|"You're so pretty when you're unfaithful to me"|
Today's bad-ass Aries is Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV. Or, better known as Black Francis or Frank Black.
There is just no getting around it, no matter what any one else might say. The Pixies are one of the greatest groups of all time. They stand alone in many ways. Even their worst records are better than most bands' best ones. And, they are so distinct, and special, that they are impossible to cover. One of the Pixies' greatest admirers, David Bowie, attempted to cover Debaser, and failed miserably. And, I love me some Thin White Duke.
And, could I say something about Joey Santiago, lead guitarist for the Pixies, before I relate a few stories about Black Francis and his stellar band? When I had heard that the Pixies had broken up, I had a friend in the Bakery Dept of the Food Hole at Berkeley that I shared this v sad information with. This is 1992. The first words out of her mouth were, "What about Joey Santiago? What is he gonna do?"
I did not get it. At that point, the Pixies for me were Black Francis and Kim Deal.
I get it now. And, have "gotten it" for quite a while. Santiago is one of the greatest rock guitarists ever, full stop. You do not believe me? Listen to Subbacultcha. Listen to Vamos. Listen to his absolutely perfect tone on record after record. Only Steve Cropper to me has got a better sense of texture and tone to fit the need of a particular song.
Anyroad, it is Story Time now, bothers and sisters:
I have seen the Pixies three times live. The first time was at the Union Ballroom at UT right after Doolittle. The space was awful. The sound was terrible. (Black Francis, a serious fucking perfectionist kept bitching about the sound all night long.) But, it does not matter. Austim was desperate, craving to hear the Pixies, their first show there. My favorist memory of that show, in which they played their set in alphabetical order (how brilliant!) was Kim deal walking out on to the stage, plugging in and saying, "This is Austin, right? You guys love the Butthole Surfers."
The second time I saw them was them promoting Trompe le Monde. I was on mushrooms, and I had a date that I had completely lost. She worked with me at Martin Bros (inside the Food Hole Mother Store on Lamar St), and was living with, dating Brian Beatty of Glass Eye (another favorite band of mine.)
I remember a number of things: One, that the Pixies had no opening act, and that they made us wait forever. This time it was at The Austin Opera House (a fabulous venue, I saw Squeeze, 10,000 Maniacs, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz, Dino Lee and his White Trash Revue, the Butthole Surfers, and dozens of others there) and Two, that the Pixies had decided that the opening "music", as it were, for their appearance would be thirty minutes of the kind of noise you hear at the beginning of The Smiths' Meat is Murder track.
Third, the mushrooms kicked in right as the Pixies hit the stage. Black Francis was all dressed in red, a sort of cowboy outfit. And, the first thing this hard core atheist thought was: Black Francis is Satan!
The band did not play an encore. Folks at the Opera House were plenty pissed, and Mark W, and my friend Kenny discussed it at the Omlettry at great length. (What happened to my date? I have no idea. I caught up w/ her at work. She was fine. And Brian told me that she had had a great great time.) I dinnae care that they dinnae play an encore. They had satiated my desire, for sure.
Finally, I fucking broke up the Pixies! I was working at Martin Bros., making smoothies and sandwiches for the kids. Making strawberry smoothies for Molly Ivins (I always told her, "Keep raising hell, Sister" when I handed her her drink.)
Anyhoo, It was my birthday, and the Pixies were playing at the Enormodome, the Frank Erwin Center, opening up for U2. There was no way I was paying twenty-five dollars to see Bono prance around the stage, bitching about how he still has not found what he was looking for, no matter that the greatest band ever (to me, at least) were opening for them. (I have read about the horror stories of that tour from the Pixies. The Pixies severely got the shaft from Ireland's finest, no matter what Bono or The Edge might suggest about their admiration for America's greatest band at the time.)
Black Francis showed up at Martin Bros. on my birthday, April 7, 1992. Joey Santiago was also there. David Lovering was not.
(I have always had this strange sensation, fear, that I would not be able to recognize a famous person if they had presented themselves to me. But, every single time that it has happened to me, I have recognized them straight on, and have -- for the most part -- got my grille right up on to theirs and introduced myself to them, and tried to start a conversation.)
I recognized Black Francis straight away. I told all the other folks at Martin Bros that I would be handling this order, making it, ringing it up, whatever.
I took his order, told him that I wish I were at the show, and that it was my birthday today. Black Francis said, "Wow, my birthday was yesterday."
I made his sandwich and smoothie, and as I rung him up, said, "Where's Kim?"
Black Francis rolled his eyes in disgust.
I broke up the Pixies.
"It's ead - you - cay - shuh - nuhl!"
Noam Chomsky will be at the Paramount in Oakland in May. Talk about holding peasants in your arms, if you will.