Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Pixies and What They Did For Me

I think it's fair to say that almost everyone has their own personalized B.C and A.D periods that they subscribe to the major events in their life. For some people, it's Before I Met My Husband/Wife, and After. Before I Realised I Was Gay, and After. These moments are exclusive to the person experiencing them, and I recently I've been thinking about my own.

 At the age of 20, I think I can divide my life into two distinctive periods. Before I Knew About The Pixies, and After.

When I was fourteen, I owned an Encore electric guitar. You may be familiar with Encore guitars if you've ever been to Argos, Tesco or any other regional outlet store where one normally would not venture to buy musical instruments. They usually come free with something that looks like this:

I'm not trying to be a snob here, and it's not like there's anything specifically wrong with Encore guitars. For all intents and purposes, they work like a guitar should. Because they're so cheap and widely available, however, they are almost exclusively purchased by parents who are convinced their children are going through a standard adolescent phase and hence their sudden profound interest in becoming a rock star can be pandered to with the same gentle enthusiasm as one gives their four year old daughter when they decide they want a pony for Christmas:

                                                        (Note: This is not me. Thank Christ.)

My parents were right not to take me seriously. At fourteen, I was almost exclusively interested in appearing more badass then I was (which I wasn't) and my entire cd collection consisted of Maroon 5's Songs About Jane, Avril Lavigne's first album, and a No Doubt Greatest Hits. I still fucking love old No Doubt, but this was far and away the most impressively cool thing that I owned. I would eventually go on to fall in love with Tragic Kingdom when my brother's stoner friend who I had a massive crush on gave it to me one day when he was painting my bedroom.

Soon after recieving my Encore guitar, (which I genuinely believed was a really cool. Ahh, to be young.) I started talking to a girl in my year who played the drums. She, too, was focusing her life's efforts on appearing more badass then she actually was, but she was actually legitmately more badass then me, because she already had a pair of Converse and one of those universally unflattering army surplus jackets. We soon decided to form a band, whereby I would arrive at her house on a Saturday afternoon, loudly play some power chords and drink tea. I think it was the fourth or fifth Saturday before we actually got around to talking about music.

Cross-legged, sitting next to her cd player, a fun-sized mars bar balancing coyly on my knee, I first heard the opening bass to "Debaser". Obviously, it would be a total cliché to say that it blew my mind. But I do remember getting the distinctive feeling of  "I can't believe that this has existed all this time without me knowing about it. Where has this been? Where have I been?"

By the time she played me "Gigantic", I was sold. I convinced her to lend me her copy of Wave Of Mutilation (it was a Greatest Hits, which is not as cool as if it had been Doolittle or Surfer Rosa or something. But still, when are the Pixies ever not cool? Exactly.) Which I copied and then cradled in my DiscMan for weeks. (Bear in mind, this was 2004)

"Gigantic" was what really got me though. I loved every song on the album, but "Gigantic" became the soundtrack to absolutely everything. Even now, whenever I hear it I think of all the things that was so exclusive to my experience of being fourteen. I can taste the funny off-brand ice tea my mum used to buy, and I feel like I'm playing the Sims on our horrible PC all over again.

I became obsessed with Kim Deal, saving up all my money from my next birthday to buy a Fender Squire Bass Guitar. It was ivory, and I never loved anything more. I used to pin different coloured flowers to the strap and play "Gigantic" and "Hey" while swaggering at my mirror. I was convinced I was going to be a sexy, badass, bass player like Kim. Back then, I didn't know that Kim hadn't been sexy since the early nineties, and by the time I saw The Pixies in concert a couple of months later I was shocked to find that she no longer looked like this:

But now looked like this:

Regardless, she was still a complete badass. The show was fantastic, and I howled because they didn't play my favourite song. Frank is notoriously kind of a dick, and refused to do an encore. Kim was eventually coaxed back on stage, and kept playing the opening riff to Gigantic, while I lost my shit. Frank refused to go back on, and you could really see him going "Ok Kim, this is cute and everything but cop the fuck on". Kim was having none of it, she stayed rooted to the spot until the rest of the band joined her on stage, and she belted out Gigantic from the top of her lungs. I always felt like she knew how much that song meant to the band's female fans. All their stuff is awesome, but there's something fantastically feminine about that single. This was really one of my greatest concert experiences, made even more significant because it was my first.

The Pixies aren't my favourite band anymore; in fact, I haven't listened to them properly in at least a year. But I feel like the Pixies started something in my life, began turning cogs and creating associations that I would never have bothered with otherwise. I never would have chased down other Deal-esque icons, that would eventually develop into the hero worship of Karen O, Jenny Lewis, Hole, Blondie, Pretty Girls Make Graves and God knows who else. I would never have joined a band, or gotten a job in a cd shop, or have half the friends I have now or thought about music or films or fashion in remotely the same way.

I never did become the worlds most sexy and badass bass player, and these days I spend most of my musical time with my acoustic guitar in the squishy aural company of The Mountain Goats and various other bands that would take another post to mention. But I just wanted to take some time, and a hefty amount of words, into thanking them.


  1. A lovely maiden post. In both the maiden voyage sense and just cause you're a fair maiden.
    Also I love "Puberty" being tagged.
    I hope many confused pre-teens drifting through the blank, charmless chambers of Google find themselves stumbling into your Pixie Lovin' saloon.

  2. Brilliant stuff, Caroline. Can't wait to see more of your stuff. I'm going to refrain from patting myself on the back for giving you the idea.. because that would be an Inception reference and you'd hate that.


    I can't remember the name of the song, it was a really, really bitter one about running away from home or summink, but since I was moody introspective teenager it sounded like happiness in a song, but I couldn't explain it without sounding like an utter twat so you thought I didn't "get" the song, or at least I felt you did.

    I have such a soft spot for who we were aged 15.

    Who the fuck played drums? I have no recollection of any drummers.

  4. It was called the getaway, and I was utterly convinced that it and the entire "riot grrl" genre was the greatest thing that ever happened to my ears.

    Odd, I found one of their albums second-hand in Plugd recently, and having lost it years ago I couldn't believe me luck. Weird, listening to it now I can't even fathom why I liked it so much. I hate when the things you lived and died for as a teenager become so transparent when you're older. Oh, and Katie O'Meara played drums.