You would be a brave person to state that Frank Black solo is better than the Pixies. He isn’t and this single is nowhere as good as the majority of the Pixies back catalogue. It is however a pretty good song, and it’s certainly worth four minutes of your life listening to it.
SWC on 22 October 2013, when offering some thoughts on Men In Black by Frank Black (and no, it wasn’t a cover of the Will Smith song).
The same words could be applied perfectly to the lead song on the one 12″ single I have in the collection:-
mp3: Frank Black – Hang On To Your Ego
If it sounds, in places, Pixies-ish, then that’ll have a lot to do with the fact that Joey Santiago is guesting on lead guitar.
I bought totally on spec back in 1993. I wasn’t picking up too much vinyl at the particular time, so I’m guessing it must have been in a bargain bin. I played it and thought it was a shade above OK, but then again, I was expecting something fairly sensational given how much I had loved just about every track released by his old band. I remember being intrigued that Hang On To Your Ego had been written by Brian Wilson, but beyond that I couldn’t have offered many thoughts as Beach Boys are another of the bands from the golden era of pop music that I just haven’t ever been able to take to (and I have really, really, really tried!)
Wiki is mine and your friend:-
“I Know There’s an Answer” (alternately known as “Hang On to Your Ego”) is a song by American rock band the Beach Boys from their 1966 album Pet Sounds. Written by Brian Wilson, Terry Sachen, and Mike Love, the song was inspired by Wilson’s experience with the drug LSD and his struggle with ego death.
Wilson and Sachen wrote lyrics to the song that criticized people who abuse LSD as a form of escapism. After Love voiced objections to its drug references, Wilson allowed him to revise the message to be about finding meaning within oneself. Although the references to “ego” were eliminated, the key line “they trip through the day and waste all their thoughts at night” remained. In 1990, an earlier mix of the song, featuring the group singing alternate lyrics, was released as a bonus track on the album’s CD reissue. Cover versions of the song have been recorded by artists such as Sonic Youth and the Pixies’ Frank Black.
Wilson’s 2016 memoir briefly references this cover version, stating only that “Someone played me a song once by Frank Black. He was in the Pixies, a band I don’t know very well, and then he had some solo albums. On one of them he did a cover of ‘I Know There’s an Answer’ where he put the original lyrics back in …” In 2012, this version was ranked at number 10 on Paste magazine’s list of “The 25 Best Beach Boys Covers”
The single didn’t crack the UK charts, and I’m guessing 4AD, here in the UK, and Elektra, in the US, were bitterly disappointed given they were convinced they had a solo star in the making and had allocated substantial budgets to the recording and promotional processes. The debut album did go top 10 in the UK but flopped to #117 on the US Billboard chart. It was a sure sign that no matter the name adopted by Charles Thompson IV, he was never going to be a chart-topper.
The two b-sides on the single are instrumental cuts that weren’t included on the debut album:-
mp3: Frank Black – The Ballad of Johnny Horton
mp3: Frank Black – Surf Epic
The former is a mid-paced number, with the piano quite prominent to begin with. The latter has a title that promises much but in all truth, the only thing epic about it is the fact it is almost eleven minutes long. Neither sound like anything he had previously done with the Pixies.
7 thoughts on “HANG ON TO YOUR EGO”
Much as a I loved Pixies, I let Frank Black’s first solo album pass me by. I’d heard Llos Angeles, which was good but not enough to draw me in. I then caught the video for Hang On To Your Ego on TV and that turned me off completely. I’ve since got both the album and EP. The former’s okay, but the latter remains little played here.
Wouldn’t sound out of place on Trompe Le Monde – which
for me is always a great thing.
Always regretted never keeping up with Frank Black’s post-Pixies
music. I’ll have to attend to this.
Fine read, JC, and an enjoyable listen.
Loved the first few Pixies albums and lost interest completely in Frank’s solo career. I do however love Hang On To Your Ego (Beach Boys version), especially the story that when Brian Wilson played it them in the studio, brand new moment of teenage genius, square breadhead Mike Love said ‘hang on to your ego? what does that even mean? What is this hippy shit?’ and refused to sing on it until Brian came up with straighter words. Hence I Know There’s An Answer.
It’s almost unfair to compare Frank Blacks solo biz to the Pixies as the band released only genius records. I like a lot of the solo material, including today’s songs, whether it would’ve made the cut on a Pixies disc or not. Seemed to me the guy never is credited for his voice, which is stellar and still sounds good on his later recordings.
There’s a really decent Best OF Frank Black that could be compiled of his solo stuff (or with the Catholics), but alas his solo career is patchy to put it mildly. Prolific as he was, it seemed it was more about quantity over quality. Some good songs on the debut, but this was never really one of my faves.
For me I never loved Pixies after Doolittle the way I did before. Bossanova and Trompe le Monde never reached the heights of the first 3 records, something had changed. Maybe it was me that changed. And in a way it doesn’t matter because Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle are all I need.
I somehow missed his first album despite being a fairly big Pixies fan and the second album Teenager Of The Year seemed to come out just a matter of months after (it may well have been a lot longer but it did seem like that at the time). That’s a really good album and still gets plenty of play