Belinda Carlisle was number one with “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”. The British charts were full of Australian soap stars assisted by the production of Stock, Aitken and Waterman and the first boy band of my childhood, Bros. These were the sounds I was hearing in my primary school disco.
I had started to record the Top 40 Countdown on a Sunday evening on cassette, but my ears were becoming a bit more discerning. I wouldn’t just tape the whole thing. I sat poised with Record and Play depressed while my fingers hovered over the Pause button, waiting for the first sound of anything good. Kylie Minogue no. Belinda Carlisle and The Bangles yes.
But I’m sure I was not yet ready for what is now my favourite album of 1988, “Surfer Rosa” by the Pixies. Like many, I didn’t even hear the Pixies’ name mentioned until I discovered Nirvana in 1992, and I didn’t actually hear their music until a friend at university lent me a tape 6 years later. That tape bizarrely had half of “Surfer Rosa” and half of “Recovering The Satellites” by Counting Crows on it. I liked “Surfer Rosa” immediately. It sounded so weird but so listenable. It was at the same time brilliantly melodic and catchy but loud, angry and chaotic.
I bought the CD in Newcastle while visiting a friend, and got a lift back home with another friend’s mum. We played “Surfer Rosa” in the car and during the instrumental break in “Vamos” where the guitar squalls like a seagull, the friend’s mum turned to me and said, “Martin,what on Earth have you bought?!”.
That’s precisely what you want to hear at that time in your life and I was in both barrels with the Pixies from then on. As is usually the case, once I started listening to the entire back catalogue, I began hearing their songs all over the place. Waiting for bands to come on at gigs/festivals, in the background on tv programmes, on film soundtracks.
All the albums are great but I disagree with most and prefer “Surfer Rosa” to “Doolittle”. It just edges it.
Here’s “Bone Machine”. The song which kickstarted my Pixies love.