Pixies made their network television debut on Late Show With David Letterman in February 1992, but it wasn’t quite the incarnation of the group that most fans knew and loved. Back then, going on Letterman often meant jamming with Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band. Pixies didn’t have nearly enough pull to fight such a thing off, and drummer David Lovering was reduced to shaking some barely-audible maracas while Anton Fig played his drum parts. Kim Deal was relegated to acoustic guitar.
It wasn’t a total loss, though. Letterman still held up a copy of their new album Trompe Le Monde (“on the popular CD format”) and Paul Shaffer threw an organ solo into the middle of the album’s title track. A few weeks later, the band had to endure further indignities when they began a long slog opening up for U2 on their Zoo TV tour. They played night after night to half-full arenas full of U2 fans who weren’t very familiar with their work, and they broke up not long after it ended.
When Pixies reformed in 2004, they returned to Letterman to perform “Monkey Gone to Heaven.” This time, David and Kim were allowed to play their proper instruments and Paul Shaffer fought off the urge to add an organ solo to the mix.