In 1988, during the Pixies' six-week studio session for Doolittle, drummer David Lovering laid the snare drum and tom-tom fills over his bandmate Kim Deal's thumping bass line in the first measures of "Debaser," the 15-song album's opening track. Back then, he never imagined that two decades later he'd spend three years playing Doolittle in its entirety. It's an odd gig, but he's not complaining.
"It's fun for me," says Lovering, the iconic band's only timekeeper. "I like playing Doolittle and it's great fun. Honestly, it's one of the easiest Pixies albums to play, as far as my age and stamina go right now. I thought the Doolittle tour would end about two tours back, but it keeps cropping up. Luckily, it's still going, so I have a job still."
Lovering and singer/guitarist Black Francis (a.k.a. Frank Black or Charles Thompson), bassist/singer Kim Deal, and lead guitarist Joey Santiago formed the influential band in the Boston area in 1986. After a rapid ascent to the top of the college and alt-rock radio charts, the band split up in 1993.
They reunited in 2003 and conducted a successful worldwide reunion tour in '04. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their critically acclaimed, commercially successful 1989 album Doolittle, the band embarked on another world tour in 2009, which included sold-out shows in Ireland, the U.K., and Europe before hitting major cities in the U.S. The band continues their anniversary run with a "lost cities" tour this fall, hitting secondary markets throughout the U.S.
"Two years and counting in this celebration of Doolittle's anniversary," says Lovering. "We have looked forward to getting back on the road and heading toward cities we rarely got to go to before."
The Pixies released Doolittle in 1989 on the 4AD label with distribution in the U.S. by Elektra Records. The dynamic, guitar-heavy "Monkey Gone to Heaven" was the first single, followed by the melodic and jaunty "Here Comes Your Man."
"It still feels strange to hear people talk about how influential or important this album was to them," Lovering says. "We did a bunch of songs in the regular way we did things. When we recorded it, I knew we had some good songs there. When it came out, it got some strong critical reaction, but it didn't really do great sales. I remember Rolling Stone gave it three-and-a-half stars."
Looking and listening back, many fans and critics consider the collection to be the band's most brilliantly arranged and powerful material.
"It's hard to think of it as a classic album. It's just another Pixies record to me," shrugs Lovering. "It's a dynamic, good-sounding album. We weren't aiming for a type of genre or anything. It's a hard thing to take when people call us legends. If you know me, you know I don't seem legendary."
Doolittle earned the Pixies fame and praise, but it turned out to be their pinnacle.
Fans and journalists fretted plenty over the Pixies' breakup — especially the tense and occasionally nasty interaction between Black and Deal during the making of the last albums and the initial reunion tours. The 2006 tour documentary LoudQUIETloud caught some inter-band tension on camera, too.
According to Lovering, things are much better with everyone in the band these days. "Back in the day, we were all young, and we had the energy to do our thing but were still learning socialization skills," he says. "I can honestly say we're older and wiser now."
When the Pixies brainstormed on how to present Doolittle, they became determined to make the show into a uniquely grand thing.
"This is definitely the biggest production the band has ever done, with the big screen and the movies, videos, lighting, and the whole deal," Lovering says.
Longtime Pixies light man Myles Mangino and designer Paul Normandale created the set for the current Doolittle tours, which features four large "eyeball-like spheres" that are part of the band's light show. Mangino also contacted filmmakers Judy Jacobs, Tom Winkler, Brent Felix, and Melinda Tupling to create short films to accompany 12 of the 21 songs in the set.
Lovering says, "Truthfully, I haven't seen all of them because my back is always turned to the screens on stage, and I rarely get to turn around and watch."
Fans should expect a solid and smooth show, with the band locked well in step with the choreographed visual effects.
Fans attending the Pixies concert at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center on Friday should expect a solid and smooth show, with the band locked well in step with the choreographed visual effects.
The Doolittle concert set actually begins with an anthemic piece of music and a screening of the 1929 silent surrealist short film Un Chien Andalou, which was produced in France by Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dali. The film provided inspiration for the song “Debaser.” The band opens with four B-sides from the Doolittle sessions, with “Weird at My School,” “Dancing the Manta Ray,” and “Bailey’s Walk” among them.
"Then it's 'Debaser' all the way to 'Gouge Away,'" says Lovering. "When that's over, we do more B-sides from the album, and then we might do whatever for an encore. We have to play all the extras. By itself, the album's barely 40 minutes long, so the audience would want their money back for such a short concert."