Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I Take it Back

Artists: The Breeders; Pixies
Albums: Safari, Last Splash, title TK (Breeders); Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim, Doolittle, Monkey Gone to Heaven EP, Debaser EP, Bossanova, Trompe le Monde, Alec Eiffel EP (Pixies)
Source: All bought new, except for title TK (bought used) and Safari & Debaser (from JP's collection)

It's a little difficult to write about the Pixies, because they're not entirely mine. As I wrote in a previous entry, "In most cases (including this one, probably) it would be an oversimplification to say that my friendship with JP was based on music." But, I should add that it would not be entirely inaccurate to say that our friendship was based on the Pixies.

Talking about and listening to the Pixies was our first point of contact, and an enduring part of how we related to each other. Y'know how men sometimes talk about a football team with each other? The way those guys feel like the QB is playing for them, that's how we felt about Back Francis, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering. We would discuss their recorded and real lives in detail. We would recite the little bits of between-song banter peppered throughout Surfer Rosa and the spiel that opens up "I've Been Tired." When Trompe le Monde came out, we went to the store that day, and dedicated that night's installment of our radio show to just that disc alone - playing each track and then discussing it at length. Inspired by the sports quiz in Diner, JP even subjected one of his girlfriends to a make-or-break round of Pixies Trivia.

I could tell a hundred more stories like those, plus more about Kim Deal's Breeders side project. Our devotion knew no bounds, and I think it reflected a lot of how we felt towards each other.

While Yo La Tengo eventually took over this role, it was largely because the Pixies had broken up. If they'd still been around, still recording, still playing live, I have no doubt that we'd have focused our devotion just as much (or more) on our Alpha Band.

So how do I hear Pixies and Breeders records now? Well, for starters: it ain't easy. But beyond that, I had to make a decision: would this music just be tied to someone/thing lost, or should I take it back? And if I wanted to, was that even possible?

I've lost a lot of music to memories. Songs that were tied to old girlfriends sometimes stop making into the CD player, more or less lost forever (or at least for awhile).

But I also have learned that it's possible to get them back. When things with Girl R imploded in the late 90s, it looked like she'd be taking one of my all-time favorite records with her. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel is one of the very best pieces of music, in any genre, that it's ever been my pleasure to hear. But the disc had gotten all tangled up with with Girl R, to the extent that it wouldn't have been out of place to give it up for lost.

I refused. I listened to it four, five times a day. I wrote about its merits for an audience of no one. I talked to people about it (no one quite as much as JP), and before long...I got it back. Sure, I'll occasionally think about Girl R when I take the Aeroplane out for a spin, but not too much.

So it's doable, at the very least. I tabled the issue vis-a-vis the Pixies until a couple of years ago, when the band got back together for a round of cash-in touring. I hadn't really gamed out how to deal with this - it had seemed like the group was pretty acrimoniously broken up for good. But hey, even rockers have kids and mortgages and such-like, so they tuned up the guitars and took the old songs out on the road.

(Quick non sequitur: By marrying Eileen, I was at this point tangentially related to the Pixies' lead guitarist. Joey is married to the sister of the wife of a cousin of Eileen's, which to me instantly made him Cousin Joey. I'm still working on seeing him at a "family event" in RI.)

What to do? Well, not going didn't seem like an option. Once I knew I'd do it, should I try to go with someone connected to JP? I decided against the kind of "tribute" approach (though it had served me well when The Magnetic Fields played all of 69 Love Songs at Lincoln Center a few months after he'd gone), turned down a backstage-pass offer from Cousin Joey's bro-in-law (too much, too much) and in the end just picked up some tickets with Concert Buddy Debbie. I made an effort to go in more with in-the-moment expectations than memories, and I think it worked out.

Actually, I know it did: the show blew me away, and I couldn't stop smiling for a week. It was briefly sad that JP wasn't at the concert with me, but I guess enough time has passed now. I was able to spend the majority of the show just rocking out, getting excited when they'd play the old songs we were all there to hear. Go figure: a band from the past puts on a show that is nakedly about reliving old, lost memories...and they end up doing something that brings me more into the present.

SISOSIG? This is sort of like asking, "Should the Book of Genesis stay in the Bible?" Every note of every one of these discs has deep meaning for me, past and present (and presumably future). I will keep these, replace them as needed, and add to them as required. I know at least one absent friend who would be very, very disappointed in me if I did otherwise.


  • What? No mention of that slightly ill-fated 1990 Bossanova Tour show in NYC... Staten Island... Pere Ubu?

    By Blogger Chuck Perry, at 10:57 AM  

  • Chuck, I'm saving that story for another entry (maybe the one for Ubu or the Pogues?). The thing that sticks out in my mind is that it was the moment one of our travel-mates seemed to take an instant and lasting dislike for me. It was a strange, memorable trip in a lot of ways!

    By Blogger bsglaser, at 11:21 AM  

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