Fun and Rocking!
The Pixies are an American alternative rock band that formed in Boston in 1986. The group disbanded in 1993 under acrimonious circumstances but reunited in 2004. Black Francis (lead vocals and guitar), Joey Santiago (guitar), Kim Deal (bass), and David Lovering (drums) have been the band’s continual members. While the Pixies found only modest success in their home country, they were significantly more successful in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, although never achieving mainstream success with their studio albums.
The band’s style of alternative rock music is heavily influenced by punk and indie rock, and while highly melodic, is capable of being tremendously abrasive at the same time. Francis is the Pixies’ primary songwriter and singer and has a distinctly desperate, yowling delivery. He has typically written cryptic songs about offbeat subjects, such as UFOs and surrealism. References to mental instability, violent Biblical imagery, and physical injury feature in many of the band’s songs.
The group is frequently posited as the immediate forebear of the alternative rock boom of the 1990s, though they disbanded before reaping any of the benefits this might have brought them. Avowed fan Kurt Cobain’s acknowledgement of the debt Nirvana owed to the Pixies, along with similar tributes by other alternative bands, ensured that the Pixies’ legacy and influence grew substantially in the years following their demise.
The history of the Pixies began when undergraduates Joey Santiago and Black Francis (born Charles Thompson IV) shared a room at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Santiago soon introduced Francis to the music of David Bowie and 1970s punk rock, and the pair began to jam together. Francis then embarked on a student exchange trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, but upon arriving struggled to grasp the Spanish language. After spending six months in an apartment with a “weirdo, psycho, gay roommate”, he returned to Amherst and dropped out of the university. The two spent 1984 working in a warehouse, with Francis composing songs on his acoustic guitar and writing lyrics on the subway train.
The pair formed a band in January 1986. Bassist Kim Deal joined Santiago and Francis two weeks later after responding to a classified advertisement Francis had placed, seeking a female bassist who liked both folk music icons Peter, Paul and Mary and the hardcore punk band Hüsker Dü. Deal was the only person to respond, but arrived at the audition without a bass guitar as she had never played the instrument before. She claimed her twin sister Kelley Deal had a bass back in Dayton and that she had no money to get it. Francis lent her $50 for the airfare and Deal returned with the bass guitar. The trio started rehearsing in Deal’s apartment, “because the old lady upstairs couldn’t hear.”
After recruiting Deal, the band tried unsuccessfully to get her sister to join as its drummer. Kim’s husband suggested they hire drummer David Lovering, whom Kim had met at her wedding reception. The group arrived at a name after Santiago selected the word “pixies” randomly from a dictionary and took a liking to its definition as “mischievous little elves”. The group was originally named “Pixies In Panoply” (“Things on Fire” was considered), but soon shortened it to “Pixies”. Once the band had settled on a name and stable line-up, they moved rehearsals to Lovering’s parents’ garage in mid-1986. Their first show—named as “possibly the worst gig in the history of rock” by the band—took place at the The Rathskeller, Boston, where they performed early versions of “Here Comes Your Man”, “Dig for Fire”, and “Build High”.
Record contract and Come On Pilgrim
While the Pixies were playing a concert with Throwing Muses, they were noticed by producer Gary Smith (Fort Apache Studios). He told the band he “could not sleep until you guys are world famous.” The band produced a 17 track demo at Fort Apache soon afterwards, known to fans as “The Purple Tape” because of the tape cover’s purple background. Funded by Francis’ father at the cost of $1000, the recording session was completed in three days. The tape was released exclusively as a demo to interested parties, including Ivo Watts-Russell at independent record label 4AD and local promoter Ken Goes, who became the band’s manager. Watts-Russell nearly passed on the band, finding them too normal, “too rock ‘n’ roll”, but signed them at the persuasion of his girlfriend.
Upon signing with 4AD (the band later claimed they were “the coolest record company to pay on time”), eight tracks from the Purple Tape were selected for the Come On Pilgrim EP, the band’s first release. In the EP, Francis drew upon his experiences in Puerto Rico, mostly in the songs “Vamos” and “Isla de Encanta”; the album included lyrics describing the poverty in Puerto Rico. The religious lyrics in Come On Pilgrim and later albums came from his born-again Christian days in the Pentecostal Church.
Come On Pilgrim showcased much of the Pixies’ variety and set up the beginnings of many trends in their music. It includes two songs partly sung in Spanish (“Vamos” and “Isla de Encanta”) and two songs that explicitly mention incest—”Nimrod’s Son” and “The Holiday Song” (About this sound sample (help·info)). “I’ve Been Tired” refers metaphorically to sex and rock and roll culture and features a sense of humor, and there are four songs with religious references (“Caribou”, “Nimrod’s Son”, “I’ve Been Tired” and “The Holiday Song”). Beyond lyrical trends, Come On Pilgrim displayed Santiago’s erratic leads (as best displayed in “Vamos”), Kim Deal’s harmonies (the then-married Deal used the pseudonym “Mrs. John Murphy” on the first few Pixies records, as an ironic feminist joke), and Black Francis’s vocal range, from screaming to simple, traditional sung melodies.
Surfer Rosa and Doolittle
Come On Pilgrim was followed by the band’s first full-length album, Surfer Rosa. The album was recorded by Steve Albini (who was hired by Watts-Russell on the advice of a 4AD colleague), completed in two weeks, and released in early 1988. Albini later became notable for recording Nirvana’s In Utero at the request of Kurt Cobain, who had cited Surfer Rosa as one of his main musical influences, and particularly admired the album’s natural and powerful drum sounds—a result of Albini’s influence on the record. Surfer Rosa gained the Pixies acclaim throughout the musical world; both Melody Maker and Sounds gave Surfer Rosa their “Album of the Year” award. The success of Surfer Rosa would lead to the band signing an American distribution deal with major record label Elektra before the release of its next album.
As with Come On Pilgrim, the band delivered a wide range of song styles. Sonically and thematically, Surfer Rosa was similar to Come On Pilgrim—from the drum-driven “Bone Machine”, that showed a trademark propensity for surreal lyrics, to pop guitar songs such as “Broken Face”, “Break My Body”, and “Brick is Red”. The band included heavier material, such as “Something Against You”, with Black Francis’ distorted screaming a prominent feature in the song, and Q Magazine later named Surfer Rosa as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums of All Time. A re-recorded version of “Vamos”—a song that appeared on Come On Pilgrim—appears on the album. The track, “You Fuckin’ Die! (I Said)” (referred to as “Bonus Track” or “Untitled” on most versions of the CD) that appears toward the end of the album is actually an accidental studio recording of Francis and Deal talking amicably and joking, and despite the title of the song, there is none of the tension present between the two that later drove the band apart.
Surfer Rosa featured popular songs such as “Gigantic”—their first single and one of the few songs on which bassist Kim Deal sang lead vocals —”River Euphrates”, and “Where Is My Mind?”, which was played at the end of the film Fight Club and, as a result, is one of their best-known songs to date.
After their critically acclaimed album, the band arrived in England to support Throwing Muses on the European “Sex and Death” tour—beginning at the Mean Fiddler in London. The tour also took them to the Netherlands, where the Pixies had already received enough media attention to be headlining the tour. Francis later recalled: “The first place I made it with the Pixies was in Holland.” The setlist included new songs such as “In Heaven”, “Hey”, and “Wild Honey Pie”, and the tour became notable for the band’s in-jokes, such as playing their entire set list in alphabetical order. The aforementioned songs were recorded in a Peel session in July at the BBC and they soon made a second trip to the studios; choosing “Dead”, “Tame”, “There Goes My Gun”, and “Manta Ray” to be recorded. In total, the band recorded six Peel sessions and released an album, Pixies at the BBC, with selected recorded tracks from those sessions.
Around this time, the Pixies struck up a relationship with the British producer, Gil Norton. Norton was to produce their second full album, Doolittle (provisionally titled Whore), which was recorded in the last six weeks of 1988 and seen as a departure from the raw sound of Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa. Doolittle had a much cleaner sound, largely due to Norton and the production budget of US$40,000, which was quadruple that of Surfer Rosa. Much of the album’s subject matter remained similar to the previous two albums; several song titles seemed to evoke images of bloodshed and mutilation, such as “I Bleed”, “Wave of Mutilation”, and “Gouge Away”.
Doolittle began with “Debaser”, an ode to the 1929 surrealist Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí film Un chien andalou. “Debaser” is perhaps their most highly regarded song; in March 2005, Q magazine placed the song at number 21 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. Doolittle featured the prominent single “Here Comes Your Man”; an unusually jaunty and pop-like song for the band. It nearly landed the band a mimed appearance on the TV chat show Wogan, which was mocked in the video to the song. “Monkey Gone to Heaven”, the only Pixies song with a string section, was a Top 10 modern rock radio hit in the US, reached the Top 100 in the UK, and still receives regular radio play. Deal’s only songwriting contribution to the album was the song “Silver” (co-written with Francis), on which Deal played slide guitar and Lovering played the bass guitar. Lovering sang lead vocals on “La La Love You”, an atypical love song from the band.
Like Surfer Rosa, Doolittle was acclaimed by fans and music critics alike, and it is perhaps their best-selling record; it was certified gold by the RIAA on November 10, 1995. In 2003, the album was ranked number 226 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It also placed on Q Magazine’s 100 Greatest Albums Ever.
After Doolittle tensions between Deal and Francis came to a head (for example, Francis threw a guitar at Deal during a concert in Stuttgart), and Deal was almost fired from the band. Santiago, in an interview to Mojo, explained:
Kim was headstrong and wanted to include her own songs, to explore her own world. The way I think Charles [Black Francis] saw it, the band made pizzas, not cookies. Before we made Bossanova, we were even going to fire her after a gig in Frankfurt where we found her hanging out in her hotel room with no intention of playing. But our lawyer convinced us to try and work it out, to give her a warning or something. You know, I blocked that incident out of my head, that was too heavy for me. Kim couldn’t believe I’d be party to it but I told her, she didn’t seem happy, so why hang around? In the end, Kim realized it was Charles’s bag, that he was the singer, but they kinda stopped talking after that.
During the post-Doolittle “Fuck or Fight” tour of the United States, intended to promote the release of the album, the band’s hectic schedule took its toll on the band members; the Pixies had released three albums in two years, as well as constant touring. Near the end of the 1989 tour, during their homecoming Boston concert, Deal was in a drunken state, and Santiago smashed up his instruments and stormed off-stage. After the tour’s final date in New York, the band was too exhausted to attend the end-of-tour party the following night and soon announced a hiatus.
During this time, Santiago traveled to the Grand Canyon to “find himself”, and Lovering jetted off to Jamaica. Francis bought a yellow Cadillac and crossed America with his girlfriend (due to an aversion to flying), and while doing so performed solo gigs in order to raise money for furniture in his new Los Angeles apartment. Deal formed a new band, The Breeders, named after a band she had formed with her sister as a teenager, with Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses and bassist Josephine Wiggs of Perfect Disaster. Their debut album, Pod, was released later that year.
Bossanova, Trompe le Monde, and breakup
In 1990, all members of the group except for Deal moved to Los Angeles. Lovering stated that he, Santiago, and Francis moved there “because the recording studio was there. At this time there was tension in the group, resulting in Deal being temporarily fired from the Pixies.
Afforded a bigger budget, the Pixies recorded their third album Bossanova on 46 tracks, instead of the 24 used for Doolittle. Unlike previous recordings, the band had little time to practice beforehand, and Black Francis wrote much of the album in the studio. Featuring the singles “Velouria” and “Dig for Fire”, Bossanova reached number 70 in the United States. In contrast, the album peaked at number three in the United Kingdom.
The band continued to tour, and, break-up announcements notwithstanding, one more album followed, Trompe le Monde, in 1991. Trompe Le Monde expanded on UFO and sci-fi themes (including a song on space travel, “Planet of Sound” and “Motorway to Roswell” about an alien vacation gone bad). Songs such as “Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons” and “Lovely Day” were written in a similar style to songs on Bossanova (such as “Havalina”). The album saw the band move in a more popular direction with songs as “Palace of the Brine” and “Trompe Le Monde”. The songs “U-Mass” and “Alec Eiffel” included the keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman—a move unthinkable in the band’s Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa days. The album also featured a cover of “Head On” by The Jesus and Mary Chain. Trompe Le Monde was the Pixies’ last studio album before their breakup.
Following the release of Trompe Le Monde, the band contributed a cover of “I Can’t Forget” to the Leonard Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan and went on a sellout winter tour of the USA, culminating on a TV appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. They then embarked on an uncomfortable tour supporting fans U2 (on their Zoo TV tour) in 1992. Tensions rose between band members, and, at the end of the year, the Pixies went on sabbatical and focused on separate projects.
In early 1993, Francis announced in an interview to BBC Radio 5 that the band was finished and offered no explanation at the time, unbeknown to the other members of the band. He later telephoned Santiago and subsequently notified Deal and Lovering via fax, in January 1993. Francis later regretted breaking up the band in that fashion, as he did not allow the rest of the band an opportunity to discuss the move.
After the breakup
Black Francis renamed himself Frank Black and released three solo albums. He then went on to form a band with the former Miracle Legion rhythm section Scott Boutier and David McCaffrey, plus session man Lyle Workman, called Frank Black and the Catholics. For the second Catholics album Workman was replaced by Rich Gilbert and a third guitarist, Dave Phillips, was added to the mix for the third Catholics album. Following 2003′s (Show Me Your Tears), the Catholics were disbanded. Black released his fourth solo album, Honeycomb, featuring a mellow, rhythm and blues-styled approach and backing from seasoned Nashville musicians. He released a further double album from the same sessions, Fastman Raiderman, on July 19, 2006. Having reverted to his Pixies nom de guerre, Black Francis then released an LP (Bluefinger) and CD (Svn Fngrs). In May 2008, Black Francis and his band (including Eric Drew Feldman) performed an original score for the silent horror movie The Golem at the San Francisco Film Festival (at the Castro Theatre).
Deal returned to The Breeders and scored a hit with “Cannonball” from that group’s platinum-selling Last Splash in 1993. While on hiatus from the Breeders, Deal formed and recorded with The Amps, who released their only album Pacer in 1995. A new Breeders album, Title TK, finally appeared in 2002, with only Kim and Kelley remaining from the previous Breeders lineup.
Lovering went on to become a magician and make occasional appearances as “The Scientific Phenomenalist”, performing experiments on stage and occasionally opening for Frank Black and The Breeders. Lovering continued to drum, playing on one of Tanya Donelly’s solo albums. Santiago played lead guitar on one of Frank Black’s solo albums, and on other albums such as Statecraft, by indie-rock musician Charles Douglas. Santiago also wrote theme music for Fox television, and formed a band called The Martinis with his wife, Linda Mallari. They released their debut album, Smitten, in 2004.
After the band broke up, 4AD and Elektra Records released compilation albums such as Death to the Pixies and Complete B-Sides, along with Pixies (EP)Pixies (The Purple Tape) and Pixies at the BBC.
In the 11 years following the break-up, rumors frequently circulated regarding a reunion. Though Frank Black steadfastly dismissed them, he did begin to incorporate an increasing number of Pixies songs in his sets with The Catholics, and occasionally included Santiago and Lovering in his solo work. In late 2003 a press release from Black’s publicist officially confirmed a reunion would occur in early 2004. The Pixies played their first reunion concert on April 13, 2004 at The Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a warmup tour through the U.S. and Canada was followed by an appearance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The band then spent much of 2004 touring throughout Brazil, Europe, Japan, and the U.S.
In June 2004, the band released a new single, “Bam Thwok” exclusively on the iTunes Music Store. The song reached number one in the British download chart. 4AD released Wave of Mutilation: The Best of the Pixies, along with a companion DVD. The band also contributed a rendition of “Ain’t That Pretty At All” to the Warren Zevon tribute album Enjoy Every Sandwich. August saw the reunited band co-headline both the V Festival and T in the Park with the Strokes. The group won the Act of the Year award in the 2004 Boston Music Awards.
In 2005 the band made festival appearances at the Lollapalooza and Sasquatch!. The band also played at European events such as the Reading and Leeds Festivals. In August, the band performed an entirely acoustic set (after a warm-up acoustic set in Albany, New York) at the Newport Folk Festival.
The band continued to make appearances through 2006 and 2007, culminating in their first-ever appearances in Australia. By early 2008, following abortive attempts to record a new album, Black began stating in interviews that the reunion was over.
In late August 2008, Black Francis told NME.com that he might be willing to return to recording with his former bandmates, saying “It’s just a waiting game right now. Whatever we do in the future is gonna have to be fresh. I have to see if the band as a whole wants to go into the recording studio for a new record. That makes sense on some level. For us, there’s gotta be an angle. It can’t be just playing our old songs over and over.”
On March 13, 2009, they were announced as playing the 2009 Isle of Wight Festival, appearing before Sunday night headliner Neil Young. On March 26, 2009, they were announced as playing the 2009 Where The Action Is festival in Stockholm, Sweden.
On April 21, 2009, the band confirmed that a new release would be available for pre-order on June 15. The release, Minotaur, will be a box set of the band’s previous albums plus bonus artwork, available both in Deluxe and Limited editions. The artworks will be created by Vaughan Oliver and Simon Larbalestier, the men responsible for the original album designs and artworks. To coincide with the pre-order date, an invite only artwork showcase featuring select new pieces from Minotaur was held at Village Underground, Shoreditch in London. The also played a secret show at the event which was attended by Oliver, Larbalestier, and a host of journalists, competition winners and indie celebrities (Kevin Shields, Dirty Pretty Things, Klaxons and The Horrors).
In order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Doolittle, the Pixies announced a small European tour in October 2009 taking in London, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Dublin and Frankfurt where they will be playing the album and all relevant B-sides from the singles. Tickets sold out almost instantaneously. At the end of August 2009, it was announced that the Doolittle tour would be extended to Australasia in early 2010, including a first ever visit to New Zealand.
In June 2009 Black Francis was quoted as saying in the NME that the Pixies would return to the studio to record their fifth full length album some time during 2010. In addition, he stated that he would like it to be a film and music tie-in project involving a big Hollywood director such as Quentin Tarantino, but would be open to the idea of recording a more conventional album if this project should fall through.
Source – Wikipedia
Not Pixies Educated – Download These Songs:
Here Comes Your Man
Where Is My Mind
Monkey Gone to Heaven
La La Love You
Wave of Mutilation
–All available for purchase on iTunes–