Get This!

Eye Tunes

In a game of two halves, Trompe le Monde would prove to be Pixies ‘final’ album before their resurrection in more recent times. Frank Black has said that the record was made in fractuous times, the band splintering, Kim being marginalised, with all of Black’s songs making the cut at the expense of everyone else’s. Although credited to ‘Pixies’, the album foreshadowed the singer’s solo career and should probably be classed as his first such record.

It’s a patchy set of songs. It lurches from the punkish rush of Alec Eiffel via a hundred mile an hour cover of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Head On to the ultra sweary U-Mass and half a dozen other weird and wonky rockers that would benefit from a dusting down and reappraisal at some point.

Lead single Planet Of Sound came housed in a sleeve featuring an eyeball dipped in salt, a metaphor, surely, for Pixies’ uncompromising and at times uncomfortable sound. It’s sci-fi AC/DC, a proper screaming throat loosener with blowtorch guitars, chugga-chugga bassline and a neat line in counter vocals buried under the chorus.

PixiesPlanet Of Sound

When Kurt Cobain openly admitted stealing Pixies’ quiet-loud-quiet blueprint, there’s a good chance he had this track as his point of reference. It’s all there; the semi-spoken vocal atop the bassline, the hint of Marshall-stacked guitars straining at the leash, Black singing his way to a chorus where fuzz boxes are stomped on and guitars snap free and twang their giddy way to the outer reaches of space like a hopped-up Duane Eddy auditioning for Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion. Go and listen to the filth and the furore of Nevermind‘s Lithium or In Bloom or even Teen Spirit if you don’t believe me. Total Pixies, man!

By the second verse, the guitars are back under control, just, itching to break free once more against a backdrop of rolling bass and space-referencing lyrics: I got to somewhere unknown, with its canals and colour of red. Joey coaxes wee angry squeals from the six strings under his fingers and lets them loose again on the chorus. Somewhere along the line, the sound of a bottle can be heard dropping, shaken loose from a studio shelf by Pixies’ electric blast of rampant energy. This time the chorus is twice as long, twice as loud, the guitars pushing the vocals to the very limit of Frank Black’s larynx-ripping abilities, the vocals spurring the guitars on to even angrier retorts. I wonder if that flying ‘P’ in Pixies’ logo is a reference to the way the band flies off the grooves of this record…

A fat-free solo pops up, no frills, simple and economic, with just enough requisite bend and strangulation to sate the appetite of any indie guitar hero-loving listeners. No sooner has it flown in than it’s flown off again, and a red-templed Frank is back again to scream his head off through another verse and a chorus that stops just as suddenly as this post.

demo, Get This!, Live!, Sampled

Twin Reverb


A-woo-oo! A-woo-oo! A-woo-oo! A-woo-oo! A-woo-oo! A-woo-oo!


Trrrr-rat-at-a-tat a-tee-tee

Trrrr-rat-at-a-tat a-tee-tee

Bass. How low can you go? Actually, not that low for now. A tight ‘n taut bass guitar plays high up the frets, its woody thunk foreshadowing what will follow:

dur der-der-duh-der

dur der-der-duh-der

Nagging, inistent. Immediately earwormish. It moves through the gears a semitone and the drummer falls in with a loping, skipping, skittering beat that’s been rescued after falling from the back of a lorry last seen leaving Manchester in 1989.

A brief dropout from the bass brings another burst of rat-a-tat percussion, immediately followed by two short and teasing electric guitar riffs – bendy, wobbly, hypnotic – and then, on a surge of nagging, asthmatic guitar, the band is here. The second guitar player makes themselves known by triggering their distortion pedal and a viral squiggle of feedback bleeds from the speakers for a bar or two before plectrum meets nickle. It’s a cheap, punky trick and you love it. 

Spitting in a wishing well. Blown to hell. Crash. I’m the last splash.

As far as song intros go, Cannonball by The Breeders is so familiar, so engrained that even 29 years later, Pavlovian rushes make their way to the soles of the Doc Martens without you realising.

The BreedersCannonball

It might be the riff that moves the feet – a nagging, twanging, guitar player’s sore finger of a lick jigsawed to a monster, see-sawing tidal wave of fuzzed-out barre chords, but it’s the vocal that moves the mind.

Kim Deal, moonlighting from a by then fragmented Pixies, has the unequalled ability of sounding as if she’s constantly grinning as she sings. Not in a Marti Pellow, I-can’t-believe-I’m-getting-away-with-this dimple buster of a grin, but a proper mile-wide smile as expansive and welcoming as the Ohio of her birthplace. In the golden age of Hollywood, Kim and her cheekbones would’ve been filmed swinging carefreely around lamposts. “I’m in love…I’m in love with singing, and I want the wurld t’know!” Check the video below for proof.

Freed from the pressures of Pixies, Kim takes centrestage and ropes in her twin sister Kelley (replacing Tanya Donnelly who’d by now left and formed Belly) alongside English bass player Josephine Wiggs and Slint’s Britt Walford on drums; an alternative rock supergroup of sorts that occasionally – especially on Cannonball – surpasses much of what made them so revered in their respective day jobs.

Kim and Kelley mesh and meld and harmonise across the verses, an electrified Mamas and Papas (or should that be Mamas and Mamas?), surfing the wave where two voices become one yet sound like three. Clever stuff, you’d need to agree. A metallic clatter of muted six-strings amplified to dangerously exciting levels heralds the noisy bit and suddenly you can see why The Breeders were one of Nirvana’s tour supports of choice. Melody and mayhem – always key ingredients in a proper guitar band’s arsenal.

Cannonball rocks. From the static bursts of fuzz mic, to the spontaneous “Heys!” that appear with satisfying regularity, to the underlying breathy a-woo-oos that you’ll spot if you scratch below the surface, it’s a real beauty of a guitar track, punky yet, eh, funky too. Do they really sing, ‘I’ll be your whatever you want…the bong in this reggae song‘? Yes. Yes, they do.

*Bonus Tracks!

Here’s the demo of Cannonball, working title Grunggae. Very much a work in progress, you can hear the seeds being sown; that shuffling beat, the twin vocals, the a-woo-oos, the metallic k.o. and rattling clatter before the noisy bit. The DNA is all in place, even if the arrangement isn’t.

The Breeders  – Cannonball (demo)

Fantastically lo-fi live version here:

The Breeders  – Cannonball (Live in Stockholm, 1994)

Magpie DJs Radio Soulwax have oft incorporated Cannonball into their sets, mashed up occasionally (as was the parlance of the time) with Skee-Lo’s I Wish, intelligent rap and indie rock cross-pollinating into something wholly different.

Radio Soulwax part 0


Listen from 3 min 20, or download the whole thing and marvel at the psychedelic jigsawing of it all; Beastie Boys, Maceo & The Macks, EMF, God Only Knows, Elastica, Jack And Diane, Eye of the Tiger, Mr Oizo, Erik B & Rakim, What Have You Done For Me Lately?, Basement Jaxx, Funky Cold Medina, No Diggity…..all fed into the Radio Soulwax super-blender and served up as something brand new…. even 20+ years later. The soundtrack to every one of my barbecues for the past two decades, I can never get enough of 2 Many DJs mixes.




Alternative Version, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Keeping It Peel 2014


Keeping It Peel is the brainchild of Webbie, who writes the excellent and informative Football And Music blog.  An annual celebration of all things Peel (this year’s event is especially poignant, given that it’s 10 years since John died), it’s purpose is to remind everyone just how crucial John Peel was to enlightening and expanding listening tastes up and down the country; to ‘Educate and Inform‘, as was the motto of his employer. Be it demo, flexi, 7″, 10″, 12″, EP, LP, 8 track cartridge, wax cylinder or reel to reel field recording, the great man famously listened to everything ever sent his way, and if it was in anyway decent he played it on his show. Sometimes, he played the more obscure records at the correct speed. Sometimes he didn’t. And sometimes, no-one noticed.  John Peel is the reason my musical tastes expanded beyond the left-field avant-garde edginess of Hipsway and Love And Money and the reason why my mum stopped singing her own version of whatever it was I was playing (“Take a ri-ide on the Suga Trayne!”) and started asking me to “turn that racket down” whenever she passed my teenage bedroom door. Thank you, John.

This year’s Peel Session selection features Pixies from October 18th 1988.

The PIXIESThe thin ‘n hairy years

Pixies in 1988 were betwixt and between releases. Surfer Rosa (their best album, and don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise) was 7 months old and still stuck to the turntables, and Doolittle was but a sparkle in Black Francis’ eye. They were a PHENOMENAL live act around this time; full-on and feral and could do no wrong.

Their session for Peel in October was a cracker. Half of the songs were barely a minute and a half long, little blitzkrieg blasts of wonky time signatures, heavy breathing, strange chord structures and larynx-loosening primal screams from Black Francis – “Uriah hit the crapper! The crapper! Uriah hit the crapper….DEAD!” – what the devil was he on about? Who knows, but who cares? This was a thrilling taster of the new stuff still to come. Tame, Dead and There Goes My Gun would all end up on the Doolittle LP the following year. Dancing The Manta Ray would eventually see the light of day as the b-side to that LPs big single, Monkey Gone To Heaven.

I thought I still had the old TDK of this session with Peel’s introductions, but I fear it’s lost and gone forever. It’s certainly not in the first (and only) place I looked. For authenticity’s sake I was going to post those versions, but instead Tame comes from the Rough Diamonds bootleg and the other three come from the official BBC Sessions CD.

Tracks in order of broadcast;



Dancing The Manta Ray

There Goes My Gun

These tracks and a gazillion more are released shortly on the 3CD Doolittle 25 release, available at the recession-friendly price of £12. A bargain for sure. Available via Pixies’ online shop here.


Get This!

‘Mon Tae Python

 amazing snakeheads

The Amazing Snakeheads are a proper rough ‘n ready rock ‘n roll band. Unlike any number of fellow Glasgow contemporaries, there’s no pose, no preen, no pretence. Just a short, sharp shock of sweaty, sweary in-yer-face claustrophobic riffs.  They’ve just released The Best Single Of 2013 (fact) on Domino Records. It’s called Testifying Time and you can buy it here.

You might have heard it already on 6 Music. They’ve been playing it a lot recently. On Lamacq’s Round Table a couple of weeks ago, the panel waxed lyrical about both record and band so much so that it was played twice before the end of the show.  Mind you, the whole record is done and dusted in 1 minute 5 seconds. They could probably have squeezed another play in before the news headlines if they’d really tried. By the time the news headlines had been read out, I’d bought my copy online.

amazing snakeheads 7

And here’s a thing…

The b-side is even better.

Carrying more implied menace than a dog-eared copy of No Mean City, it would be the ideal soundtrack to kicking off a Mad Dog-induced square go, big style. Y’know those Pixies tracks where a demented Frank Black barks ‘n yelps his way through all sorts of nonsense in pidgin schoolboy Spanish, just him and Kim on bass, playing in front of a garage band drum beat and the odd reverbed clatter? Vamos. That’s the track I’m thinking of.

That’s what The Truth Serum is like. It’s wild-eyed and wired. It’s the sound of throwing an out of control mental wee bam into a wardrobe before sticking a broom, cartoon-style, between the handles as a temporary lock. Thump! Thump! Thump! Let! Me! Out! Ya! Bass! It’s like a sweary Nyah Fearties covering Pixies, and it sounds every bit as good as that suggests. A broad Scots’ tongue lashing of the highest order. Feral, ferocious and effin’ fantastic.

You know that the guitars are going to come crashing in like a pair of size 10 DMs anytime soon, and it’s all going to kick off, but you’re not sure exactly when. The trick they’ve perfected here is the art of making sure the tension builds and builds until it can’t be contained any more and. Must. Be. Released. Here’s that Pixies track:

Estaba pensando sobreviviendo con mi sister en New Jersey!” goes Frank, all menace and snarl. “We’ll go to California!!!” he screams. Screeeeeeeeeeeee!

Geordie? Geordie?! Geordie?!? GEORDIE!!! TELL THUM!Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! go The Amazing Snakeheads. Terrific stuff.

amazing snakeheads sneer


River Euphrates Double Whammy

Every school had their own Billy Bullshit and Alan Harper* was ours. Harper was quite a quiet guy, but when he talked, he talked about 3 things – fishing, going fishing with his uncle, and just how great his uncle was at fishing and other pursuits. “My uncle caught a salmon that was bigger than my gran’s Collie but he had to throw it back in the river cos he said we wouldn’t be able to eat it all in one go and the rest of it wouldn’t have fitted in my auntie’s freezer.” Aye?!

“My uncle scored a one-four-seven against Hurricane Higgins in a challenge match at the snooker last year and Steve Davis refused to play him after that so he got a bye into the final against Ray Reardon but Ray Reardon beat him.” Oh aye?!

My uncle used to play for Irvine Meadow and Rangers wanted to sign him as a winger but he wouldn’t sign for them unless they played him instead of Derek Johnstone at centre forward so they signed Davie Cooper instead.” Aye?! Really?!

Phil Lynott asked my uncle to play lead guitar in Thin Lizzy after they played at the Magnum but my uncle was playing bass in a wedding band at the time and didn’t want to let them down.” Aye?! Right! You know the sort of talk…equal parts riveting and ridiculous.

Alan Harper was also quite a sturdy guy. We used to laugh at the outlandishness of it all behind his back, but one day, just before physics, Harper caught me laughing at his latest claim and BANG!, he thumped me clean on the nose. There were tears and blood and I never again laughed at the utter pish he spoke.

*name changed to protect the innocent (me).

pixies fountain

River Euphrates was the first track I ever heard by the Pixies. It arrived like that Harper left hook; from outta nowhere, brutal and like a no-nonsense hard smack to the coupon. It was shouty and guitary and, by now, being fed up with my Wedding Present LPs, immediately became my new favourite record. I went Pixies daft, buying Surfer Rosa and Come On Pilgrim on vinyl in one fell swoop, played them to death and waited patiently for about a year until Doolittle and all the other subsequent albums/singles/eps came along. Surfer Rosa, with it’s hubba-hubba sexy cover and more-tunes-to-the-groove ratio than their other LPs remains my favourite. And River Euphrates still remains my favourite Pixies track.

Not your normal guitar band, Pixies wrote songs differently. Their whole quiet/loud/quiet/loud schtick was adopted to great effect by Nirvana (you knew that already), but a quick flick through their back catalogue will reveal a whole host of very sweary and disturbing songs about slicing up eyeballs, broken faces (Harper again), tattooed tits and sending bloodied dresses to boyfriends in prison – subject matter that contemporaries then and now were not tackling. God only knows what they were singing about when they burst into Spanish. For the record, River Euphrates is a song about sailing down the actual River Euphrates on a giant tyre after running out of petrol somewhere on the Gaza Strip between Egypt and Israel. Nothing more, nothing less. River Euphrates is practically a quiet/loud/quiet Pixies template-by-numbers, with a breathy Kim Deal vocal struggling for space behind a loop of  3 barrre chords that musicians (pah!) like Roddy Frame would never consider putting together, and a larynx-loosening Frank Black vocal almost as big and ugly as his girth. He whispers one minute and barks like a dog the next and I love it. I used to try and play the siren-like riff by bending two strings together until my fingers bled (to paraphrase Bryan Adams) but it was only about a month ago that I discovered why my version sounded nothing like the original.

pixies river euphrates guitar

On Pixies’ Facebook page, guitarist Joey Santiago posted a picture of a beautiful Gretsch guitar (above), all silver sparkles and chrome. It belonged to Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and it was this guitar, said Joey, that he played when the band recorded River Euphrates. The distinctive siren sound was created by manipulating the guitar’s Bigsby whammy bar though a torrent of feedback from a Marshall stack, two key ingredients that I don’t have. That’ll be why my version sounded like Lonnie Donegan jamming with Lee Mavers, I reasoned. It’ll also be why, I reasoned again, Pixies rarely played River Euphrates live. Look through any Pixies bootleg list and, while it makes an appearance here and there, River Euphrates was never really a staple of the Pixies live set. Later on on Facebook, someone pointed out that the guitar Joey had pictured didn’t actually have an on-board Bigsby, which kinda spoiled the story a wee bit for me, so we’ll just have to take his word for it.

Pixies recorded two studio versions of River Euphrates. The first appeared on the b-side of their Gigantic EP. The second, shorter version was recorded by Steve Albini and appeared on Surfer Rosa. Both, like, rock.

River Euphrates (Gigantic ep version)

River Euphrates (Surfer Rosa version)

Bonus Track!

Arch satirist Chris Morris did a Pixies parody called Motherbanger for Select magazine a few years ago. Spot on, as you’ll hear…..

Chris Morris – Motherbanger

Cover Versions, entire show, Hard-to-find, Peel Sessions

Tres Bon Ivers

That story from the other day (here) about the boy who swapped his iPod for a Walkman for a week had me thinking back to all my old compilation tapes I’ve still got in a box. I used to listen to the John Peel show religiously and sit with my finger poised over the pause button of the cassette deck on my music centre (as they were called, in my house at least, between 1983 and 1990, until CD first came into my life) waiting for something good to pop up inbetween the anarcho-punk, dub reggae, Ivor Cutler and Fall tracks. Nowadays I can appreciate that for the most part, John Peel’s show was all good, but to a 13 year old mad about Adam and The Ants, Crass, Culture and Captain Beefheart were a step too far.

By the end of the 80s I was a dab hand at recording entire Peel Sessions. If I was lucky I’d pause it just before Peel started talking. In hindsight, that was a stupid thing to do. I’d love to know what he said about some of the sessions I taped, but his comments have floated off into the ethers of time. I still have those tapes though…


The House of Love (“Hey man, the bongos are too loud” – I managed to capture Peel that night!), numerous Wedding Presents, a great Inspiral Carpets session with their original singer that sounded like The Doors and The Teardrop Explodes slugging it out after 17 microdots. And some fantastic Pixies stuff, including their first Peel Session.

pixies bw

You can find out all you need to know about any John Peel session at this indispensable site here. This Pixies one was recorded at Maida Vale 4 on 3rd May 1988 (21 years ago!!!) and broadcast about a week later, the session was notable for a couple of things. Firstly, it sounded fantastic. Pristine recording. Short, short songs. Frank Black screaming his big fat head off. Listening to it now, I can vouch that it still sounds fantastic today. Secondly, the choice of songs the band played was interesting. Two tracks from their recently released ‘Come On Pilgrim’ ep, two cover versions and a track that wouldn’t see the light of day until the ‘Doolittle‘ album.

pixies bar

About 10 years ago, long before file sharing had reached the West of Scotland I bought a Pixies bootleg called ‘Rough Diamonds’. This album has 5 tracks credited to the May 88 session, but my old tape has 4 songs from the session. I either missed their pre-Doolittle version of ‘Hey‘, or that song wasn’t broadcast in the first place. The 5 tracks are:


Levitate Me

Wild Honey Pie


In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song) 

In contrast to the rather daft and throwaway Beatles original, Wild Honey Pie is a full-on Frank Black scream-fest that wouldn’t sound out of place in any Pixies set of original material. In Heaven.. is a cover of a song from David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’. But you knew that already. Have you ever heard Peter Ivers original? Creeeeeeepy. High pitched voice, churchy keyboard and a wind effect at the end. The Pixies do a pretty good job of replicating it, but I think the Flaming Lips would really make this one soar. I’m now off to illegally seek out some Peter Ivers recordings.  Enjoy the session!

peter ivers

I heart Peter Ivers


Hard-to-find, Studio master tapes

Rock Me Joe!

“There was a guy. An underwater guy…” The Pixies are currently going through a bit of a renaissance in our house just now. I was getting fed up with all the feyness of the Fleet Foxes and their ilk (as much as I still like them) and was looking for something to blow the cobwebs away. Something loud. Actually, something quiet then LOUD. Then quiet again. Then 10 times LOUDER. You know what I mean. So I played ‘Surfer Rosa’ and everything was alright again. Then by coincidence, about an hour later I found the demos to ‘Doolittle‘ on Dimeadozen! A sign? I thought so. So I downloaded them, went back to my other Pixies albums and bootlegs and have been going Black Francis crazy ever since. In the car, on the iPod, on the good old fashioned stereo in the living room, the Pixies are everywhere. Everywhere. And they sound grrrrrrrrrreeeeeaaaaatttt!!!

Pixies ’88

Who’d have thought anyone responding to an advert seeking musicians “into Peter, Paul & Mary and The Beatles‘ could join forces and create such an unholy tuneful racket? I have been playing a bootleg called ‘Rough Diamonds’ an awful lot. In fact, it just might be the best Pixies non-release there is. It combines all of their BBC sessions at Maida Vale (unlike the incomplete official BBC Sessions CD) with some other studio outtakes from various sources. The sound quality is Grade A excellent. You really should seek it out. While it was never my favourite Pixies track (that would be Number 13 Baby. Or Broken Face. Or Gigantic. Or River Euphrates. Or…), I have been fairly taken by these versions of ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’

First, we have the demo version of the track that would appear on the Doolittle album. Slightly sparse and a wee bit less rocking than the released version, this version sees the band find their feet around the track. Kim Deal’s backing vocals are buried way too deep in the mix and the band sound quite restrained. By the time the band went to Maida Vale Studio 5 on 18th August 1988 (almost 20 years ago! Shite, I’m getting old), the tune had been transformed into something of a behemoth. It sounds like a ton of reverb has been chucked over the whole thing. The bass sounds fantastic and KIm’s breathy schoolgirl vocals are higher up in the mix. There’s even a wee bit of echo during the “If man is 5 then the devil is 6” bit. Frank Black/Black Francis is at his shouty best. This version goes quiet, LOUD, quiet, LOUDER. It’s a winner!

Pixies ’08. Peter, Paul, Mary and Ringo

If this isn’t enough for you, how about this? It’s only the studio master tapes of ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’!!!! 16 tracks of Kim, Black/Frank, David and Joseph Alberto Santiago. One complete ogg vorbis file. Open as usual in Audacity and remix away. More cello? Certainly! Loop the ‘Rock Me Joe’ bit. No bother. More reverb on the snare drum? Certainly sir. Here‘s the double-tracked vocals only version. God, the internet is great, isn’t it?



Thanks for all the emails. Many of you seem to be having problems clicking on the links and saving some of the music to your computer. Yesterday The Last Shadow Puppets and David Bowie tracks disappeared totally for a couple of hours. Today the Primal Scream tracks seem to be the ones going astray. I have no understanding of this, but I’m as pissed of about it as you might be if the track you really want appears to have gone AWOL. Behind the scenes I have a team of experts who are frantically trying to resolve the issue. As I write, all links are working – I’ve checked them all myself. But I can’t guarantee that’ll be the case in an hour or so. Please be patient! 

Download-only Pixies track from a couple of years ago. ‘Bam Thwok’ is the sound my brain is making trying to fix my download problem. Fingers crossed this link works.