Yo La Tengo
A favorite of
Yo La Tengo (Spanish for "I've got it"; also abbreviated as YLT) is an American indie rock band formed in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1984. Since 1992, the lineup has consisted of Ira Kaplan (guitars, piano,…
Yo La Tengo (Spanish for "I've got it"; also abbreviated as YLT) is an American indie rock band formed in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1984. Since 1992, the lineup has consisted of Ira Kaplan (guitars, piano, vocals), Georgia Hubley (drums, piano, vocals), and James McNew (bass, vocals). In 2015, original guitarist Dave Schramm rejoined the band and appears on their fourteenth album, Stuff Like That There.
Despite achieving limited mainstream success, Yo La Tengo has been called "the quintessential critics' band" and maintains a strong cult following. Though they mostly play original material, the band performs a wide repertoire of cover songs both in live performance and on record.
Formation and early history, 1984–1985
Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley formed the band as a couple in 1984. They chose the name Yo La Tengo, Spanish for "I have it". The name came from a baseball anecdote that occurred during the 1962 season, when New York Mets center fielder Richie Ashburn and shortstop Elio Chacón found themselves colliding in the outfield. When Ashburn went for a catch, he would scream, "I got it! I got it!" only to run into Chacón, a Venezuelan who spoke only Spanish. Ashburn learned to yell, "Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!" instead. In a later game, Ashburn happily saw Chacón backing off. He relaxed, positioned himself to catch the ball, and was instead run over by left fielder Frank Thomas, who understood no Spanish and had missed a team meeting that proposed using the words "Yo la tengo!" as a way to avoid outfield collisions. After getting up, Thomas asked Ashburn, "What the hell is a yellow tango?"
Kaplan and Hubley placed an advertisement to recruit other musicians who shared their love for bands such as the Soft Boys, Mission of Burma, and Arthur Lee's Love. The group's debut recording was a 7" single entitled "The River of Water" backed with a cover of Lee's "A House Is Not a Motel", released in late 1985 with Dave Schramm on lead guitar and Dave Rick on bass. After recording "Private Doberman" for inclusion on a Coyote Records compilation entitled Luxury Condos Coming to Your Neighborhood Soon, Rick left the band and was replaced by Mike Lewis, the founding bass player of Boston garage-punk bands DMZ and Lyres, who was also a member of Brooklyn garage rock band the A-Bones throughout his tenure in YLT.