Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Please correct Pixies entries on Wikipedia

Two weeks ago Wikipedia ran an Article of the Day on David Lovering, which alerted me to a big error that appears to have reproduced itself across every Pixies-related page on Wikipedia (and therefore all over the Internet). I would like to request that these pages be corrected to reflect the following:

The Pixies began in 1986, not 1985.

How do we know this?

  • It’s a long-established fact, documented in hundreds of articles written while the band was active. To research my book, Doolittle, and because I have been an avid Pixies fan since 1989, I have collected a significant archive of press clippings and other paperwork; some of this was provided to me by the band. The record overwhelmingly shows that the band was founded in early 1986, when Charles Thompson (a.k.a. Black Francis, a.k.a. Frank Black) and Joey Santiago dropped out of UMass Amherst and moved to Boston.

  • The band members confirm it. After seeing the error on Wikipedia, I wrote to Charles and Joey, and both told me that the band was indeed founded in 1986, not 1985. The band’s former manager, who had been with them from before Come On Pilgrim up to the reunion tour, also confirmed it to me. Here is what Joey wrote in an email:

    Hey Ben,
    We started in 1986. We both graduated High School in 83.
    Charles and I dropped out after our first semester as juniors from UMass.
    I know it was winter because I remember pissing in the snow when we drove into Boston very late at night. So we most likely moved to Boston in January of 86.
    It’s not clear precisely when Lovering and Kim Deal joined, but numerous contemporary sources say the lineup was complete by about July 1986, and the band started playing out shortly thereafter.

  • It lines up with historical events. One of the best known stories of the early days is that Charles started the band with money his father gave him to see Halley’s Comet in New Zealand. Halley’s Comet, which passes near Earth every 75 to 76 years, was last visible in early 1986. 

    Also, it is well established that in March 1987, when the Pixies recorded “The Purple Tape” — a set of 17 songs, which would be edited down to 8 for their first record, Come On Pilgrim — the full band had not been together terribly long. Early articles put it at roughly six months, suggesting an origin of mid-’86.

    Let’s look again at Charles and Joey’s time in school: Both graduated high school in 1983, and completed their freshman (fall ’83-spring ’84) and sophomore (fall ’84-spring ’85) years at UMass, then dropped out after the first semester of their junior year (fall ’85). That brings us to early 1986.

  • There’s no reliable source for 1985. The Pixies-related pages on Wikipedia cite the same source for calling 1985 their origin: Josh Frank and Caryn Ganz’s oral history, Fool the World. (In fact, even other sources cited to support the this claim actually say 1986, such as the Allmusic biography.) But that book has many errors and contradictions. Part of this may be due to the fact that, as an oral history, it relies on people’s memories, which can be faulty; people also lie. Regardless, there’s no excuse for not checking basic facts.

    In Fool the World, Deal says she got married at age 24 and then moved to Boston, and at one point states: “I got to Boston in January ’85.” But she also says: “So what year did I get married? Eighty-fuckin’ four, ’85 maybe?” Deal was born on June 10, 1961, so in January 1985 she was only 23. Most likely she got married in 1985 and moved to Boston in early 1986. 

    Other interviews in the Fool the World contradict Deal about the 1985 claim. For example, John Murphy, her ex-husband (on early Pixies releases, Deal was credited as “Mrs. John Murphy”), remembers that early rehearsals took place the year the Red Sox lost the world series. That was 1986. (They played the Mets, of course.)

Why am I asking someone else to make the correction? Two reasons. First, as the author of a book on the Pixies, I do not want my motives to be misunderstood. I have nothing against Fool the World, which is a very interesting read; it’s just not a reliable source of facts. Second, I want to make sure this is all on the record for anyone to question or dispute, because I fear that — Wikipedia being what it is — if I simply correct the entries without explanation someone would just change them back 10 seconds later. 

The Pixies are one of the most important bands of the last 25 years, and a fact as critical as the year they began must be correct. If entries on the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin had such a detail wrong, it would be fixed faster than you can say “catalog sales.”

Oh, and one more thing. Joey had a special request:

Btw, if you are going to correct that can you also add that my birthday is June 10 not the 11th?

(Yup, same birthday as Kim and Kelley.)

1 comment:

Rob said...

Now the would-be editor has a legit source to site in the footnotes too!

Seriously, dude. Go do it.