How I Missed the Pixies
If you know anything about me, you know that my favorite band in the entire world is the Pixies. I have loved the Pixies since I was in 8th grade. I was not the first person in the known universe to love the Pixies, but I was definitely the first person at George R. Carter middle school in Clio, Michigan to love the Pixies.
I was part of a tiny contingent of people in my class who really liked music. I mean, I’m sure there were other people who really liked music. But we were the music snobs. It was hard to be a music snob in Clio in 1989. The only radio stations that played interesting music were in far-off cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor. We didn’t have cable so I couldn’t watch MTV. There was a music video show on the local PBS station that I watched rabidly, but it was only 1/2 an hour a week. My friend Rion, another music snob, would sometimes tape 120 Minutes for me, but he also had a tendency to get mad at me for hard-to-understand reasons and show up at school with bags of candy and give candy to all of the rest of our friends and none to me.
I mainly learned what was new and cool by reading Spin and Rolling Spin. That was where I first heard of the Pixies second album, Doolittle. It initially caught my eye because my 5th & 6th grade band teacher was named Mr. Doolittle, and I thought it would be cool to buy it for him as a gift, even though we weren’t particularly close and I hadn’t been his student for two years. That should give you an indication of what kind of student I was. The kind that fantasized about buying gifts for his old teachers.
But before buying it for Mr. Doolittle, I bought it for myself to give it a test run. So I biked to Manufacturers Market Place outlet mall in Birch Run with Brian Fairweather to buy Doolittle on cassette.
The first time I listened to it, I knew this album was something special. I immediately became obsessed and spent the next 10 years of my life seeking out every piece of music the Pixies had ever recorded. Which wasn’t very much; they only released four albums, an EP, and a handful of B sides. Today you could buy those 10 years of my life for about $40 on iTunes.
I only managed to see the Pixies live once before they broke up, on the Trompe le Monde tour. They hated each other and seemed to just be going through the motions. Plus it was in a seated venue and we were kind of far away. After the show, my friends and I waited behind the venue for an hour in the hopes that they’d notice us as they were walking out to their tour bus and say, “you high school kids look pretty cool. Let’s hang out.” We did see them come out of the venue, but when we tried to say hi to Black Francis, he said, “fuck off, man.” It was still pretty cool that he talked to us.
A few years later, when Don and I lived at 21-20, Rion came to stay with us. That was a total disaster for reasons that will be discussed in tomorrow’s story. While he was crashing on our couch, he let slip that he’d gone to see the Pixies on the Doolittle tour, back in 1989 when they were young and they weren’t just playing the role of greatest band in the universe, they actually were the greatest band in the universe.
“What?” I asked. “I am the biggest Pixies fan in the history of Clio. You and I went to shows together constantly when we were growing up, and if I’d known you were going to see the Pixies, I would have gone to see the Pixies. Why was I not at this show?”
“I was mad at you,” he answered. “The week before I asked you to see Sinead with me and you said no.”
“And so you blocked me out of seeing my favorite band of all time when they were touring behind my favorite album of all time?”
“Yeah,” he said. “It was general admission, too. And they were awesome.”
It’s difficult to fathom how upsetting this was. Imagine your favorite album is Sgt. Pepper, and you had the opportunity to see The Beatles playing that album in a small club, but your friend didn’t tell you about it because you had refused to go see the Electric Prunes with him the week before. That is how Rion’s admission felt to me.
Shortly after that, Rion and I stopped speaking. I didn’t see him again until the week before I moved to Los Angeles. It wasn’t the Pixies incident that severed our relationship; it was the incident that occurred at 21-20. But to this day, it remains one of the biggest missed opportunities of my life. I really, really should have gone to that Sinead O’ Connor show.