Happy Anniversary: Laurie Anderson, Big Science

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Happy Anniversary: Laurie Anderson, Big Science

34 years ago today, Laurie Anderson released her debut album, an artsy, avant-garde affair which remains a completely unforgettable listening experience even now.

Anderson was the toast of the New York art community in the 1970s, earning attention with such noted performance-art pieces as Duets on Ice, where she played violin along with a recording while wearing ice skates with their blades frozen into a block of ice. (The piece’s conclusion came when the ice melted.) Her first single, “It’s Not the Bullet that Kills You (It’s the Hole),” was released in a limited-edition capacity in 1977, after which she began to find further acclaim and recognition, working with poet John Giorno and comedian Andy Kaufman – independently of each other, just for the record – and appearing at the Nova Convention in 1978, alongside folks like William S. Burroughs, John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass, Timothy Leary, and Frank Zappa.

In 1981, Anderson released her groundbreaking single “O Superman,” an excerpt from a stage work called United States Live, but the song also ended up on her debut full-length release, Big Science, which is what brings us here today. It’s fair to say that Anderson became a much more popular artist in the UK thanks to “O Superman,” which surprised just about everyone by climbing all the way to #2 on the UK Singles chart.

Sadly, Americans weren’t nearly as smitten with “O Superman,” which failed to make it onto the Hot 100, but Big Science itself did hit #124 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, which is pretty startling in and of itself, especially when you consider how far outside the mainstream Anderson’s sound was.

Sorry, did we say “was”? It still is, of course. But Big Science is where Anderson set the stage for the masses and let new listeners know that she was a true individual.