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Digital Subscriptions > Long Live Vinyl > Sep-18 > ROSA OH OH OHH ROSA

ROSA OH OH OHH ROSA

As 4AD releases a deluxe boxset to mark the 30th anniversary of Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, Gary Walker speaks to the chief protagonists behind one of indie music’s most influential and otherly classics. With contributions from Black Francis, Joey Santiago, Vaughan Oliver and Simon Larbalestier, Long Live Vinyl unravels the legacy of a stunningly dark debut…

PIXIES

The Pixies, circa Rosa (l to r): Joey Santiago, Black Francis, Kim Deal and David Lovering
Millicent Harvey

A thrilling wave of mutilation, voyeurism, violence, incest, superheroes, venereal disease, primal screaming, Catholic guilt and topless flamenco dancers… Billy Corgan called it “the one that made me go ‘holy shit’”, PJ Harvey gasped that it “blew my mind” and David Bowie said it was the best music made in the 80s. Kurt Cobain admitted to ripping it off and said of first hearing Surfer Rosa he “should have been in that band”. Pixies’ debut album turned 30 this year and remains as timeless, dark, surreal, unsettling and captivating as it was when four goofy kids emerged from Boston’s Q Division Studios with a scowling Steve Albini and the master tapes in hand, three decades ago.

In December 1987, the old order reigned over the album charts, with Rick Astley, UB40, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, George Michael and Fleetwood Mac dominating as Christmas approached. But a new disathected, exciting alternative wave was about to break, led by Charles formpson – aka Black Francis; Philippines-born guitar mangler Joey Santiago; Mrs John Murphy – aka Kim Deal, and drummer David Lovering. It would lead ultimately to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and the rise of grunge – a revolutionary breed hell-bent on washing away the cloying excesses of 80s rawk and replacing it with something provocative, urgent and raw.

To uncover the roots of Surfer Rosa, though, we first have to dig back to the 17-song Purple Tape demo produced by Gary Smith and recorded and mixed in a total of just six days in March 1987 at Boston’s Fort Apache Studios, using $1,000 borrowed from Francis’ father. the band’s then-manager, Ken Goes, sent the tape to a string of US and European record labels without sparking interest, before 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell bit. Popular legend has it that Watts-Russell was initially unsure, but was encouraged to persevere with the tape by his thengirlfriend. Yet he later recalled of the Purple Tape: “I absolutely adored it from day one, because my day one was marching around New York with it in a Walkman. It was very exciting. It was the obvious things, Joey’s guitar playing and the Spanish aspect to it.”

Surfer Rosa’s iconic album artwork was a collaboration between 4AD’s Vaughan Oliver and photographer Simon Larbalestier
Bassist and vocalist Kim Deal co-wrote Surfer Rosa’s only single, the anthemic Gigantic
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About Long Live Vinyl

In issue 18 of Long Live Vinyl we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pixies’ classic debut album Surfer Rosa. We’ve left no stone unturned in getting the inside track on the making of the record at Boston’s Q Division Studios as Black Francis, Joey Santiago, Vaughan Oliver and Simon Larbalestier tell Long Live Vinyl about the legacy of an album that inspired David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead. Plus, we bring you an in-depth review of 4AD’s new Come On Pilgrim… It’s Surfer Rosa Deluxe Edition. Elsewhere in this packed issue of Long Live Vinyl, we speak to teenage duo Let’s Eat Grandma about their superb sophomore album, I’m All Ears, head out on the road with Chicago guitar virtuoso Ryley Walker and tell the story of Small Faces’ legendary Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake LP. Post-punk fans will want to check out our Essential top 40 – a definitive collector’s guide to the genre, and our Classic Album series focuses on Pulp’s 1995 career-high Different Class. We also hear from legendary photographer Mick Rock about shooting David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, and The Trip visits a cratedigger’s paradise – Amsterdam. If all that’s not enough, you’ll find the widest range of album, turntable and hi-fi accessory reviews anywhere on the newsstand. Enjoy the issue!
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