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5 Things You Should Know About Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo.jpg
Carlie Armstrong
Matador Records

1. The group, which was founded in 1984 in Hoboken, New Jersey, takes its name from a sporting anecdote: Legend has it that during the 1962 season two members of the New York Mets––center fielder Richie Ashburn and shortstop Elio Chacon––collided on an all-too-frequent basis. A native of Venezuela, Chacon was confused when Ashburn would yell, “I’ve got it!” as he was going after a ball. A teammate intervened and told Ashburn that he might have more luck yelling "¡Yo la tengo!" (Spanish for “I’ve got it!”) instead. He did––only to be knocked about by left fielder Frank Thomas, who allegedly quipped, “What’s a yellow tango?”

2. Co-founders Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan are married, brought together by a love of the Mets and music. In the band’s early years both frequently took on work as copy editors, adding to humor to the frequent misspellings of the band’s name. One song, “The Story of Yo La Tango” (from 2006’s I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass) is a nod to those persistent typos.

3. Hubley is the daughter of filmmakers John Hubley and Faith Elliott Hubley. Her father is credited as a co-creator of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo and worked for Disney, lending a hand to such classics as Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Bambi and Fantasia. He and his wife received an Academy Award for the short animated film Moonbird (1959). After John Hubley died in 1977, Faith continued to make films, including a series of shorts for Sesame Street, plus the titles Amazonia, Beyond the Shadow Place, and Northern Ice, Golden Sun. Another Hubley child, Emily, is also a filmmaker with titles such as The Toe Tactic to her credit.

4. The trio’s 2006 album I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass was also inspired by a sports story, this time something supposedly uttered by New York Knicks small forward Kurt Thomas.

5. Among the bands that have had the greatest influence on Yo La Tengo are The Kinks, NRBQ, The Velvet Underground, The dB’s, and The Feelies.

Further reading: Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and The Rise of Indie Rock by Jesse Jarnow

Selected discography:

  • Fakebook (1990)
  • Painful (1993)
  • Electr-O-Pura (1995)
  • I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One (1997)
  • Summer Sun (2003)
  • I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (2006)
  • Fade (2013)
Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.