New releases in New Zealand, 1989
The Pixies, Doolittle
If man is five, if man is five, if man is five
Then the devil is six, then the devil is six
The devil is six, the devil is six and if the devil is six
Then God is seven , then God is seven, then God is seven
In my final year at Kāpiti College I made friends with a guy who had just come from England. Let’s call him Dave.
Dave was a pretty cool guy. He dressed cool, he listened to cool music. He had a T-shirt that said “New Zealand Night Life” which had a picture of a mostly black night sky. His father had a handle-bar mustache. Dave called the handles “bugger grips”. At the time I didn’t immediately understand what he meant. I was a naive boy from New Zealand who didn’t get anal sex jokes yet. Look how wise I am now.
Once Seventh Form finished Dave moved into a flat in town. It was a very large old wooden mansion that had been turned into a warren of flats with a huge shared dining room, kitchen and living room. He lived in a mostly self-contained flat at the back with his girlfriend. People sold drugs there, and the flat was once raided by the police who didn’t find anything because they didn’t look in the cupboard under the stairs where the drug dealer kept his drugs.
I didn’t hang out at the flat for drugs I went to get something more mind-altering: cool music by people I had never heard of. Dave introduced me to the Cocteau Twins and The Pixies.
I remember thinking that The Pixies were quite scandalous because the cover of Surfer Rosa had a picture of a woman with no top on it. I also remember thinking that The Pixies were much earlier than Nirvana but I see now that Bleach and Doolittle came out the same year. It was a great year to be getting into guitar.
Monkey Gone to Heaven. I hadn’t heard a song like that before. I hadn’t heard a song like Tame before. For someone who wanted to be in a band their music sounded simple. It sounded like something even I could play. That’s not true, but it felt true which is enough when you are 17. If I had attempted Tame with my band it would not have sound intense and frightening: just frightening. You know what I mean.
There was the sound. I mean the sound of something like I Bleed. It’s so fucking great. Pretending to be about a bass line, but the split vocals, and the thundering toms, and the cycling strangled guitar make it the soundtrack for the climatic moment in an imaginary B-grade horror movie.
Not to mention the lyrics. I can’t love a band unless the lyrics are good. I love The Pixies.
Dave was a prick. He may have changed so I should say: Dave was a prick back then.
He went out with a girl who I’m going to call Rachel. She had also been to Kāpiti College in the same form as us. She was a very nice person. Sweet even. He – as I mentioned – had turned into a prick. That was an early lesson in the eternal life question: “What does she see in that guy?” The last time I saw her she was walking up Molesworth Street on the way to work. She had just discovered she was lactose intolerant and her face was covered in spots. The fact that we talked about that quite openly and she thought it was funny is some kind of indication of her lack of affectation. That was the mystery I think. Dave was all about affectation. The right music, the rights clothes, the right cigarettes. All that nonsense. Rachel and I parted never to meet again I suspect.
I can’t remember the last time I saw Dave. I’d be amazed if he was still here in shitty old New Zealand.
Seeing The Pixies live was an odd experience. They were good, but it’s a bit weird not to talk to the audience. At all. Was it a bit like playing the CDs really, really loud? Yes. It was. Which is good on one level because it means they were playing with the same intensity and precision. On the other hand… shouldn’t a live event be different? The only moment which felt really good was when the audience sang that great Kim Deal vocal from Where is My Mind?
It was better than I make it sound. Hearing a band live is different from turning your music up loud. The bass, for starters, in your rib cage. Also: there they were (minus Kim) – heroes of my youth! In the flesh! But…
At the old Bar Bodega I saw a band called Short. Probably in 1995. I went with the girl who was sad like me. The old Bar Bodega was very small. About the size of a living room really with a tiny area for the band in one corner, and a bar on one wall, and a dense mash of people in the sweaty ear-splitting dark. Short played post punk. A three piece. Drums and bass and a crunching set of guitar chords. Their originals were great. Their cover of Bowie’s Starman wonderful. The girl who was sad like me bought their EP but it wasn’t recorded well. A lot of New Zealand music wasn’t then.
For me I think that was my Pixies concert. I always think of it when I think of The Pixies. Before the new Bodega. Before the closed Bodega. Before, before, before.
New releases in New Zealand, 9 July 1989
- Edelweiss – Bring Me Edelweiss
- The Jacksons – Nothing (That Compares 2 U)
- Deacon Blue – Wages Day
- Jason Donovan – Sealed With A Kiss
- Milli Vanilli – Baby Don’t Forget My Number
- Coldcut feat. Lisa Stanfield – People Hold On
- Michael Damian – Rock On
- Paul Norton – Stuck On You