[midlife 150] #111: pixies “down to the well”

October 28, 2010

Album cover for Bossanova by Pixies

#111 Down To The Well by Pixies, available on Bossanova, 1990 [buy from Amazon.co.uk] [buy from iTunes]

This is another one of those times where I know this isn’t a band’s best song, but it’s the one that gets through to me – probably because it doesn’t have to carry the burden of being definitive. Down To The Well may not be the their best (fans usually ignore Bossanova and argue over their favourites from Doolittle or Surfer Rosa), but it is quintessential Pixies.

That’s because it was among the first tracks the band ever recorded – it was on the now-legendary ‘Purple Tape’ of demos they recorded in early 1987 which got them their 4AD record deal. It didn’t make the set for their first mini-album, Come On Pilgrim, but as with a number of songs from that session, Down To The Well was re-recorded for its official album release. It is the better for it.

Slowing the pace and intensifying the guitars and vocals compared the original version (which was eventually released in 2002, on the Pixies EP), Black Francis‘ impatience to reach the mythical, unexplained release/pleasure to be found down at the well is all the more powerful.

Whatever it’s about – drugs, sex or alien abduction (one internet theory tenuously holds it is about the infamous Betty & Barney Hill incident) – the torment is so palpable in the guitar line that you can’t help but take on Black’s urgent frustration. And that, of course, is what makes it a great song.

This review is part of close to 94‘s [midlife 150] series, which counts down favourite music 1970-2009.


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