Pixies Hit Burghs They Missed The First Time; Frank Black Chooses His Road Songs

The Pixies have tromped le monde so to speak, bringing their racket around the globe a number of times. But there are a few spots that have been left in the dust over the years. The band’s “Lost Cities” tour, announced this morning, plans to rectify that gaffe. From Portland, Maine to Santa Fe, New Mexico the foursome will be slicing up eyeballs and captivating eardrums.  Here’s the list of this summer’s lucky winners. 

And here’s a list of tunes Frank Black likes to crack when veering from city to city. The singer is a rent-a-car freak who adores the highway life – as long as he’s got the right music with him. I polled him several years ago regarding a song list that would supply some road thrills.

“I was thinking of the stress of escaping a big city – New York, L.A., whatever. The traffic complications, getting lost, all that stuff. In those situations I like to hear music that puts me in a good mood, but isn’t mellow. Aggressive stuff with a whoop-it-up kind of sound. And there’s a breakthrough at the end, the climax of finally getting out of Dodge; things get easier, nicer, you can really start to breathe.”

Here’s what he came up with:

1. The Beatles “Yer Blues”
You don’t start off on top volume. You turn it up as your frustration increases. I believe John Lennon read some kind of backhanded compliment in the press about the Beatles being able to play every kind of music except for blues. So he was like, “Well mofo, I’ll show you the blues.” It’s got great anger in it.

2. Leon Russell “Roll Away the Stone”
A good one. It’s got that blown-out quality, and it works a Jesus metaphor, which makes you feel like a bad-ass. I saw him live four or five years ago and he was great. I always appreciated his aloofness.

3. Travis Wammack “Night Train”
It’s on a Bear Family album called That Scratchy Guitar from Memphis. He was in Little Richard’s band, the self-proclaimed “King of the Fuzz Guitar.” He had a regional hit as a kid, called “Scratchy.” On this track, from around 1954, he yells “All Aboard!” and the band starts making train noises, and when they kick into the down beat of the song, it’s explosive. For me it’s one of the top 10 exciting moments of rock. Super.

4. Iggy Pop “Tight Pants”
It has this pent-up feel, or maybe I should say he has been pent up and is now blowing it out. Iggy is someone I got instantaneously. I bought a copy of Lust for Life and The Idiot packaged together. I’d never listened to him before, and I listened to those discs, mostly Lust for Life, non-stop through an entire semester of college. It was the second half of sophomore year. I dropped out right after that. Went to Puerto Rico. Blame it all on Iggy.

5. The Damned “Neat Neat Neat”
It will definitely continue that nice adrenalized mood in the car. It’s short, and that’s nice. But I mostly like the way they pronounce “neat, neat, neat” – like a machine gun. It’s all about the attitude of the pronunciation.

6. Del Shannon “Handyman”
If you heard it in isolation, you wouldn’t think of it as an explosive song. But if you heard in context of songs that explode, you’d be impressed. You can tell by the little yelp that he gives in the beginning of the song. The keyboard solo is really blown out, too. People have Del Shannon pigeonholed, they don’t know where he’s coming from. Hey, that’s another whole conversation: the existential ennui of Del Shannon. We’d be here all day.

7. Lou Reed “Banging on My Drum”
Now we’re up-tempo; we’re not out of the city, but we’re hopeful. At this point trash is blowing out the window and you don’t even care. Lou Reed’s voice, boy, he has such a strange combination of confidence and vulnerability. It’s like the sentiment of The Who’s “Can’t Explain” – a youthful “I don’t know” feeling mixed with a dash of cocky bravado.

8. Stuff Smith “T’aint No Use”
With every great escape, there’s going to be conflict: man vs machine, man vs animal…something to mess everything up again. We’re going to take it down, tempo-wise. We’re getting more into the blues here. Sort of resignation about the fact that the escape might not end well. You can see the smile on his face, but he’s singing “t’aint no use.” Meaning “I’m falling into the abyss, but I’m somehow going to shine in this moment.”

9. Bob Dylan “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)”
It’s got a reckless abandon, a screw-you, drunken attitude, and it’s fun. It’s on the much maligned Self Portrait album, and it’s one of my all-time favorite songs in rock music – period. The band plays great, there’s feedback on the guitar, and not even cool feedback, but bad feedback. It’s so rockin’, like “Rarghhh!”

10. The Sir Douglas Quintet “Beginning of the End”
Getting out of Dodge is taking on an almost a spiritual shape – a monumental quest, where gods are battling in the sky above you. Doug Sahm’s a master of the blown-out sound, up there with Iggy Pop and Sam the Sham for that partying-down vibe. It doesn’t get any more cigarette-stained and whiskey-soaked than Doug Sahm. But this is a poignant song, him doing Frank Sinatra or something.

11. Tom Waits “Sixteen Shells From a 30-0ught-Six”
The real world is starting to come back to us. Great rhythm, things are picking up.  We’re still singing the blues. He’s a very cinematic record-maker, and this one’s great for driving.

12. John Mayall “Double-Crossing Time”
From the famous Bluesbreakers album with Eric Clapton. His voice has a great grain to it. It’s blown-out, definitely. But it’s still Britain 1965, so there’s a little cabaret to it, too. Rather than sounding like it’s being played in a bar, it’s from a real nightclub. Hard to explain. A bit of sophistication in it – just a smidgen of show-biz, which can be a plus. It’s got a little Tony Bennett in it. Blues in evolution.

13. Howling Wolf “I Asked For Water”
It’s a two-guitar approach. They’re meandering and they don’t go in a regular pattern, and it’s the most hypnotic thing ever. Complicated human beings.

14. Chet Baker “Slighty Above Moderate”
We’ve gone over the river and we’re out of town. This has a really haunting introduction, and then it picks up and delivers some sunshine. It’s from Chet Baker and Crew one of his Pacific Jazz records. He’s still relatively clean here. Smoking a lot of pot, but only dabbling in the horse. He’s still young and handsome. The track is seven minutes of beauty. The storm has passed and everything’s better. There’s relief in the music. I wish I was a jazz artist; I’d try to do this song. But I’m just a lowly post-punk rocker.

15. My Dad Is Dead “The Engine of Commerce”
I’m finally adding some alternative rock to the list. One of the true alternative, truly obscure, and truly wonderful artists. He opened up for the Pixies many years ago. Almost a one-man band. This is kind of Joy Division-y, haunting guitars thing, but distinctly American sounding. The industrial landscape is blowing by us and our escape has taken place, but there’s a question about what lies ahead. I think he’s great.

 

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