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.




Dear Reader how I wanted it to be.I opened the case, stuck it in the player and with my fingers crossed (ever tried putting a CD in player with your fingers crossed, its hard work), I prayed to all of the available deities, supreme beings and immortal overlords/ladies that may or may not exist that are available on a Thursday morning to work their magic. They failed me. Every. Single. One. Even Gavin the God of Biscuits.

This is not, to great regret, Frank Black from the Pixies doing a cover version of the jiggytastic Will Smith classic, Men In Black. I can’t describe how disappointed I was not to hear Frank growl :-

Uh../Here come the Men in Black/It’s the M.I.B.’s, uhh, here come the M.I.B.’s/Here come the Men in Black/ They won’t let you remember/Nah nah nah

What you get instead if Frank singing about” Dinner plates and the shapes of cucumbers” as you would probably expect from Frank Black.

mp3 : Frank Black – Men In Black

About half an hour later I remembered that Frank had a lengthy solo career away from the Pixies (in fact far more prolific as a solo artist) and that this ONLY solo stuff by him that I have. This single came from his third solo album The Cult of Ray. The album was supposedly different from Franks other solo efforts in that it was recorded live but like much of Frank’s other solo efforts, it wasn’t commercially that successful (I’m beginning to see a theme running through this box, critically lauded records, largely ignored by the record buying public) but the stripped down approach did continue through several of his next releases.

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.

So for the debate – singers who have gone solo that have released records better than they did when they were in a band. Morrissey doesn’t count, his solo records are terrible and deep in your hearts you all know that. It may be the lack of tea but the only one I can think of right now is Sophie Ellis Bextor.  Murder on the Dancefloor was miles better than anything than her band thaudience ever released.

JC adds…..

After all that I wrote yesterday, there’s no way I can accept SWC’s take on Morrissey.  His solo career has had plenty of wonderful moments interspersed with some disappointing material, and I’m happy to argue that Vauxhall and I is up there with The Smiths LPs.

As for any others whose solo material is better than from their band days……that’s a cracking one to ponder.  Off the top of my head I thought of Peter Gabriel and then there’s one of my cult heroes Adam Stafford whose solo stuff is superior and hugely different from his beginnings with Y’All Is Fantasy Island (but that’s an opinion in which I might well be in a minority).  Julian Cope is another worth thinking about……

I had to dig deep for others……Bjork up against Sugarcubes is one worth debating.   Neil Young is worth a shout.  Another one that could be argued is Norman Cook with some thinking Fatboy Slim is superior to The Housemartins (not me though!).  Richard Hawley emerged from Longpigs to great acclaim…

One that I would argue for, perhaps controversially is Paul Haig whose 25 years of solo material far outweighs three singles and an LP by Josef K.

Any thoughts dear readers?