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Pixies’ Black Francis: 5 Songs I Wish I Wrote

Indie-rock legend delves into pop, punk and prog roots

Black Francis: Five Songs 
I Wish I Wrote

Pixies frontman Black Francis discusses his key songwriting influences, ranging from the Beatles to the Damned.

Nick Pickles/Getty

Charles "Black Francis" Thompson is enjoying the creative rebirth of the Pixies, the brilliantly eccentric indie-rock band he's led on and off for 30 years. "This was feeling very much like our comeback record as opposed to [2014's] Indie Cindy, which felt like a transitional moment even when we were making it," he told Rolling Stone recently of the group's new LP, Head Carrier. In advance of his current tour with the group, he weighed in on some of his key songwriting influences.

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Neil Young, “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”

It sounds iconic from the first moment. It's like he's standing on a mountain peak delivering a sermon that's 100 years old.

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The Beatles, “Savoy Truffle”

There's a riddle to it. It's names of candies from a fancy box, but the punchline is that you've pulled out your teeth. It's way darker than it appears.

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Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”

This was very influential on me. I've tried to write it over and over again in my career. I love where the character is speaking from. It's riveting.

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The Damned, “Neat Neat Neat”

It's a kickass punk song, but there's something about it that feels tongue-in-cheek. It almost has a Dean Martin kind of cockiness to it.

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The Saints, “(I’m) Stranded”

This reeks of youth, the sort of punky song I was never able to achieve when I was young. I had too much psychedelia and prog-rock in my DNA.