THE STORY BEHIND A TRULY AWFUL PROMO

July 1990.

A band from Boston, Massachusetts, USA is really beginning to make big waves in the UK.

The previous year, Pixies had released a Top 10 album in Doolittle, one which rode high in all the end-of-year charts so loved in those days by newspapers and magazines. The band’s stock was very much at its peak thanks in part to what were always incendiary live shows and in part to the fact that they sounded quite unlike any other indie act from that particular decade.

The band had been announced as the headliner on the main stage of the final day at the 1990 Reading Festival, and the fact that they would close the 3-day event had led to a surge in ticket sales. There was a huge amount of anticipation about the new material that would be played on the day (worth mentioning, in passing, that the Reading show did extend to 32 songs on the day).

July 1990.

The new single is released:-

mp3 : Pixies – Velouria

It doesn’t disappoint the legion of fans, with its loud-quiet-loud progression, its screaming vocal and its perfectly place guitar solo delivered, effortlessly (as usual) by Joey Santiago.

It is being bought in decent numbers, enough to most likely give Pixies their first ever hit single, with a position that would most likely lead to an invitation to appear on Top of The Pops. The only problem is that there is a rule in place that invites will only be given to singers or bands who have a promo video in place, something the band aren’t keen to make.

The thing is, time and effort had gone into promos for the singles from Doolittle but these has subsequently seen very little in the way of airtime. Pressure was applied on the band and in the end they agreed on something which would involve minimal input on their part but which meet the criteria-

It really must be just about the worst promo ever made. So bad that some folk think it’s a fabulous artistic statement of protest. There’s a near frame-by frame description of it on a fan website devoted to the band:-

“We had to think about something because everybody was giving all this shit because we didn’t have a video to go with the single. So we just gave them something.” (Kim Deal, Rock A My Soul fanzine, 1990) In a Manchester quarry, the 4 Pixies stand on rocks. As the song begins, they start running in direction of the camera. But the song is long and the distance is short (about 10 seconds are needed to reach the camera), so they are running in slow motion. Very slow motion. One frame after another. The Pixies are running, running, running. Black Francis is the first to pass by the camera, David is very close. But where is Joey? Oh yes, he was out of the picture, but now he is jumping (nearly) on the camera. Come on Kim! Well, there are only the rocks now. The end.”

It did the job in terms of meeting the rule. It didn’t impress the BBC enough to show it, despite the fact that Velouria entered the charts at #28 on the first week of its release Oh, and it was a shockingly bad chart that week – https://www.officialcharts.com/charts/singles-chart/19900722/7501/ – and an appearance by Pixies would have saved what surely must have been one of the worst ever editions of Top of The Pops.

Here’s the three other tracks on the CD single:-

mp3 : Pixies – Make Believe
mp3 : Pixies – I’ve Been Waiting for You
mp3 : Pixies – The Thing

Lead lyric on the first of these is taken by drummer David Lovering, while bassist Kim Deal provides a take on a cover of a Neil Young song. The last of the tracks is a sub-two minutes effort described elsewhere as just a regurgitated reading of Bossanova’s “The Happening.” and nothing but straightforward pop that results in one of the group’s most boring statements.

It’s hard to disagree.

JC

11 thoughts on “THE STORY BEHIND A TRULY AWFUL PROMO

  1. I’d rather watch this video than the evening news. Plus the song rocks. And it’s got a theremin!

  2. Yow! That is a super shoddy top 60 tunes for that week! I can only rate Sinead O’Connor, maybe the Pixies [not really a fan, to put it frankly] and… um, Betty Boo? The Stones track was a fine deep cut but not much of a single.

  3. I remember taping it off The Chart Show (or a similar show)
    and watching it later on fast-forward. A pointless exercise
    – and one now matched by a pointless post. Great song, though.

  4. And I had completely wiped the notion of the video out of my mind, though [alternative rock ghetto] MTV’s 120 Minutes probably played it into the ground as I now recall.

  5. A truly awful promo and a truly awful chart! There are one or two out of that whole 100 which have stood the test of time, maybe a few others, but no more than that.

  6. I’ve just checked I own 19 or 20 tracks in that Top 100. Put them together and you’d have a fairly decent mix tape. In fact. I’ll make it.

  7. I’m with SWC on the chart too. Loads in there to love. LFO and Tricky Disco for a start, Adamski, The Roses, Sinead, all sorts of 1990 goodness.

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