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Famous Like Me > Composer > B > Frank Black

Profile of Frank Black on Famous Like Me

Name: Frank Black  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 6th April 1965
Place of Birth: Long Beach, California, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Frank Black

Frank Black, also known by the stage name Black Francis (real name Charles Michael Kitridge Thompson IV, born April 6, 1965 in Boston), is an American musician. He was one of the founding members of the alternative rock band the Pixies, along with guitarist Joey Santiago.


Thompson was raised in Culver City, California. He studied in the University of Massachusetts, before taking off to Puerto Rico as part of an exchange program. It was here where he reportedly spent six months in an apartment with a "weird, psycho, gay roommate," who inspired the song "Crackity Jones." Many of the Pixies's early songs refer to Francis' experience in Puerto Rico, most notably "Isla De Encanta," incorrectly named after the island's motto, "Isla Del Encanto" (Island of Charm). Black Francis' insufficient grasp of the local language (which meant he couldn't even open a bank account to cash his checks) forced him to make a decision while slumped in a local bar. He would either go to New Zealand to observe the passing of Halley's Comet or form a rock band.

The Pixies were active from 1986 to 1992. They found modest success (primarily on college radio) in America and became very popular in Britain and throughout Europe. They've retained a following, and have since been seen as one of the best and most influential rock groups of their era.

After the split (due primarily to internal tensions between Black Francis and bassist/singer Kim Deal) of the Pixies, he went on to record solo material with Eric Drew Feldman. His first solo release was the self-titled Frank Black (1993), which included the song "Los Angeles" (about different places named Los Angeles—"not the one in south California / they got one in south Patagonia"), and this was followed in the next year by Teenager of the Year, which included the song "Headache." These two albums were critically well-received and remain fan favorites, although they enjoyed little commercial success.

1996 saw the release of The Cult of Ray, which did not gain the same critical or fan acclaim as his previous solo efforts. Following this album, Black formed a new band, Frank Black and the Catholics, featuring Rich Gilbert (guitar) and Cult of Ray musicians David McCaffrey (bass) and Scott Boutier (drums). The band's eponymous first album Frank Black and the Catholics was released in 1998. This was the first Frank Black album recorded entirely to two-track live in the studio, which would become a signature of future albums released by the band.

The new band also released "Pistolero" in 1999 and then Dog in the Sand, which is often considered a high-point of Black's career, in 2000. This album added Athens, Georgia musician Dave Philips on pedal steel guitar, and also saw the return of Joey Santiago. Two separate albums, "Black Letter Days" (the title refers to the opposite of "Red Letter Days," which are holidays—a "black letter day" being an ordinary day ) and "Devil's Workshop," were released simultaneously in 2002; this was considered to be a somewhat unusual move. A sixth album with the Catholics, "Show Me Your Tears", was released in 2003. "Show Me Your Tears's" title and many of the songs in it were inspired by Frank Black's recent divorce.

In late 2003, rumors were spreading again that the Pixies were reuniting. The official announcements were made that the band was, in fact, practicing for a reunion tour. They played publicly again for the first time in April 2004, after a break of 12 years, and went on to tour extensively in the USA, Canada and Europe in the same year.

2004 was a high point for the Pixies, but a potential low point for the Catholics as rumors (still unconfirmed) rapidly spread that they were to be no more. As productive as ever Black teamed up with legendary session-men Steve Cropper and Spooner Oldman as well as producer Jon Tiven to record 'Honeycomb,' the first Frank Black solo album since 1996's Cult of Ray. Honeycomb was released in July 2005 to a vast majority of favorable reviews.

Singing and songwriting style

Black performing in 2005.

Charles Thompson worked for a time in a flower shop. There he met the cousin of his employer, who had been a minor Thai rock star named John B McKenna. From him Black Francis got the mantra that would serve his career so well: "Scream it", he was asked to sing "Oh! Darling" by The Beatles and was told to, Black quoted in an interview, "scream it like you hate that bitch." Indeed, Black Francis' powerful screams were a signature of Pixies albums which fit quite well with the band's typical song structure of quietly paced verses followed by thundering chorus lines and repetitive guitar staccato. His current voice, however, is clearly milder than that of his younger years.

During his stay in Puerto Rico, Frank Black picked up a fairly fluent yet informal and at times incorrect use of Spanish, which he has continued to use throughout his career. His earlier songs in The Pixies reflected aspects of his days in San Juan and are heavily seasoned with local slang from the island. In his later works in the Pixies and from then on the use of Spanish drifted westward, reflecting places and aspects of the state of California and its culture. This evolution illustrates the constant combination of Black's sources of inspiration. Many of his songs allude to California's surf culture, although he has never experienced or had interest in it. His admitted interest in space and science-fiction blends with his use of Spanish in references to Arecibo's observatory and the American West as it relates to New Mexico and Area 51.

His lyrics are noted for their sometimes obscure references to unusual topics like outer space, unexplained phenomena such as UFOs, and even The Three Stooges (the last of these being the subject of Two Reelers, a song from Teenager of the Year). He has also used the Bible as a source for his freakish stories, most notably in the incestuous tale of Nimrod's Son. Lyrics with a focus on science fiction were particularly prominent on his three solo albums of the mid-1990s (Frank Black, Teenager of the Year, and The Cult of Ray). With the Catholics, his lyrics have more often tended towards historical topics; for example, on Dog in the Sand, there is a song called "St. Francis Dam Disaster", which is about the catastrophic collapse of the St. Francis Dam in California in March 1928.

Musically, one aspect that is often overlooked by listeners and even loyal fans is Frank Black's frequent use of atypical meter signature in his songs. Rock and pop themes usually rely on conventional, "square" metrics such as 2/4, 4/4 and 3/4. Frank Black has composed many successful songs that stray from these conventional beats. The practice can be easily noticed in songs like "The Marsist" (opening track on "The Cult of Ray"), where the bass cycles through 19 quavers. However, themes like the Pixies' "Gouge Away", "Isla De Encanta" and "Skeleton Man" from his work with The Catholics hide similar metrics and the same unconventional approach to songwriting within catchy rock tunes. Overall, beneath the visceral simplicity of the Pixies' and Black's songs lies some eclectic attention to music theory and sources, evident by the use of Spanish rhythms, galloping marches in the style of cowboy movies, haikus, and many other traits. The lyrics to "Ana", "Speedy Marie" and "Robert Onion" respectively contain the acrostics surfer, Jean Marie Walsh (his then girlfriend and current ex-wife) and Robert The Case For Mars Zubrin.


Studio albums

Year Title Label
1993 Frank Black 4AD
1994 Teenager of the Year 4AD
1996 The Cult of Ray American Recordings
1998 Frank Black and the Catholics spinART
1999 Pistolero What Are Records?
2000 Dog in the Sand What Are Records?
2002 Black Letter Days spinART
2002 Devil's Workshop SpinART
2003 Show Me Your Tears spinART
2004 Frank Black Francis spinART
2005 Honeycomb Back Porch

EPs & singles

Year Title Label
1993 Hang On To Your Ego 4AD
1994 Headache Badd
1995 Men In Black American Recordings
1995 The Marsist/Better Things Dragnet
1998 All My Ghosts Play It Again Sam
2003 Nadine  ?


Year Title Label
2000 Oddballs EMusic

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Frank Black