Thursday, March 21, 2013

surfer rosa

Pixies took their fuzzy flamenco furor to the next level with the raw power of this underground classic. Due to disagreements with the producer of 'Come On Pilgrim', the band were introduced to Big Black's Steve Albini and they immediately hit it off. They went into Boston's Q Division studio the next day and spent ten days recording 'Surfer Rosa' with Black Francis on vocals, rhythm guitar, and acoustic guitar; Kim Deal (credited as Mrs. John Murphy) on bass, backing vocals, and vocals on "Gigantic"; Joey Santiago on lead guitar; and David Lovering on drums. The band was enthralled with Albini's studio techniques.

Deal: "Everything had to be full throttle. I wish there were more dynamics in it. Every song on the album is produced with the same non-effects, so there's not enough ear-variety."

Francis: "I like him because he likes LOUD. All the needles were on red. He totally overloaded the tape."

Joey: "He let me use my amp, which was cool. It's this country-jazz amp which engineers don't like because it's real whiney."

John Murphy: "On 'Something About You' he put Charles' voice through a guitar, to make it sound all grisly."

It was Albini's idea to include snippits of studio conversation throughout the album:   "It's on their record forever so I think now they are obliged to say that they're ok with it, but I honestly don't know that that idea would've ever come up if I hadn't done it. There are times when things like that are revealing and entertaining and I kind of felt it was a bit gimmicky on this record."

Francis describes his songwriting aesthetic:   "Well, you want to be different from other people, sure, so you throw in as many arbitrary things as possible. So instead of having the typical four line verse, we'll only sing three lines. Or when we stop for a pause, we won't wait the usual eight beats, we'll go rest for 10 beats. Or on 'I've been Tired', where a four-chord sequence would sound natural, we'll turn it into a three chord sequence, make it trip over itself...It's kind of religious sounding...It's all a question of dynamics. And we only do short songs, which makes things sound even more uneven...Eighty percent of its baloney, yeah. It's that T-Rex thing of 'if it sounds cool …' I write the songs by singing a whole bunch of syllables along with the 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...I guess they must have a root somewhere; often the songs are vaguely about something. Like that line 'oh bury me/far away /please', it doesn't really mean anything, but it could mean the guy's despondent about being 'the son of incestuous union.' Or like the whole Biblical thing of when the women were menstruating: 'go outside the city walls and do your bleeding out there'...I like David Lynch's movies, his attitude where you don't always explain everything, you just come up with stuff that looks good and sounds good, and you just go with it. And you can look back on it if you wanna...It's definitely arbitrary, about going with the immediate. I read this interview with Robyn Hitchcock, he talked about saying something without thinking about why you said it, and because it has a root inside you, it's much more real, true to you, than if you think and analyse everything. That made me a lot more confident about automatic writing, or whatever you want to call it."

Deal  says:   "See, I don't really think there's such a thing as the underground anymore. In '81, '82, when the punk thing was really going over here, maybe there was. But now, if you're anything at all, you can get an independent record out, get a video together, maybe get it shown late night on MTV. The underground is overground now. Before, though, like with the Stray Cats, nobody in Ohio had ever heard of them, you couldn’t get the records, they were never on the radio. I got hold of their stuff by trading cassettes, like they do in Russia. Same with James Blood Ulmer, Captain Sensible, all that stuff..."

David: "Just the fact that how we look, how we sound, and what our name is - nothing fits together at all, in any aspect."

'Surfer Rosa' went to number two on the UK indie album chart. It never charted in the US; but it was a mainstay of college radio and underground rock that signaled the coming swell of alternative. It was later paired with the band's debut EP 'Come On, Pilgrim'Francis explains the album title:  "See, there's this nude flamenco dancer on the cover, and 4AD wanted to call the LP 'Gigantic' after the song, but decided they couldn't because of the big breasts...People might have got the wrong ideas, so I had to come up with something else."

1."Bone Machine" 

2."Break My Body" 

3."Something Against You" 

4."Broken Face"

5."Gigantic" made it to number ninety-three in the UK.

6."River Euphrates"

7."Where Is My Mind?"


9."Tony's Theme" 

10."Oh My Golly!" 


12."I'm Amazed" 

13."Brick Is Red"

'Surfer Rosa' 

full album 

All tracks written by Black Francis, except where noted.

1. "Bone Machine" 3:02
2. "Break My Body" 2:05
3. "Something Against You" 1:47
4. "Broken Face" 1:30
5. "Gigantic" (Francis, Kim Deal) 3:55
6. "River Euphrates" 2:33
7. "Where Is My Mind?" 3:53
8. "Cactus" 2:16
9. "Tony's Theme" 1:52
10. "Oh My Golly!" 1:48
11. "Vamos" 4:18
12. "I'm Amazed" 1:42
13. "Brick Is Red" 2:00


  1. Thanks for this. BTW there isn't such a word as "inthralled". Ok maybe NOW there is.

  2. you're welcome. and thank you. I missed that one.