From The Clash to Lou Reed: Pixies’ Black Francis named his 18 favourite albums of all time
You will know Charles Thompson by many names. Whether it’s Black Francis or Frank Black, you’ll know you’re in the presence of a musical powerhouse when you hear the booming voice of the Pixies lead singer.
An influential artist in their own right, Pixies forged an unusual path to the top of the alt-rock piled after being seemingly overlooked for countless years. Luckily though, those whom the band had influenced so heavily were also keen to share the band with their communities. But who were the bands and artists that influenced Francis? Below we’ve got a pretty good guess together.
As one might expect from a list compiled of both Black favourite records of all time and those which most heavily influenced him, the playlist we’ve pulled together below is chock full of both experimental rock bands and highly-tuned classical juggernauts. It makes for a comprehensive list of 18 albums that Francis would call his favourites.
The Quietus sat down with Francis in 2012 to speak about his favourite records and the singer did not disappoint with his choices. He selected a number of pivotal acts including The Clash and their record Combat Rock about which he said: “I was 17-years old when I heard ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’. I wasn’t some hipster, punk dude. I didn’t know who The Clash were. I heard it on the radio. I heard ‘Rock The Casbah’ on the radio. Compared to a lot of other stuff being played it was like: ‘This is good!'”
While not trying to discredit the band’s early material, with their debut and London Calling seeming more obvious picks, the straight rock the band offered on this album shone for the adolescent Francis. “Listen to ‘Straight To Hell’. Fucking A! Listen to ‘Know Your Rights’! I’ll be happy as a pig in shit if I can write a song as good as that,” confessed the singer.
During the interview, Francis also picks a run of artists that perhaps all offered some inspiration to the aspiring singer. He selected Tom Waits’ Frank’s Wild Years, Iggy Pop’s New Values and Lou Reed’s classic Sally Can’t Dance. All of the icons of rock mentioned have a subversion, a twisted tradition that must’ve appealed to Francis.
Another artist of a similar tradition is Bruce Springsteen. Naturally maligned in the rock ‘n’ roll world for his pop records, Francis picks the singer’s album Nebraska as one of his favourites: “Bruce Springsteen gets a lot of bad press because people like his songs so much. I’m OK when someone I really like does something I’m not totally into. I’m not worried. I still have the records I really love. If they’re really going to go to the top of the mountain, they can’t be there all the time.”
There was of course room for a few classical pieces as Francis shows off his wide musical knowledge selecting both Kurt Weill, the famed German composer, and some ancient Greek music which he will even admit freaked him out a little. Francis selected the record having been looking for a piece of music to help with his young son’s school project on Greek history: “I stumbled onto this. I asked him if he wanted Greek or ancient Greek and he said ‘ancient’ because it sounded cool. But this is incredibly trippy. It feels like a play.”
The only album which appears on both lists is the 2011 album from a Far Out favourite, Baxter Dury. Francis found Baxter Dury through his famous father, Ian Dury who arguably was one of the most potent forces in British music for a while. “I’d heard his music before and I must confess, I wasn’t that impressed,” Francis told The Guardian of Ian Dury.
“I discovered he had a son named Baxter who’s a musician,” remarks Francis. “Since then, I’ve probably listened to Happy Soup more than any record in the past few years – maybe a thousand times. I’ve had requests from my wife to please put on a different fucking record. All my five kids know the whole thing by heart because I got obsessed with it.”
One record that Francis will always remember is Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road because it was the first album to expose him to the idea of sex. “After my parents divorced, my dad bought me 10 random records for Christmas one year. This was the one I connected with the most.
“Some of the songs are quite hard-hitting – my favourite, ‘All the Girls Love Alice’, has this killer guitar riff and a dark subject matter, about a teenage lesbian who gets murdered.” Francis continues, “I barely even know what sex is at the time and here’s this weird lesbian murder intrigue. I was like, what the fuck’s going on man? I was totally in.”
Perhaps Francis’ most cherished album, the one he listened to over and over again was This Year’s Model from Elvis Costello & The Attractions, “Joey Santiago and I rented a house in the second year. I took the dark windowless room because it had a stereo and I would just sit in the dark and listen to Iggy Pop and XTC records for hours and hours. The one I listened to the most, though, was This Year’s Model.”
The other selections which litter Francis Black’s favourite albums list are varied and entirely enjoyable. We’ve pulled them all together into one perfect playlist. Visit The Quietus and The Guardian for the full interviews and Francis’ remarks on every record.
Pixies’ Black Francis’ favourite albums:
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
Leon Russell – Leon Russell
Stand Up – Jethro Tull
This Year’s Model – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Link Wray – Link Wray
Happy Soup – Baxter Dury
Everybody Digs Bill Evans – Bill Evans
Combat Rock – The Clash
Peace & Harmony – The Heptones
The Good, The Bad and The Queen – The Good, The Bad and The Queen
The Last Post – Carbon/Silicon
Fegmania! – Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians
The Threepenny Opera – Kurt Weill
New Values – Iggy Pop
Frank’s Wild Years – Tom Waits
Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen
Musique De La Grece Antique – Atrium Musicae De Madrid Gregorio Paniagua