Thursday, September 08, 2011

Retro Music Thursdays: The Pixies

After my first post here, I immediately started getting requests to talk about The Pixies (mostly because y'all know my immense love for them already). I was trying to remember the first time I heard them, but I think it was when my then-boyfriend, now-husband got a tape of Come On Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa from a friend of his and came over to play "I've Been Tired" for me. "I wanna be a singer like Lou Reed," "I LIKE Lou Reed," she said...

Great stuff. But it was when I heard Doolittle that I immediately fell in love with them, and then I think I liked Bossanova even more. I think the first time I saw the Pixies was in late 1991 in the same week I saw Tin Machine and someone else... we lived in London Ontario and had to drive two hours to Toronto every time we wanted to see a gig all through high school, and there were some weeks where we were traveling there two and three times a week (it still boggles my mind that my parents were OK with that...) Black Francis, as he was then known before he became Frank Black (though his real name is Charles), is notoriously quiet on stage. He does his thing, he sings his songs, but it's Kim Deal who does all the talking.

Oh Kim Deal. The other "Kim" love of my life after Kim Gordon. Again, the one I watch through every set every time I see them. I remember going to see them at the Concert Hall in Toronto (now the home of CTV, I believe) and during their set one of their amps blew. And I don't mean it stopped working, I mean it BLEW UP, loudly. You've never seen Charles move as quickly as he did then. He just turned and RAN, and I don't think I've ever seen the man do more than a slow saunter before or after that. Things were dealt with and they returned to the stage fairly quickly and continued their set, but I still remember my husband and I in stitches watching it (after our own hearts started beating again... it was LOUD). But to his credit, I think he caught a shock off his mike, so that couldn't have been fun for him. Let's just say he wasn't in the best mood for the rest of the show (and that's saying something about this usually sullen frontman).

Live, The Pixies can't be beat. Frank's vocals are spot-on (even when screaming... I've always been in awe of the fact that he still has such a powerful voice after all these years of stripping it raw through screaming). Kim Deal is the audience favourite. Joey Santiago rarely looks up, but he's always brilliant, and David Lovering stays in the background playing drums, only coming to the fore to sing "La La Love You" (a song I hate). The audiences who have been going to see them for years all know the signs for "This Monkey's Gone to Heaven" -- you hold up one hand with five fingers for "If man is five," then both hands with one fully extended, and one finger on the other hand extended for "Then the devil is six," and hands way up in the air, two fingers extended on the other hand, screaming and jumping up and down for "Then GOD is SEVEN!"

Doolittle remains the best album to watch them perform live, though most of the best stuff is packed at the front end of the record. I remember one time seeing them open for U2 on the first leg of the Achtung Baby tour, and the band looked absolutely miserable on stage and it was the worst time I'd seen them. Later they said U2 barely acknowledged their existence, but the real problem was within. A few months later, the Pixies had broken up.

But in 2004, they reformed, and they've probably made more money on the reunion tours than they ever did before. Seeing them in November 2004 was my first concert after my first baby had been born. She was three months old at the time, and I remember clutching a cellphone throughout the show, while being in euphoria that I was finally seeing the Pixies again. I've seen them a few times since then, and they never, ever let me down. A documentary came out a few years ago called Loud Quiet Loud (a description that sums up pretty much every Pixies song) and it showed what was really happening behind the scenes, and was fascinating.

It's tough picking just one song, because usually whatever Pixies song I happen to be listening to at the time is my favourite. But if someone said to me, "Quick, name your favourite Pixies song," I think I'd always answer the same way: Debaser. Inspired by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel's surrealist film, "Un Chien Andalou," it's Frank at his screaming best, Kim with her perfect girlie voice, a great opening bass line, out-of-tune guitars, and a hook that you just can't get out of your head.


yourblindspot said...

The first time I ever heard Pixies, I was sleeping over at a friend's house. We had just watched the movie 'Married to the Mob,' the end credits were rolling, and as my friend reached for the remote to turn the tv off, the music that was playing over the credits suddenly changed from one song to the next. And "the next" was wild, man. Churning guitar, howling vocals... and is that Spanish? Who is that?

I made the friend leave the credits rolling until the music was listed, studied the names until I found one that looked right ("Isla de Incanta" - the only Spanish name on the list, it had to be the one), and went out to find the record that weekend.

Thus was my musical landscape changed forever. (song starts at 2:18)

Efthymia said...

Two of my best friends (siblings) are huge Pixies fans, so when they came to Athens in 2004 they were superexcited they had a chance to see them live! The thing was, they had to attend a cousin's (or something) baptism the very same day, in another (nearby) town. So they left the baptism immediately after it was over, and while one of them was driving the other one changed from his suit into his jeans and T-shirt, then they pulled over and traded places so the other one could also change. They were driving like mad, and when they reached the concert place they had to park their car pretty far, and then they took a wrong shortcut and ended up in front of a fence so they had to turn around... But they made it, just as the Pixies were beginning. They consider it probably the best concert they've ever been to.
I think that if you suffer to get to a concert, you enjoy it a bit more...

Anonymous said...

The band's name is actually 'Pixies', not 'The Pixies'.

Nikki Stafford said...

Why am I not surprised that last comment was left by an Anonymous. ;)

Allison said...

LOVE the Pixies. I'll never forget my big brother dragging me into his room and having me listen to Bossanova start to finish, exclaiming after every song, "Wasn't that awesome?!" It was. Thank goodness he had good taste in music, otherwise who knows what I'd be listening to now.

Andre said...

I really love Pixies, but I love The Breeders even more! Kim is awesome, and that is why my favorite Pixies song is Gigantic.

Joan Crawford said...

The thing about *~*THE*~* Pixies is that they always felt like they were mine. It always felt so intimate and exploratory... and so foreign to what was around me. Yes, they were wildly successful and everyone "cool" knew who they were but I can remember listening to them on my sweet-ass "super bass" Walkman at night or on the bus to school and just *knowing* that I got it... that this music formed a part of me. And unless you carried what I carry, you couldn't love it, nurture it or harvest it like I could.
Maybe I partied too much as a teenager... (actually, yeah, I did) regardless, the album "Doolittle" is a fundamental part of my past - every story needs a soundtrack and this is part of mine.

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