Charles had been in the first year of an economics course at Amherst University, Massachusetts, when one day a woman walked into his Spanish class and asked if anyone wanted to go to Puerto Rico for a year. He packed his bag the next day, ready for the great adventure. Great expectations turned sour when he starved for the first week he was there through lack of money because he couldn't make himself understood well enough to open a bank account and cash a check. His Spanish improved rapidly as did his appetite, but despite his love of blaring car horns, Pinto beans, burning type rubber and sun, he was missing something, but couldn't think what.
Six months had passed before his sudden decision in the local bar: he would either travel to New Zealand and witness the spectacle of Haley's Comet, or form a rock band.
"You know when you're trying to watch a group," he later recalled, "but somehow your eyes keep slipping back to the little chick who's two rows in the front, sitting on the back of her seat and can't keep still for shaking? You can't see the band, but you still go home alone and you're lying asleep because you don't wanna sleep with your loins on fire. Then you remember you've always wanted to be in a rock 'n roll band since you were five, but you moved to California and, in the rush, your parents gave away your Beatles albums. All of them. I had them all when I was eight and that's one of those painful childhood experiences. Finally in Puerto Rico, I wasn't attending classes. That day I just said, 'F*** this, I'm gonna be a rock star.'"
The slightly portly 21-year-old shook the sand from his shoes and took the next plane back to Boston.
In Boston, Charles spent two weeks trying to convince Joey Santiago, his old college roommate, to drop out of school and join his band. He had, so he says, "missed the major astrological event of the century" to create this band and according to Charles, he and Joey had only started college because they'd both wanted to be in a rock band and they'd spent most of their first term writing songs, learning how to play guitar and smoking as much dope as possible. Charles had played in a couple of "fake" high-school bands and sung Wilson Pickett's "Midnight Hour" at his Senior Prom, but had missed out on punk and hardcore. Joey introduced him to the 70s sounds of punk and space-age Bowie.
Joey had lived in the Philippines until he was seven and his first memory was of his local church in Manilla playing "Ob La Di, Ob La Da" the day the Beatles split up. Still, Joey wasn't convinced he should follow the singer.
According to Charles, the Santiago family were one of the wealthiest and most powerful in the Philippines. When the first three Mercedes arrived on the island, Joey's uncle had two, the third went to President Marcos. In 1972, the power-lines shifted and members of Joey's family suddenly began to disappear in "mysterious circumstances". Joey's father, a doctor, decided it was safer to move to America and offer his kids a better education than the lyrics of inane la-di-da Beatles songs.
At the time, Joey was renowned as the king of apathy. He'd recently cycled across America in aid of charity, but having completed the endurance test, he couldn't be bothered to collect the sponsor's money.
When the lead guitarist finally relented, the pair started thinking of names for the band. Charles decided to call himself Black Francis because he "always liked sort of funny, corny pompous stage names like Iggy Pop and Billy Idol". Black Francis was the name his father was going to give his next son; the son never materialised, so Charles adopted the title instead.
It was Joey who thought up the name The Pixies, although he apparently didn't even know what the word meant at that time. "With English not his first language," Charles explained, "Joey has a fascination for new words. 'Oh I like that word,' he says, and looks it up and sees what it means. Believe it or not, he wanted to call the band Pixies In Panoply, but we shortened it a little."
The pair put a Musicians Wanted ad in a Boston paper (The Boston Phoenix) asking for a bass player for a band into "Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul & Mary". They only had one reply, from a girl named Kim Deal, aka Mrs John Murphy.
Kimberly grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where day-to-day conversation revolved around "corn and livestock". In third grade, Kim used to draw pentangles on her parent's porch, but she gave up witchcraft in favour of music. She and her twin sister formed a folk duo called The Breeders, who reached legendary status in Dayton when they supported Steppenwolf. She also got involved in various nefarious druggy activities and got into trouble with the law. She was once detained in a police holding cell, but can't even remember actually being in prison, although she admits she'd have been too drunk to remember anyway.
Her sister moved into catering and Kim married John Murphy and moved to his hometown of Boston, where she saw the ad and thought it was "cute". Kim arrived at the audition without a bass, claiming her sister had one back in Dayton, but she had no money to get it. Charles had to lend her 50 dollars for the airfare - a gesture of faith that paid off handsomely.
Their original drummer was quickly dismissed and Kim suggested a guy she'd met once at her wedding reception. Drummer David Lovering was sick of playing in "good-off" bands and was drafted in to complete the quartet. When he was six, David had ridden a unicycle through a Mormon church service for a bet and had played drums in his school marching band for a hobby, which the rest of The Pixies considered perfect credentials for their band which had "no particular image". The message under David's high school year book read "David Lovering: I want to be in a rock band and I want to be an electrical engineer." When he was 18, he visited a psychic who correctly guessed his name, age, his penchant for drumming and travelling and even the name of his girlfriend.
"She really knew her shit," he recalled two years later. "I asked her if there was anything in music for me and she looked up and said, 'No, nothing at all.' Maybe she was right!"
After playing drums for bands called Iz Wizard and Riff Raff, David was also the only musician in Boston who thought The Pixies was a sensible name.
Two months after Charles arrived back in Boston, The Pixies were fully formed and began rehearsing in David's dad's garage. It was July, 1986.
Their first gig at the Rat Club in Boston was, in the drummer's words, "possibly the worst gig in the history of rock. All our friends came to see us and laughed their asses off". Their second gig was supporting Big Dipper and another Boston-based band, Throwing Muses. By now The Pixies had managers and agents interested and successive gigs proved more inspiring, with the help of a striking poster for the gigs which featured Charles naked in a semi-foetal position with a thumbs down fist clenched at his midsection which most people mistakenly thought was his dick. By their fourth gig, one Boston fanzine prophetically touted the band as future leaders of the East Coast rock underground, yet Kim only remembers them being "a stupid little band in Boston".
Then came Gary Smith, manager and producer at a Boston disused warehouse called Fort Apache studios, who'd recently sent the Muses packing to the UK for a lucrative deal with 4AD Records. Smith heard the band and felt he "could not sleep until you guys are world famous".
Work began at Fort Apache for three consecutive days during March '87. The band got through eighteen songs, including a far from celestial cover of "In Heaven (The Lady In The Radiator Song)" from David Lynch's "Eraserhead" film, an almost acoustic "Here Comes Your Man", "Down To The Well" and "Rock A My Soul". The sessions were mixed over a further three days (the $1,000 costs were funded by Charles' father), to create "The Purple Tape". Copies were sent to interested parties, including local promoter Ken Goes (who immediately became their manager).
The Pixies had intended to use the tape to secure a contract, whereupon they'd re-record the songs as part of an album. They never got the chance. Ivo Watts of 4AD was so impressed with the tape, he signed the band and in October '87, released 8 tracks off the demo, which became the mini-album, "Come On Pilgrim".
Much attention was focused on the album's subject matter: Charles' curious and eccentric melange of roadside observations and cracked anecdotes all tethered by a tongue-tangled howl of guitar.
While the sepia-tinted flamenco album cover and Hispanic titles like "Vamos" and "Isla De Encanta" were directly influenced by Charles' sojourn in Puerto Rico, and the desire to connect with some ancient, primal emotion could be traced to the singer's recent visit to an archaeological dig in Arizona, the album's preoccupation with religion was more deeply rooted in Charles' born-again, Pentecostal upbringing.
Charles was born in Long Beach, California, but was always the outsider at school because his dad, a bar-keeper, kept moving around the country. By the time he was a teenager, Charles had already attended over 10 different schools. "I rather liked the idea that I was cooler than anyone else," he said later. "I used to hang around with the more oddball weirdo types".
He was 12 when the entire Thompson family came down with a chronic does of religion. Charles grew up exposed to a lot of preaching and righteous rage, and although he rejected the content, the style left its impression on the singer. "It certainly left me f***ed up, that's for sure," he later admitted. The title, "Come On Pilgrim" was taken from a song by Larry Norman, a Christian folk singer who Charles saw perform at summer camp when he was 13.
"When I reached my teens, I discovered rock 'n roll and started getting interested in girls," he recalls, "so I guess that sort of religious/sexual conflict of interests is where a lot of the songs come from. The Bible's got a lot of wild stories in the Old Testament - the incest thing pops up a lot in my songs."
Charles not only plundered the Bible for stories, he also borrowed the possessed born-again style of an evangelist preacher to deliver his fables, hollering Flintstone and treacle at The Pixies' Boston audiences. He had also befriended a Thai rock star (cousin to the manager of the flower where he worked at the time), who told him to "scream it like you hate that bitch!" in the style of the Beatles' "Oh! Darling".
At that time, he also confessed to being "super-horny" when he was a teenager, which goes some way to explain tunes like "The Holiday Song" - an anthem for masturbation ("Here I am with my hand").
"I wanted to command some faith to the audience," he explained at the time. "I wanted them to be intrigued, absolutely curious about what I am. That's what makes music attractive to me - it's the hole you get sucked into when you really get into a song."
In America, The Pixies live shows were starting to pick up a cult following, while critics in England attempted to locate the group's fleetfooted muse in "Come On Pilgrim" and often floundered in an ocean of riddles and ridicule. Because the band barely glanced back at history, many found musical reference points misleading. Although their soul lay in the Sixties garage punk of bands like The Seeds, a host of other comparisons were summoned up. Pere Ubu and The Fall's abrupt short-circuit of the synapse gaps, MC5's steamroller abandon, Television's razor cuts, Hüsker Dü's monstrous feedback noise were all cited, but no one could really put their finger on the Pixies brand of savage mayhem.
According to Charles, there is only one truth. It occurs during The Stooges' "Loose", when Iggy screams "Brother! Brother!". "That's gospel," Charles declared in a Melody Maker interview. "In the end, nothing beats volume and lights and drunken people. The songs just have to sound cool".
The band toured far-flung towns like Kalamazoo and, to use Kim's description, "other roach-infested motels in unknown places like Kansas", in order to hone down their jerry-built songs and learn to play when extremely drunk. As far as Britain was concerned the band vanished into thin air right after such a highly-acclaimed debut.
Six months later the band returned to the limelight with the full-length album, "Surfer Rosa", which was released
in March 1988. The album immediately went to Number One in the independent charts. The LP was going to be called "Gigantic", after Kim's big, big love show-stopper, but the sleeve featured a naked flamenco dancer with large breasts and it was feared people might get the wrong idea, or the right idea.
"Surfer Rosa" proved that The Pixies had learned to ride their scalding momentum. The right idea was provided by Ivo, who brought in Big Black/Rapeman figure Steve Albini to turn all the guitars up loud and unleash "lazy evil" into the Pixies' sound (Two years later, Albini, in typically provocative fashion, was to deny ever producing the album, describing "Surfer Rosa" as a "patchwork pinch loaf from a band at their top dollar best, blandly entertaining college rock"!) . The album was completed in a fortnight, apart from some vocal mixes added afterwards. The results jaywalked over rock tradition. Songs like "Bone Machine" and "Break My Body" formed a kind of anatomical Esperanto, speaking in tongues to suggest a carnivorous lust. Elsewhere, themes of death and mutilation reared their ugly heads, like the prison inmate of "Cactus", who pleads with his girlfriend to rub her dress with sweat and blood and send it to him (with music inspired by T. Rex's "The Groover"). Yet all this bestial unreason was tinted with a dark humour, while Charles' innate grasp of hook and melody ("Where Is My Mind") saved the band from accusations of tackling the well-worn avant-garde targets of sex, death and violence just to score easy shock points. As the Maker concluded at the time: "This album kicks ass."
Charles' surreal and disturbing songs of everyday life were frequently compared to "Blue Velvet" director David Lynch's style of movie-making. The singer would often comment in interviews about Lynch's ability to "come up with something that just looks good, sounds good and you just go with it". In March 1989 he told Rolling Stone magazine, "I don't know if it's just that I'm a young f***ed up kid or if it's that I appreciate the macabre, the strange or the horrible. I go to a lot of movies." The band promoted this connection by performing "In Heaven" (the song from Lynch's "Eraserhead") as their encore.
"I write my songs mostly in front of a mirror," Charles later explained. "When I get tired of the mirror, I stand in the bath tub and draw the shower curtain. Eighty percent of the lyrics are baloney. It's that T. Rex thing of 'it sounds cool'. I write songs by singing a whole bunch of syllables to chord progressions and they become words. A bunch of five words might mean something or stand for something, but the five words after it, or preceding it sure as hell won't have anything to do with them".
In March '88, two weeks after the album's release, The Pixies finally arrived in Britain to support label-mates and fellow Bostonians, Throwing Muses, on tour. Yet from the first date at London's Mean Fiddler, the tour was seen as two distinct acts playing the same night, with one review claiming it was the finest double act since the Romans decided to put the Christians and the lions on the same bill. Critical acclaim reached rabid proportions and even the Muses would regularly pile plaudits on the band from the stage, but The Pixies kept their feet in the air and their heads on the ground. "We're just ordinary guys and an ordinary gal," Charles said. "I'm just Mr Square, Mr Nerd, Mr Normal. I like the fact that none of us are rock 'n roll type people, we're truly naive, so it's pure. There's not a lot of thought."
In August '88 the band released their first single, the truly exquisite eargasm, "Gigantic". It immediately went to Number One in the independent charts and paved the way for the band's first headlining tour of the UK and Europe a month later. At the end of 1988, "Surfer Rosa" was voted Album Of The Year in Melody Maker and Sounds, while the band swept up the laurels in most music paper readers' polls. The Pixies were rapidly achieving their ludicrously ambitious goal - to be as successful as U2, but "be weird" to boot. The Pixies returned to Boston to write and record their third album.
"There's tons and tons of sludge, and the fishermen bring up fish with sores on them and fins rotting away," he said. Somehow this frustration translated into a Green anthem which had Man, God and the Devil at sixes and sevens. Despite the song's more melodic lilt and cello underpinning, it preserved The Pixies' essential, serrated edge and not only hit the indie Number One slot the week of release, but also scuffed the door of the Gallup chart.
One month later, The Pixies unleashed the "Doolittle" album (originally titled "Whore") on an unsuspecting public. The LP, which had been recorded in Boston during the last six weeks of 1988, retained the urgency of their previous excursions, but this time around, the songs extended The Pixies' musical parameters, partly due to the influence of producer Gil Norton, who'd previously worked with bands like Echo & The Bunnymen and Wet Wet Wet.
Norton was brought in to tidy up The Pixies' inherent sloppiness and add craftsman's touch to the band's trigger- happy wail of sound, which continued to be punctuated as ever by the Black Francis scream. "Debaser" catapulted Bunuel and Dali into the whirlwind of guitars and Charles' hollered vocals, where words and language words couldn't express the intended barbarism ("Don't know about you, but I am un chien andalusia"). >From slicing eyeballs to the tattooed mutilation of "Number 13 Baby", the album proved that Charles still hadn't expunged the primal urges that galvanised the band's previous two albums: the animal unleashed inside the man.
"Mr Grieves" pointed to another favourite subject, death, while "Crackity Jones" reprised the Spanish flavour of "Come On Pilgrim" with Charles' tale of his "weirdo, psycho gay roommate in Puerto Rico". The Old Testament even crops up again for "Dead", the story of David and Bathsheba where unimpeded lust produces foul results ("Uriah hit the crapper") and "Gouge Away" a Dadaist version of Samson and Deliah. "Wave Of Mutilation" attempted to intertwine The Beach Boys with Charlie Manson, while the wistful "Silver" seemed torn out of a Buffalo Springfield songbook. At the time, the Maker claimed that "'Doolittle' obviously, painfully, joyfully can't help itself". The band still were out of control, still determined to explore rock conventions while others were content to exploit them.
"I'd like to have been around when the Spanish and the Dutch were mapping out the world," Charles said at the time. "It bums me out that there's no land left undiscovered. Not even the moon."
In April, the band started their 50-date "Sex & Death" European tour in Brighton and this time around, even national papers like The Independent were hailing them as "the most important band from the East Coast of America. Although they had three albums-worth of material to choose from, the band began their first gig in typically playful Pixie style. They started with the unrecorded "Into The White". The mischief continued for their last two London shows: the list featured a set in which all the songs were played alphabetically, for the second, they reversed their ordinary set, leaving the stage after the first number (the encore) only to return for the rest of the set!
In Nottingham, the band heard that "Doolittle" had entered the national charts at Number Eight and fell in love with the sound of champagne corks popping. Dame Fortune smiled on The Pixies; every show was a sell-out, every review full of gushing praise. Two weeks into the tour, however, Dame Fortune caught a cold. Charles was up in Joey's room after their Manchester gig, strumming an acoustic guitar, when he got a little carried away and sliced his fingers up. He found the hospital nurse was excellent with bandages, but not as good at picking shards of fibreglass out of the wound. Halfway through the ordeal, the nurse announced that she was the girlfriend of one of The Stone Roses and Charles began to wonder whether her lack of ability was simply his misfortune, or whether the independent charts had become an amoral battleground.
In Europe The Pixies various festival dates finally meant they could meet bands whose records they used to admire and compete with. In Holland, they went to dinner with R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe and went to the movies with Nick Cave. In Germany, they met The Cure and in Italy, they met the Mafia, cancelled the rest of their Italian dates and hightailed it to Nice, where they were cooked a better class of hot dog and no one threatened to break their arms.
After a two-week break, the "F*** Or Fight" tour of America began in September. Soon it was clear that the band was beginning to show signs of tour fatigue. They'd played over 100 shows in six months and their usual placid nature started to fray at the edges. Kim had already tried to find an escape route when she crashed her moped in Greece and Charles developed a total aversion to flying and insisted on driving everywhere - no matter how far. The Cure's Robert Smith announced that The Pixies were one of his favourite bands of the moment and they ended up supporting The Cure on their stadium tour of the States.
Despite such breaks, the band were still determined to make life difficult for themselves by not playing their hit single, "Here Comes Your Man" either live or on the numerous TV chat shows they were offered. In Seattle, David started to believe he was in love with Wendy James. In San Francisco, Joey dropped so much acid he thought he was a rhododendron bush and a day later in LA, Kim got so smashed she tried to prune him.
By the time the tour reached hometown Boston, the band had reached meltdown. Three numbers into the set, their friends and relatives witnessed Joey attempting to smash his guitar to pieces and then storming off stage. The guitar survived, Joey's fingers very nearly didn't. At their final gig in New York the next day, the band were so drained and bewildered, they couldn't attend their end of tour party.
In December, "Monkey Gone To Heaven" was voted best single of the year in all three music papers, while "Doolittle" was voted runner-up album of the year in Melody Maker and Sounds and Maker readers voted them Band Of The Year. The band themselves, however, slept through Christmas and New Year and took a much- needed vacation.
Tanya and Kim originally met because The Pixies and Throwing Muses were labelmates at 4AD. But it wasn't until the pair got hideously drunk together in a Boston disco in '88 that they vowed to create the ultimate disco album.
The Pixie and the Muse went through countless line-ups and aborted attempts to find time to record before Kim finally summoned Jo, who she'd met back in 1988 when Perfect Disaster supported The Pixies for their two London shows, and who managed to out-drink her sufficiently at the bar to warrant her place in the band. In January 1990, on Albini's advice, the three women teamed up with unknown 19-year old Kentucky drummer Brit Walford of hardcore band Slint. For the sessions Brit was renamed "Shannon Doughton", the fourth mysterious member of "the Bangles form Hell", The Breeders!
It took The Breeders only 21 days to rehearse and record 14 tracks (13 according to Record Collector!) in Edinburgh, for an album called "Pod" and produced by Steve Albini. The sessions were marred by the studio roof caving in and soaking the band's equipment. All tracks but two (or one?) turned up the LP: 9 Deal compositions, one apiece from Donelly and Wiggs, and a cover of The Beatles' "Happiness Is A Warm Gun".
Although "Pod" contained obvious baggage from the threesome's other groups, the Pixies/Muses/Disaster/ influences were kept to a minimum and the album embraced a whole gamut of eclectic jetsam, from the psychedelic rapture of Shocking Blue to the heavily punctuated rhythms of Television circa "Adventure", with a light sprinkling of mutant Shangri-las. Songs like "Metal Man" and "Opened" may have sounded as casualties of Albini's policy of bashing tunes out in one live take, but tracks such as "Iris" were wonderfully jagged enough to raise more than the odd eyebrow.
The album's most striking feature remained the lyrics. Kim sung her songs with a home-spun, smiling nursery rhyme lilt, but the tiny stories she narrated ranged from the surreal to the downright sordid, with themes that included menage-a-trois, an abortion that lives, child molestation, bad sex and bad TV, opium dens and lithium overdoses.
Kim had always claimed that rock 'n roll should be sordid, like pornography. With "Pod" she finally got her heart's desire. The mere existence of The Breeders, however, led to speculation that there was something inherently wrong with the trio's position in their original bands, a theory compounded by the sudden departure of Josephine Wiggs from Perfect Disaster to join Ultra Vivid Scene. After all, Kim has written and sung songs like "Gigantic" and "Into The White" for The Pixies before now, so why form a new band? "Pod" spent two months at the top of the indie charts and by the time it entered the national Top 30, even Charles began to wonder if she'd ever want to be a Pixie again.
"There were no songs I wrote that I definitely didn't want done by The Pixies," Kim explained, "but I think that Charles is the lead singer for The Pixies and he writes the songs and that's good, that's as it should be. I just wanted to sing."
The Breeders played two unannounced London gigs as support to Jah Wobble (Marquee) and Miracle Legion (Islington Powerhaus), were captured on BBC2's alternative music show "Snub", and then Kim left for LA to begin recording the next Pixies album.
Despite such interruptions, The Pixies completed their album, and in July released the single "Velouria". The song was chosen in order to move the band onto the next stage with an appearance on "Top Of The Pops" (it was the only song on the album with an easily recognisable chorus). It entered the charts at Number 28, but the program's producers remained unimpressed and instead plumped for Bananarama.
August 1990 saw the release of their surf/sci-fi album "Bossanova". The mood and theme of the album is very much dictated by the opening track, a cover of The Surftones "Cecilia Ann". This time, there is no murder, mutilation, death or barbarism. Instead, The Pixies go into interstellar overdrive, with tales of time travel and alien landings. Even Charles' familiar holler evaporates after the cacophony of "Rock Music". According to Kim, the songs started off pretty. "If we'd tried to rock them and rough them up, they would just have sounded dumb". With "Bossanova", The Pixies found a way of growing up without growing old. Their familiar apocalyptic garage/art trash gave way to a more subtle, melodic form of nervous derailment, led by Charles' calmer baritone vocals. After four albums, all the comparisons with Iggy Pop were finally appropriate. Yet tracks like "Dig For Fire" and "Down To The Well" (actually the first track the Pixies ever played together, back in 1986!) still contained enough schism and surprise to fulfil Charles' ambition of being paralysed by his own songs, to reduce the listener to "skin and bone". The NME thought the singer's lyrics and subject matter provided final proof of Charles' rampant insanity.
"Charles makes up all these big movies in his head and spills them out into three minute songs," Kim explained. "This album is more like Spielberg than David Lynch, more like 'ET' and 'Indiana Jones' than 'Eraserhead' or 'Blue Velvet'." Four years before, Charles Thompson had formed The Pixies because his life just "wasn't surreal enough most of the time". Since then, he had made every effort to make his songs as fascinating and frightening as he'd like his life to be.
The broad scope of "Bossanova" bode well for the band, but for some, the dance had all but stopped. The critics, more especially, missed the point, as the Maker one, who wrote: "My major complaint is that it doesn't go far enough, leaving it as a transitional record between "Doolittle" and some as yet unknown, Top 40/pop/stadium future".
After spending a month rehearsing in New Order's Manchester studios, the band turned up the guitars to maximum volume as the headline act on the last day of August's Reading Festival. After having been introduced by John Peel himself, the band opened with the album's near-instrumental anthem, "Rock Music", primarily because Black Francis was too scared to launch into singing before a crowd of 30,000 people. It was a fine performance. "I felt like Bon Jovi out there!" said Black Francis.
A Pixies European tour teamed up with David Bowie at Schuttord and Ulm, Germany, as well as pairing with 4AD's finest Leeds signing, the Pales Saints. They then returned to Ireland and the UK for another headlining tour, reaching a close at London's Brixton Academy, when Kim declared the date "our last show". Whatever this meant, it was certainly the last chance to view The Pixies in concert for some time. An extensive November 1990 US trek was cancelled through exhaustion, and Kim hitched to Brighton to brood over more material with Josephine Wiggs. Joey and David returned for vacations in the States, and Black soon followed, having paid his passage back, via the QE2, with three sold-out solo spots at London's Borderline in the first week of November. With one electric guitar and a look back at "Surfer Rosa"/"Doolittle", he breathe new life into their back catalogue, with no clue left behind as to what was to follow.
Further airings of "Trompe Le Monde" material, together with a jaunt through the Jesus And Mary Chain's "Head On", made up the set for sporadic UK dates in June., with Joey's brother Bob guesting on guitar. These culminated in a show at the Crystal Palace Bowl, supported by Ride and Cud, before a crowd of 20,000 spectators.
"Trompe Le Monde" released in September 1991, was preceded by rumours of being a heavy metal album, which proved to be quite inaccurate. "I'd say it's more heavy rock than heavy metal," precised Black Francis. The album was produced by Gil Norton again, and was boosted with beefy keyboard from Captain Beefheart/Pere Ubu veteran, Eric Drew Feldman.
Almost every review in UK and the USA cited "Trompe Le Monde" as a return to form, albeit a thoroughly crazed form. On October the 5th, "Trompe Le Monde" reached Number 7 in the UK charts. In the USA, it never went better than Number 92. In October was also released "I'm Your Fan", a tribute album to Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, which featured bands like R.E.M., Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and The Pixies, with one of the album best tracks, "I Can't Forget".
In November 1991, Pixies began to tour the USA to promote "Trompe Le Monde". On the 27th, the Orpheum Theatre in Boston was sold out. On December 22, they ended the tour at the Palladium in LA. After a short break, they started a new set of gigs at Chicago's Mandell Hall. On February 6th 1992, they were invited at the NBC "Late Night With David Letterman".
Then in March, The Pixies accepted the opening slot for the US leg of U2's Zoo TV Tour. This was expected to be a career move for The Pixies, the access to real mass success. However the sales of "Trompe Le Monde" didn't reach these expectations, and Black Francis acknowledged that he was hardly crushed when it didn't yield a platinum album.
The band seemed to be close to the end, and in April The Breeders released a new EP called "Safari". The Pixies were officially "on vacation". In November 1992, the Maker was the first magazine to evoke the possibility of an imminent break-up.
Black Francis had begun to work on a solo album (with the participation of Joey Santiago though), under the new name of "Frank Black". Gil Norton, the producer, suggested that Frank work with Eric Drew Feldman, who agreed to coproduce the album, simply titled 'FRANK BLACK'.
On January 13th, 1993, Black Francis/Frank Black was invited by Mark Radcliffe for Radio 5 program "Hit The North". When asked if the Pixies split rumours were founded or not, the Pixies' leader just answered "Yes... in one word, yes".
"Nothing really happened. I decided to disband the group because I didn't want to be in a group anymore," the singer said to NME shortly after. "I just think that some groups are maybe cut out for the long haul and being together for ten or 20 years, but no way am I going to do that. I don't even know whether I'm going to be in the music business for that long." High pressure from 4AD for releasing a new Pixies album was also evoked in that interview as a possible reason for this decision. In other interviews, he also said that he could not stand anymore being the leader of the most popular indie band of the time.
On December 31st, Black Francis had faxed his manager his decision to end the Pixies story. A brief and cold note, which didn't please the manager, but this was exactly what Black Francis wanted. The manager decided not to distribute the note to the other members of the band. When they heard the news, their reaction balanced between surprise, understanding fatalism, and hidden angst.
Other stories were to begin...
After the split, Kim Deal became a full-time member of The Breeders (new line-up without Tanya Donelly - who formed Belly, replaced by twin sister Kelley; Jim McPherson as new drummer). The Breeders were recording a new album, "Last Splash", when the Pixies break-up was announced. Released later in 1993, the album included the smash hit "Cannonball", which instantly brought The Breeders to a fame status The Pixies had never reached. Afterwards, Kelley's drugs problems and Josephine's other interests, made Kim Deal create a new band, The Amps (with Jim McPherson, Nate Fairly, Luis Lerma), which released in 1995 an album called "Pacer". In 2002, the Breeders reformed with a new line-up (Kim Deal, Kelley Deal, Rich Presley, Mando Lopez, Jose Medeles) to release a new album, "Title TK".
Joey Santiago contributed to Frank Black's first two albums. Among other activities, he contributed to Steve
Westfield's album, "Mangled" (1995), to which also participated Lou Barlow, from Sebadoh. In 1995 he formed
The Martinis, together with his wife Linda (and David Lovering on the first recordings).
One Martini track surfaced on the "Empire Records" soundtrack, and another one on a compilation whose name escapes me.
David Lovering has then left the band, and some demos have been made for an album, together with Gil Norton, some
Counting Crows musicians, Linda's sister as backing vocals, and a participation of Frank Black.
In 1998, the band began to distribute their self-released CD via their official site. In May 2004, their first official full-length album, "Smitten", has been released through Distracted Records. To celebrate the release of the album, Joey and Linda gave an exclusive interview to AlecEiffel.net.
Joey also participated to the recording of an album by the Canadian female artist Holly McNarland (more information) and played guitars on Charles Douglas' album "Statecraft" (Enabler Records, 2004).
David Lovering claimed he would have liked to join Depeche Mode. He participated to several projects,
including Nitzer Ebb, Cracker, Martinis, Tanya Donelly (on her first solo album) and lately Eenie Meenie (together with Grant lee Philips from Grant Lee Buffalo)...
Since 2000, David morphed into what he calls a "scientific phenomenalist". If you want to know what is a "scientific phenomenalist", just visit David's official site!
On June 15. 2004, the band released his first new song in 13 years: a download-only brand new Pixies song entitled Bam Thwok was put on sale on iTunes.com. Written (and sung) by Kim Deal, the song was produced and recorded by the band in March 2004 at Stagg Street Studios, Los Angeles.
And it seems that a new album is on the way...
Last updated 01-07-2007