Think Studio. Young provided studio drums, which led to his becoming the band’s drummer.
Over the course of his time with Pavement, Young played on their first EP, 1989’s Slay Tracks (1933-1969), plus 1990’s Demolition Plot J-7 and 1991’s Perfect Sound Forever. Young also appeared on their 1992 debut album, Slanted And Enchanted. His last release as a member of Pavement was the 1992 EP Watery, Domestic. He was eventually replaced by Steve West. In 1999, however, Young came back to produce two Major Leagues EP tracks. He also reunited with the band to play two shows in 2010.
In addition to his melodic percussion style, Young became well known for engaging with audiences in quirky ways. He’d greet fans at the door by giving them cabbage, mashed potatoes, or cinnamon toast. He also became notorious for doing onstage handstands and running around the venue as the band was playing.
After Pavement, Young released three albums under the name Gary Young’s Hospital. The music video for the song “Plant Man” was even featured in the Beavis And Butthead Season 5 episode “Skin Trade.” Over in the gear world, Young developed and patented the Universal Shock Mount used for microphones, making each one personally. This past year, SXSW premiered a documentary about Young called Louder Than You Think. (If you’re in Melbourne, there’s actually a scheduled screening of the documentary tomorrow with Spiral Stairs.)
“Gary Young passed on today .. . Gary’s pavement drums were ‘one take and hit record’…. Nailed it so well. rip,” Stephen Malkmus wrote on Twitter. Spiral Stairs wrote, “Gary left us today! What a beautiful legend! Learned so much from his years! SM and I started this whole mess with Gary back in 89 and his music and soul will live on forever! Much love to Geri and his friends and family.”
Pavement’s official account also shared this statement:
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 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.
“When I first heard them, I did not understand it,” Young told Vice in 2015 about Pavement. “I’d tell my friends in New York I just made this weird record and I don’t really know how to describe it. Three or four years later I realized that we had really done something. But it took me a long time to figure it out. The classic example of this for me is that Yes is my favorite band.”