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Monkey Gone To Heaven

05/06/2010

Pixies – Doolittle

circa 1989.

Ev, Brian and I were in our 5th year of secondary school. Ev’s older brother Fergal was doing an arts degree in UCD. He went to Boston on a J1 Summer work visa to paint houses or something. Don’t remember what we got up to but I’m sure it wasn’t very exciting.

Ferg returned in September with a selection of miniature bottles of aftershave for Brian and a tape of The Head On The Door by The Cure for me. Cheers Ferg. We’d gather round him, rapt as he told tales of exotic radio stations that played non-stop alternative music for American student types. Terrific.

The closest thing we had to this in Ireland was the late night Rock Show on 2FM. It’s presenter was Dave Fanning – the biggest wanker I’ve never met. He styled himself as Ireland’s answer to the BBC’s John Peel, though the gulf between Fanning’s gigantic ego and the latter’s humility couldn’t be greater.

To his credit Fanning did play a lot of stuff you wouldn’t hear on daytime radio, and he did try to give a leg up to bands on the burgeoning Irish music scene. Unfortunately, back in the 80-90’s, if you were to believe Fanning, and pseudo music journal/political mouthpiece, Hot Press magazine, seemingly any four fuckwits with guitars were going to be the next U2. The sad fact is that in the past 30 odd years Ireland has produced only a tiny number of successful bands of any real quality.

Anyway, no sooner was Ferg back than he bought a copy of Doolittle by Boston’s Pixies. I’d never heard of the Pixies before and I’d never heard anything that sounded like them either.

The bizarre, vivisection-astronaut-monkey freak show on the outside only hinted at the sonic science-experiment-gone-wrong on the inside. I don’t recall listening to the album for the first time – I know that I didn’t get into in the beginning. In fact I think I kept the album at arm’s length, so new, so different was it that I could not figure it out. I just couldn’t get my head around it. Brian loved Doolittle straight away. He’d play Crackity Jones over and over and delighted in the whoop, whoop yelping vocals.

Powerful drums,  pounding bass, and ferocious surf guitar, the music was all over the place, but direct and focused at the same time. The album’s lyrics – half yelled, half screamed, half in Spanish? – what I could make out I didn’t understand, but I grew to love it all the same.

There was little mention of the band in the liner notes. No photos either. I imagined a gang of greasy long-haired rockers wearing black leather motorcycle jackets. Months later I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the four members were giant nerds. They looked like they’d walked off the very college campuses whose radio stations championed them.

The following year Ev gave me one of the two tickets Ferg had bought him for their October gig at the National Stadium in Dublin. That might sound a bit grandiose, but in reality the National Stadium was a smelly boxing arena that maybe held 1,000 people. Back in those days we’d always get to gigs super early to see all of the opening bands. I wouldn’t usually drink either for fear I’d have to go for a slash during the headliner.

Eventually the Pixies came on and blasted everyone away, tearing through Doolittle, its predecessors and the new album Bossanova. When the houselights came up at the end we walked out into the cold night air, the sweat steaming off us with giant grins plastered across our faces.

P.

__________

Artist: Pixies

Album: Doolittle

Label: 4AD

Released: 1989

Recommended Tracks: Where to begin? Debaser, Gouge Away, Tame. Look, they’re all fucking great.
__________

Joey Santiago endorses TheSpiralScratch, thanks to Sonya & Twitter.

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7 comments

  1. I was at that Stadium gig. Don’t know how me and my mates ended up in the press box, but it was a pretty amazing gig. I have to thank Michael Kegley for introducing me to the Pixies. No idea where in the world he is now.


    • I went to the Point gig the following year too, great stuff.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sonya Michlin Gordon. Sonya Michlin Gordon said: RT @JoeySantiago Thought you'd like my friend's post re Doolittle: https://thespiralscratch.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/monkey-gone-to-heaven/ […]


    • Cheers for spreading the word Sonya. Keep passing it along.


  3. Hey Paul, mention of that Stadium gig brings back great memories. Still one of the best gigs i have ever been at, incredible, and was it really only £8.50?! And Doolittle definitely opened my ears to a whole new type of music.


  4. If I am not mistaken, the first time I heard the Pixies was the song Cactus, recorded on the end of a tape – remember them?? – you gave me (I think the tape was The Good Son by Nick Cave).
    I loved it. The slow brooding menace. Restrained aggression. Super stuff.
    Went to see their reunion gig in the Phoenix Park. A poxy place for a gig. Unless you are Gods Representative on Earth.


  5. Wow. Spiral Scratch hit the big time.

    I think I listened to Doolittle for a year straight.



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