Ed Is Dead (Review)

Ed Is Dead is from the Pixies' 1987 debut album Come On Pilgrim, and was a standout song on their demo album that led to the discovery of the band. The demo cassette was recorded at Fort Apache Studios in Boston, and eventually became known as The Purple Tape.

Arguably every great band or artist throughout history had a patron or a passionate supporter who had assisted in making them famous. In the case of the Pixies, it was Black Francisʼ father, who financed the recording of their first demo tape. If this cassette had never been produced, then a record deal with British label 4AD would never had occurred, and consequently a seminal band of the indie/alternative movement of the late 80s and early 90s may never had been discovered.

Ironically, it's rather fitting that Ed Is Dead proves to be one of the exceptional tracks on the mini-album released in 1987 by 4AD of early Pixies demo songs. Death is as transient and random as success is in the entertainment industry, and was not the case for the Pixies.

"She's just rotting in stupid bliss" succinctly describes the overall, bittersweet nature of Ed Is Dead. Riddled with black humor, the song is musically earnest yet lyrically cheeky, encouraging the listener to smirk while dancing to its restless rhythm section. Shades of Joy Division and the Violent Femmes are prevalent, but being so easily compared to another act is out of character for The Pixies. This is perhaps an indication of their musical naivety during this period.

At the same time, there is a complexity to the arrangement of this song. Chords move to places where they shouldn't by definition and design. The lyrics are coherent but extremely simple, hinting at a much more considered subtext that only the musically mature could detect. This is the very sound and style that The Pixies refined and claimed as their own from this point on.

Rumor has it that Ed Is Dead was written about a woman who got hit by a car riding her bike on a L.A. freeway, while listening to music on her Walkman. The lines "She got no got no fear of cars" and "With music on her [handle] bars" support this assertion.

What dominates and excites in this song is a sense of excitement and youthful exuberance, complicated by a typically dark bent. Francis wants to tell you a story about something negative, but also overwhelmingly positive in the same breath. There's just too much to say, and not enough time, as indicated by the "...oh,oh,oh,oh,oh..." and ", no, no, no, no..." stutter in the choruses.

The listener is typically left satisfied, but still craving just a little more from the Pixies at the end of the song. Far from being dead, in 1987 The Pixies had only just been borne. Ed Is Dead was a fresh sound that was lauded, applauded, and then imitated by many others.

This sound is The Pixies, and fans know the band will never die.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

— MK

The Pixies are one of those bands that manage to appeal to an extremely diverse cross section of society. As time passes, they claim an even greater entitlement to their reputation as one of the coolest American indie/alternative bands in history. Referenced openly by contemporary acts such as Placebo and Nirvana, and featured in the soundtracks to groundbreaking films such as Fight Club, this Boston band formed in Massachusetts in 1986. Members Black Francis, Joey Santiago, Kim Deal, and David Lovering succumbed to a spiraling demise of post 80s excess in 1993. The group disbanded for a time, before reuniting in 2004.

Ed Is Dead (Lyrics)

Her head is in a bitter way 
Her brain's on fire 
She's just looking for the perfect wave 
It's her brain's desire 
I'll think of her when I walk the strand 
On this true hormos a night

Ed is dead 
Ed is dead 
Ed is dead 
Ed is dead

She's just rotting in stupid bliss 
With music on her bars uh 
Her face burning in the L.A. sun 
She got no got no fear of cars 
I better kick my strand cruiser 
To the friendlier, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

Ed is dead 
Ed is dead 
Ed is dead 
Ed is dead

Ed is dead 
Ed is, yeah, Ed is

Ed is dead, Ed is, 
Ed is dead

Ed is dead 
Ed is dead....

No, no, no, no, no

Contact Information:

The Pixies

Ed Is Dead (Studio)


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