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

FROM THE ARCHIVES – 31 DECEMBER 2012

A VERY SHOUTY SHOUTY RECORD

Mrs Villain and myself have some common tastes in music but far more differences that most would imagine.

Santa Claus brought her a digital radio with the intended use really being in the summer when she’s out in the garden or over at her allotment where she grows vegetables.

She has been road-testing it this past few days and mostly it has been tuned into Kerrang Radio. It’s not been as bad as I thought – there’s been a few half-decent bands appeared now and again but even then it’s been the better-know Hard Cafe establishment-types rather than any obscure indie-rock bands.

Mrs V has a penchant for what I call shouty-shouty music….the sort where either the vocalist’s very loud delivery is meant to signify his angst or anger. Not exactly my cup of tea….but as Mrs V has pointed out, I do have an an occasional shouty lyric that gets me dancing. Here’s the evidence:-

mp3 : Pixies – Tame

The second track on the outstanding 1989 LP Doolittle. Just about every fan of Pixies will have this in their all-time Top 10 songs by the band. Here’s a live version:-

mp3 : Pixies – Tame (live)

It’s also a song that was given an unofficial remix a few years ago – one that I think is a bit on the cracking side:-

mp3 : Pixies – Tame (McSleaszy remix)
mp3 : Pixies – Tame (McSleazy extended remix)

McSleazy is regraded by many as the best-ever in the mash-ups/bootleg genre which was incredibly popular around the turn of the century. His real name is Grant J Robson and he’s from the town of Paisley which is just down the road from my home city of Glasgow. I’ve taken this from his own site:-

McSleazy started in 1999 as an outlet for some electro tunes GrantJRobson had made. BBC Scotland had an amazing show called ‘Electronica’ which aired these experiments, and McSleazy was go. Shortly after inception, Electronic Arts commissioned 8 tracks from McSleazy for their racing game ‘Superbike 2000’. McSleazy, as a live band, played at many places including legendary club night Optimo, T in the Park and supporting Jimi Tenor.

As a DJ tool, McSleazy mixed up some tunes together “just to see the reactions on peoples faces”, and he was on the mash-up path. “The Best Bootlegs In The World Ever” featured McSleazy’s Song 2 v Don’t Call Me Baby bootleg in ’99, Radio 1 jumped on the bandwagon and the internet took care of the rest. A short while later, McSleazy founded Get Your Bootleg On (now GYBO5) which became – and remains – the online home of the mash-up.

MTV Mash followed, which featured dozens of McSleazy creations across it’s three series and led to DJing trips across Europe, and to Bootie in San Francisco. The Franzie Boys ep, featuring four Franz Ferdinand v Beastie Boys tracks, immediately sold out it’s initial run through HMV orders alone and received a thumbs up from both bands as well as a nod in Q magazine’s top tracks of the year.

DJing stints included becoming a ten year resident of the NME Stage at T in the Park and touring with The Charlatans and Embrace as support. Mixing duties continued with the Popjustice album 100% Solid Pop, and an official remix of The Charlatans ‘You Cross My Path’. McSleazy was given his own show on XFM and then went on to provide music for New Line Cinema’s Antonio Banderas film Take the Lead. Mashups continued to dominate the landscape, and McSleazy worked on Activision / Freestyle Games’ award winning DJ Hero, contributing music which formed part of the final product.

In 2010, Grant’s musical output stretched beyond McSleazy. The first pieces of work credited to GrantJRobson began to emerge, in a very different vein to the earlier electro work. Early pieces such as Wilbur’s Lullaby were warmly received, and had a more orchestal / soundtrack feel to them. This led to Grant being asked to provide the soundtrack to a promo film for fashion chain White Stuff.

After a trail through the hard drive, a seven track EP of instrumental McSleazy experiments called Pop Round My House was put online by McSleazy in April 2011. The intention was to air some unreleased material, and give bootleggers and pop-song writers something to play with. The future aims to consist of writing more under the GrantJRobson banner, but that doesn’t mean that McSleazy won’t, at some point, generate a little bit more music.

And that dear readers brought an end to the posts across 2012, a year in which I hadn’t been as prolific as before,  but as I said, I was happy enough to have kept things going especially as there were a couple of times I did feel like calling it a day, but that I was intending being here for a wee while yet….certainly up to and beyond the impending 50th birthday. (and I certainly will do all i can to gry beyond the now impending 56th birthday in six months time).

Happy New Year when it comes to your timezone.

JC

HERE COMES YOUR MAN (AGAIN)

No apologies today even though this is a repeat posting from January 2017 in terms of the songs. In my defence I’m coming at the lead song from a different angle as last time round it was one of the b-sides which prompted the piece.

Pixies never really wanted to be bona-fide pop stars whose songs hung around the higher echelons of the charts – for evidence, you only need to look at the way they handled the eventual release of Here Comes Your Man as a stand-alone single.

The track is very unusual in comparison to much of the rest of the band’s late 80s/early 90s material. As has been written elsewhere on t’internet:-

“In contrast with the fractured compositional style the band became known for, Here Comes Your Man follows a straightforward verse/pre-chorus/chorus structure, with a short instrumental break in the middle – the very definition of a perfect three-and-a-half-minute pop single.”

It’s also a song which, by the time of its release in 1989 was almost ten years old as Black Francis had composed it when he was just 15 years of age. A version had been included in the demo tape which got them the deal with 4AD Records but the composer vetoed its inclusion firstly on Come On Pilgrim and again on Surfer Rosa. Indeed, it was only sleight of hand by producer Gil Norton that led to it being recorded for inclusion on Doolittle – the band, and in particular the front man condescendingly referred to it as ‘the Tom Petty song’ and way too commercial sounding. Norton waited until Francis was out of the studio and had the other three members record a fresh take on the tune, including Joey Santiago adding a new riff to beef things up, with the results being different enough to warrant a new vocal.

The label bosses worked hard to have it scheduled as a single, only getting their way by agreeing it wouldn’t be used as a precursor for the album. A promo video was made but sort of sabotaged by Francis and Kim Deal who made no attempt to mime the words thus causing severe bafflement to the MTV bosses. The band also turned down requests to play the song on the national chat shows which dominated US television in those days and indeed hardly ever included it in any live shows.

Despite all this, the single got a fair bit of play on college radio in the States and on evening shows in the UK and Europe. It reached #54 in the UK singles charts in July 1989, #1 in the UK Indie Charts and #3 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Here’s all four tracks from the 12”

mp3 : Pixies – Here Comes Your Man
mp3 : Pixies – Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
mp3 : Pixies – Into the White
mp3 : Pixies – Bailey’s Walk

The question is……given that this alternative, wonderfully slowed-down version of Wave of Mutilation was recorded at Palladium Studios in Edinburgh, does it qualify enough to be aired at Simply Thrilled, the upcoming club night celebrating the best of Scotland’s alternative music??

JC

‘THE BEST SINGLE OF THE 80s’ – BUT NOT A SINGLE TILL 1997

Debaser, the opener on the 1989 LP Doolittle, is one of the most enduring and popular songs ever recorded by Pixies.

One well-known critic loves it so much that he described it as the best single of the decade that was the 80s although it was never ever released in that format until 1997 when it was used to promote a new best-of compilation by the band.

The seemingly nonsensical lyrics are in fact based on based on what is a famous surrealist silent film from 1929. Un Chien Andalou was a collaboration between director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It was Buñuel’s first film, originally intended for a limited showing at Studio des Ursulines in Paris, but which became so popular that it ran for eight months.

The film includes a scene in which a woman’s eye is slit by a razor, which is referenced in the lyric “Slicin’ up eyeballs/I want you to know” that is screamed by Black Francis during Debaser.

mp3 : Pixies – Debaser

While reading about things on wiki, I learned that a version of Debaser was also used in some game called DJ Hero 2 ( me neither!!);  but in a form that sees it remixed with Invaders Must Die by The Prodigy. It might sound interesting and fascinating but it is in fact shit…

mp3 : Pixies/The Prodigy – Debaser/Invaders Must Die

JC

HERE COMES YOUR MAN

Pixies at Glasgow Barrowlands some six weeks ago was a real highlight in terms of live performances in 2016. Ok, there was no Kim Deal and I’d be lying if I said things were just the same without her, but Paz Lenchantin is a very capable replacement on bass and occasional vocals and to be fair, she’d never dream of taking a turn on Gigantic.

But she did play her part in a great rendition of another of Kim’s lead vocals, one that was originally released as the b-side to one of their best known singles:-

mp3 : Pixies – Here Comes Your Man
mp3 : Pixies – Into The White

The 12″ release, which incidentally is easier to track down than the 7″, had two additional tracks:-

mp3 : Pixies – Wave Of Mutlilation (UK Surf)
mp3 : Pixies – Bailey’s Walk

The former, a new version of a track from the then parent LP Doolittle, was recorded at the Palladium Studios in Edinburgh, a favourite of 4AD boss, Ivo Watts-Russell.  It was where he did much of his work with This Mortal Coil.

Enjoy.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (16)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FRIDAY 2 MAY 2008

Pixies+Monkey+Gone+To+Heaven+129167

This is a record that having been cited by so many as an influence that it’s hard to reconcile it with its flop status here in the UK.

Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies only reached #60 in the UK charts in March 1989, so it was very much an acquired taste. It was my ownership of the 12” single which helped cement my friendship with new work colleague Jacques the Kipper – I happened to mention in the pub one evening not long after he started in the office that it was one of my favourite bits of vinyl, and that’s when we started talking about bands and music. And we haven’t stopped all these years later…

The late 80s weren’t great for me in terms of keeping up with music. No. let me rephrase that – the late 80s weren’t great for me in terms of keeping up with anything.

The student years from 81-85 and the first few years of paid employment were a period of hedonism and a slightly unorthodox lifestyle. Particularly the first two years of employment where I had some money in my pocket. To coin a phrase from Paul Weller, I found myself in a strange town. It was called Edinburgh.

For three years I lived in a series of rented flats (one of which involved a moonlit flit and the loss of some 500 7” singles as recounted elsewhere in this rundown), with a great crowd of friends centred around unemployed actors and performers. Oh a psycho air-stewardess from Canada as a flatmate who once threatened to cut the throat of my wee brother – but that’s another story.

But I got bored with all of this – especially as I seemed to be the only one in the crowd with any money, and the late nights and long drinking sessions were taking a toll on me. That and the boss beginning to run out of patience. So I settled myself down with a steady girlfriend who I married in the Summer of 1988 after a whirlwind romance. Someone whose interest in music was virtually non-existent…..but I felt the change was what I wanted. It was time to put the toys of my youth away forever.

Within a matter of weeks, I was bored rigid. I missed my old mates and my old lifestyle. I missed going to gigs and listening to Radio 1 after 8pm of an evening. It was all soap operas and detective shows in my household. I was in danger of growing old before my time.

I wasn’t reading music papers, and I wasn’t buying anything. I put the turntable and amp under the stairs.

One day, instead of waiting at the stop for 20 minutes for the next bus home, I popped into a well known city centre record shop. Within minutes, a sound was blaring from the speakers which was unlike anything I had ever heard before. A great guitar riff, big powerful drumming and a whiny vocal that was part-spoken, part-sung and part-screamed. And was that some cellos there at the end? Surely not…

The song needed to be bought. So, it was up to the counter to ask the bloke behind the counter who and what was that? The answer, of course, was Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies.

I had no idea who he was talking about. But I bought the single. The first bit of vinyl in at least 9 months since my wedding day. And then went home and pulled out the turntable and amp from under the stairs…

Within a year, I had moved out of the marital home. A few months later I was living with a woman called Rachel, who became my second wife – you may have seen her referred to here and there as Mrs Villain. Crucially, Rachel liked a lot of the music that I loved and was all for going out to gigs rather than get hooked on Eastenders and Taggart. She’s still like that all these years later.

This record is astonishing in its ambition. A long long time before it became fashionable to do so, it was giving warnings about global warming and the destruction of the environment. It had an orchestral part at a time when most bands were beginning again to strip things back to basics. It was a song which sounded indie, but was as far away from the fey and whimsy sound normally associated with the genre as you could imagine. It was a song that could even find favour with the rock fans who got hooked entirely on the solos and performances. It had a vocal that so screamed at you from the speakers, that you feared for the damage being done to the throat of the lead singer.

In short, The Pixies had more or less invented grunge…

mp3 : The Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven
mp3 : The Pixies – Manta Ray
mp3 : The Pixies – Weird At My School
mp3 : The Pixies – Dancing The Manta Ray

As I mentioned at the outset, it was a flop, reaching only #60 in the singles chart. But it was #1 single of 1989 in Melody Maker, #5 in Rolling Stone, #22 in NME and #24 in Village Voice.

It was also the record that helped put my life back on the track I should never have left.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #6 – PIXIES

pixies

An enlightening e-mail popped into the inbox recently from an reader who has been known to leave behind some nice comments:-

Hey JC

Somewhat surprisingly (to me!), you’ve never featured Pixies on your blog and to me they are the greatest band there’s ever been, one I’ve seen more than most others and have listened to for over a quarter of a century. So if you don’t mind, here’s an “Imaginary Compilation Album” for your series thats if you actually like them! I’m sure you and your readers are familiar with them or at least their more famous songs, so this is just a collection of my favourites that’s representative of their whole career but misses out the ones that everyone might know. I’ve also tried to include alternate versions ‘rarities’ where possible. Apologies if I ramble in places – it makes me appreciate what you do all the more, it’s not easy writing coherently about your favourite music! And I own everything on vinyl – no cheating!

xxxjim
(JIMDOES)

It was also somewhat surprising to me that, after more than 500 postings on this particular blog that I hadn’t once featured any songs by Pixies when they had been a bit of a staple over at the old place. It’s also great that someone goes to the trouble of putting the imaginary compilation LP together as they are time-consuming pieces, not just in terms of the words for the piece but listening to the back catalogue in some depth to get down to the final selection. Anyway, here’s Jimdoes’ very fine take on the finest band to ever emerge from Boston U.S.A.:-

1. BONE MACHINE

Let’s start at the beginning. The beginning for me, anyway – the first Pixies song I ever heard – the opening track on Surfer Rosa recorded onto a C90 tape with AR Kane’s 69 on the other side. Believe it or not, back in 1988 this really did sound like nothing else – to me anyway – nothing like the indie music that I’d grown to love and nothing that you could hear on the radio. And what a great introduction to a band – each instrument comes in at different times to create a glorious noise with Black Francis barking and howling over the top of it – to this day I’m not really sure what he says or what it all means, but to me that’s part of the joy of this band. And I think it was the song to which I bust my nose stage diving to at The Town and Country Club – but that’s another story.

2. BLUE EYED HEXE

And just to show they’ve still got it – from their recent, underrated LP. It rocks in a way that only the Pixies can. I know it’s ‘Pixies’, not ‘The Pixies’ but sometimes it just sounds funny without the ‘The’. Anyway this is one of my most listened to songs from 2014 – I wasn’t expecting much from the album (and with an embarrassing title like ‘Indie Cindy’, who can blame me) but it goes to show that Deal or No Deal, they can still produce a quite wonderful noise.

3. DOWN TO THE WELL

I got hold of this song as a track on a free EP with Sounds, released just after Surfer Rosa, although this version is from a session they did at Maida Vale. Originally recorded as a demo before Surfer Rosa, I fully expected this to appear on the follow-up, Doolittle but I’m guessing that they had so many great songs recorded that they just held it back till Bossanova. My favourite line is “What matter does it make if there are favourite songs playing in my head” which could well be a mantra for my life! Anyway, it’s about sex and alien abduction – what could be more Pixies than that?

4.  HEY

Pixies were always a great band to jump around, scream and go nuts to – but I love their slow songs as much as their fast noisy ones – loudQUIETloud and all that. This is a live version from the tour they did where they played Doolittle in order plus assorted B-sides. Just listening to the audience in this version really brings home what a loved band they are. I was lucky enough to see them a fair few times before they originally split up and was young then so spent most of the gigs going bananas, as you do. I always looked back fondly on those days and as Pixies influence grew was happy I’d seen them. So when they reformed it was incredible going back and seeing songs live that I’d cherished over the years – there was a feeling of trepidation that they might just ruin things but they were as good as they ever were – and I found there was still a bit of the mosh pit left me.

5.  INTO THE WHITE

Recorded at the time when Pixies really could do no wrong – every song was so amazing that they’d put tracks like this as B-sides. And one of only a couple of songs that features Kim Deal on lead vocals. I can remember buying the 12” of Here Comes Your Man just to get this song which they’d been playing live for a while. Best sleeve for a Pixies record too – I used to have a massive poster of it on my student bedroom wall.

6. VAMOS

Always my favourite song live – for Joey Santiago’s amazing guitar work – the way it just goes nuts in the middle loads of feedback and echo – he plays that bit with a drumstick or whatever else is at hand. But also for the way that Black Francis’ rhythm guitar holds everything together and stops the song descending into chaos. I’ve included an epic version which was their closing song when they played at Brixton Academy on their original comeback tour on June 5 2004 – a gig I was lucky enough to attend. And for some strange reason it features on both Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa although I’ve never been able to notice much difference between the two of them. Vamos a jugar por la playa, indeed.

7. MOTORWAY TO ROSWELL

People often say that the last two Pixies albums aren’t as good as the first two. I think they are just different but equally good. They couldn’t really have made another Doolittle without sounding a little tired. And it’s great when bands evolve – it’s not a complete reinvention. Anyway I think of this album as the shiny album – everything seems to have a sheen to it if that doesn’t sound too weird. Especially the sounds at the beginning of this song – probably the most ‘space’ and ‘sci-fi’ song they recorded.

8. NIMROD’S SON

I can’t think about most Pixies songs without thinking about them being performed live – and that means thousands of people shouting “You are the son of a mother fucker”. An absolute joy.

9. CACTUS

My favourite song off my favourite album – it just about beats Gigantic. Impossible to articulate what it means to me, I’ve loved it for so long.

10. HEAD ON

Pixies made some great cover versions – and this rendition of The Jesus and Mary Chain classic is my favourite. I’m biased but much as I like the original, I think this version is better!

So there’s ten songs – it’s been incredibly hard to choose just ten. I could easily have picked another ten. And I’ve resisted the urge to put them in alphabetical order like they did with their set lists back in the day!

Side A

mp3 : Pixies – Bone Machine
mp3 : Pixies – Blue Eyed Hexe
mp3 : Pixies – Down To The Well (session)
mp3 : Pixies – Hey (live)
mp3 : Pixies – Into The White

Side B

mp3 : Pixies – Vamos (live)
mp3 : Pixies – Motorway To Rosewell
mp3 : Pixies – Nimrod’s Son
mp3 : Pixies – Cactus
mp3 : Pixies – Head On

Hidden Bonus Track

mp3 : Pixies – There Goes My Gun (live)

I’ve put the live version of there goes my gun on this mail as that is the track before HEY and the first ‘hey’ is actually at the end of this track annoyingly… and you can also hear me shouting ‘hey’ just before the song starts…!
anyway, i could talk all day about the pixies…!!!
cheers!
xxxjim