I got into record collecting because I decided when I was thirteen that I had to have every note the Pixies ever played. In the early 90s, this holy mission entailed spending a lot of time, and such money as I could get my hands on, acquiring European bootleg CDs at shops and record fairs. These used to be advertised euphemistically as “rare live imports.” Despite their widely variable sound quality, often ridiculous titles and blurry, flimsy covers, they sold for about double the price of legit albums. That’s a lot of allowance money; some musicians were not pleased. I have heard tell that, one day c. 1992, Courtney Love walked into Aron’s Records (RIP) in Hollywood and liberated every “rare live import” in the Nirvana section. It is also said that she gave everyone within earshot a piece of her mind.
It took years of hoarding this stuff before I realized what a strange hobby it was to collect recordings of Pixies shows. The Pixies were not famous for busting out new arrangements of old favorites or wild improvs in concert; it wasn’t as if I could dig through my collection and say, “Dude, you know the November ‘89 shows? Check out this 12-minute version of ‘Tame’ from Lupo’s. It’s so heavy—it’s like Santiago’s playing the seven ages of man!” No, aside from a few small variations here and there—the keyboard intro Eric Drew Feldman added to “Gouge Away,” say, or the extra part in old performances of “Subbacultcha” that became “Distance Equals Rate Times Time,” or the slowed-down ending of some versions of “Nimrod’s Son”—the live versions of Pixies songs sounded just like the records. That’s why it was such a surprise when they invited Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band to take solos during the two groups’ massed performance of “Trompe le Monde” on Letterman.
The really good stuff in my teenage nerd hoard was the B-sides, radio sessions and demos. In the intervening quarter-century, just about all of those recordings have been officially released or re-released. For whatever reason, the exception is this fine rocker, “Boom Chicka Boom,” from the band’s early days in Boston. Here’s a decent recording of the Pixies playing the song on Emerson College’s radio station in January 1987:
There’s camcorder footage of a 1986 performance of “Boom Chicka Boom” here.
Because so many Pixies lyrics concern unexplained phenomena, I’ll leave you with this. Two Orange County papers reported that the Pixies played “Boom Chicka Boom” on the first night of their engagement at the El Rey in 2013. But I was there, and they didn’t play it, and it wasn’t on the band’s set list or anything. (Though a new song called “What Goes Boom” was.) Get Fortean Times on the horn.