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VISITATION ON US, THE WORD ‘lNDIE" ACTUALLY MEANT SOMETHING TO SOME PEOPLE
Mark Robertson charts the rise, implosion and second coming of revered T in the Park stars the PIXIES, and looks at just what it is that makes them so special.
says (iraham (‘oxon. while Thom Yorke reckons
it‘s ‘really fucking violent‘. It made PJ Harvey ‘obsessed' and Badly Drawn Boy admits that essentially its genius is 'indelinable’. The music of the Pixies captured the hearts. minds and loins of a great many people on their first visit to our little planet in the late SOs/early 90s and. for a brief moment. they were very nearly the centre of the musical universe. It only
‘ I Is ‘updated surf music made by psychopaths‘.
adds to their weird allure that after over a decade of
solo jaunts and no little meandering in the wilderness. they have decided to rejoin us to remind everyone what all the fuss was about.
With the Pixies it was just about one thing — not the drugs. the booze. the lights. the outfits. the closet homosexuality. the celebrity girlfriends — it was about the songs. And that's what counts. So after over a decade apart they have reformed and a lot has changed musically and in the world in general. One thing that remains constant. however. is our need for great songs — something the Pixies always excelled at.
At the time of their initial split in January I‘M}. they were playing to tens of thousands of people in liurope and they ended their career at a relative peak. The nature of their implosion was not unique in rock lore fora band who burned so brightly: they were physically. mentally and. in part creatively. exhausted. Their long—time producer (iil Norton still strrmises that they could have continued if other instruments and people had been brought into the mix (they stuck pretty rigidly to a three guitars and drums format for their entire recording career). But they quit when at their most popular. leaving a musical legacy of indelinable value.
Back when the Pixies made their first visitation on us. the word “indie” actually meant something to some people. Now it‘sjust a category of vinyl to ﬂog on eBay or unflattering shorthand for a commercially
underachieving rock band. In 1988 indie was a way of
life for many. There was a music scene in which bands worked up the touring ladder from the toilet circuit
before hitting the enorrnodomes and rubbing shoulders with Lisa Stansfield on Top of the Pops. This was supported by a fervent and vital music press that sustained three weeklies and around a dozen specialist monthly publications. Hey. even the records that sold - albeit in relatively modest numbers in some cases — had their own chart.
‘I first discovered the Pixies in 1988] David Bowie said in Gouge. a (‘hannel 4 documentary made about the band by Matt Quinn. ‘1 found it the most compelling music I had heard of the 80s. outside of Sonic Youth.‘ He wasn't alone: by the time the Pixies made their UK debut at London‘s Mean Fiddler in l988. anticipation was at fever pitch.
‘That was one of those amazing gigs.‘ Thom Yorke recalled. ‘lt was the first gig I ever went to where I came out and went. “well. that's it. What’s the point now. really?”
But the real fever started even earlier than this. Black Francis — or just plain. old-fashioned Charles Michael Kitridge Thompson IV. as he was back then — was a restless university student who took a trip to Puerto Rico in l985. From there he decided he would do one of two things: either go to New Zealand to witness the spectacle of Haley’s (‘omet or form a rock band. Needless to say. the plane ticket to Wellington never materialised but a letter to Joey Santiago. his guitar-wielding friend back home. did. The Santiagos originally hailed from the Philippines and were among the wealthiest families on the islands. Legend has it that when three Mercedes were delivered to the island. two went to Joey’s uncle and the third to President Marcos. The letter Thompson sent stated how they should convene in Boston and form a rock band. The two batted around ideas and names for the project and the pair decided on Pixies in Panoply because Joey didn't know what either word meant and found them funny.
A wanted ad in the Boston Phoenix looking for a bass player to add to the now legendary combination of ‘l-lusker Du and Peter. Paul and Mary' threw up the
8—22 Jul 2004 THE LIST 13