b. Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV, 6 April 1965, Long Beach, California, USA. This US vocalist/guitarist led highly influential Boston-based alternative rock band the Pixies under the name Black Francis. When that band underwent an acrimonious split in 1993, Francis embarked on a solo career as Frank Black. His self-titled debut featured assistance from Nick Vincent (drums) and Eric Drew Feldman (guitar/saxophone). The latter, formerly of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, also produced the set, which featured cameos from fellow Captain Beefheart acolyte Jeff Morris Tepper and ex-Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago. Frank Black showed its creator’s quirky grasp of pop, from the abrasive “Los Angeles” to the melodic “I Hear Ramona Sing”. It also contained a cover version of Brian Wilson’s “Hang On To Your Ego”, which the Beach Boys’ leader recast as “I Know There’s An Answer” on Pet Sounds.
A sprawling double set, Teenager Of The Year, followed in 1994, but critical reaction suggested the artist had lost his incisive skills and a year later it was announced he had been dropped by 4AD Records. A new release on Epic Records, preceded by the highly commercial single “Men In Black” (UK number 37), failed to heighten his reputation and followers continued to revert to praising his work with the Pixies. Backed by the Catholics (Lyle Workman, Dave McCaffrey and Scott Boutier), Black returned to indie cultdom with the rough and ready double whammy of Frank Black And The Catholics (1998) and Pistolero (1999). In an even more welcome move, he enlisted Santiago as guitarist on the excellent Dog In The Sand. Black’s renewed creativity gave birth to simultaneous releases in 2002, Devil’s Workshop and Black Letter Days, and the 2003 album Show Me Your Tears.
In 2004, Black reunited with his former colleagues and embarked on a highly popular Pixies reunion tour through Europe and North America. The same year’s double-disc release Black Francis Demo/Frank Black Francis compiled early solo demo recordings of Pixies material, alongside radical reworkings of some of his previous band’s best-known songs recorded with Andy Diagram and Keith Moliné. In contrast, the following year’s Honeycomb saw Black reverting back to solo recording and also, unusually, featured a number of cover versions. This album and the sprawling following-up Fast Man Raider Man were recorded with leading Memphis sessionmen including Spooner Oldham, Buddy Miller and Reggie Young.