On the occasion of frontman Black Francis’ 52nd birthday (April 6), here are 29 geeky facts about the Pixies
Charles wasn’t the only one in the Pixies with an alias. For the first two records (Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa), bassist Kim Deal was credited as Mrs John Murphy. She reverted to her real name when her marriage to the real John Murphy hit the skids.
When Frank arrived in Massachusetts, he says he won a ‘teenager of the year’ accolade at the local Gowanus club, whatever that is. Teenager of the Year would become the name of his second and most popular post-Pixies solo album.
While at Umass, Frank Black was on nodding terms with J Mascis, who would go on to form Dinosaur Jr. The pair were in the same year – as was Joey Santiago – and they talked about music mostly when they met. Their paths would cross countless times in the future.
Joey and Frank dropped out of Umass and moved to Boston, but not before Black Francis and his walkman went to Puerto Rico to find themselves. On returning to the new city, the singer says it was around this period that “the songs started to get interesting”.
Pixies recorded 17 tracks at Fort Apache, which became known as the Purple Tape. Black Francis said he borrowed $1,000 from his father to record it. Money well spent; eight of the tracks made up their first record, Come On Pilgrim.
Charles’ teenage dalliances with Christianity informed many of the lyrics on Doolittle. ‘Gouge Away’ for instance is apparently based on Samson and Delilah. “You can’t go wrong with the Old Testament”, said the singer.
‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ is based on Hebrew numerology according to its author. The devil is six and God is seven? “It’s an interesting fact,” said Black Francis. “If it is a fact. I didn’t go to the library to figure it out.”
Black Francis was forever writing in the studio, with much of Trompe Le Monde written there and then. He also had to provide a third verse on the spot for ‘Here Comes Your Man’ – the record company had pegged it as the single from Doolittle, and it needed to be longer than two minutes.
Pixies were on a break when Black Francis broke up the band in the most Phil Collins way imaginable, by fax. He xeroxed his resignation letter to manager Ken Goes in the summer of 1992. When the news broke in January 1993, Kim’s sister Kelley informed her “Pixies broke up” after hearing it on the radio during rehearsals for The Breeders.
10Field Day – 2014 – 08/06/2014
Charles claims the Pixies getting back together again was an accident. Bored with being asked about whether or not the band would reform he said to journalists, “we get together all the time and jam” as a joke. The next day the rumour they were reforming even hit CNN. “And I was like, no I was just joking, and then I was like, well yeah, what the hell.”
Once the band reformed in 2004, Black Francis said: “I forgot how much I like this band, how much I like being in this band,” adding that he didn’t expect the healing process of reforming “to be so spiritual”.
The band hired another Kim, Kim Shattuck from the Muffs, but fired her after touring the US due to a lack of interpersonal bonhomie. “Personality-wise, she’s very west coast, she’s very extrovert,” said Francis. “We’re very east coast, very introvert.”
If the Pixies have their own, identifiable sound, then their artwork has always been cohesive and recognisable too. This is because they stuck with the same people, photographer Simon Larbalestier and graphic designer Vaughan Oliver. “If there were a ‘fifth Pixie,’ said Oliver in 2009, “it would have been Simon – his work so suited what they were doing.”