by Rick Mazumdar
"With your feet in the air and your head on the ground"
A truly peculiar way to begin and end a song.
You wouldn't believe that the entire song in encapsulated in this very line. The bait and switch at the beginning, when you feel that a heavy guitar sound is going chime in after the introduction but a mellifluous acoustic sound hits your ear sets the tone for the rest of the song instead. This is "Where is my mind". This is the Pixies. Their sound is unique and undoubtedly is the influence of several great acts to follow.
The Pixies were formed in '86 two years before Black Francis (Frank Black) and Joey Santiago met at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Black decided to take a break from college and go to Puerto Rico instead. This turned out to be a pretty influential trip. For one thing, Black is well known for adding Spanish lyrics into Pixies songs. Upon returning from Puerto Rico, Black officially dropped out of college. Santiago did the same, and the two put out an ad for a bassist with the following requirements: must be female, and must like both underground post-punk band Hüsker Dü and melodic 1960s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. Perhaps not surprisingly, the ad only got one reply. It was from a young woman namedKim Deal, who ended up joining the group. She soon brought her friend Dave Lovering into the band as a drummer. Heavily influenced by Hüsker Dü, Captain Beefheart and Talking Heads alongside Iggy Pop and some other folk artists, Black brought in a lot of their characteristic sound into the mix when writing songs for The Pixies.
"Where Is My Mind?" came out 2 years after the band's formation in the album "Surfer Rosa".
That trip to Puerto Rico would have a lot of influence on the writing of this cult classic then one might realize. The song was partly inspired by a dive in Puerto Rico; apparently a little fish chased Black while he was in the water and the experience stuck in his head as in the song "Except the little fish.. but they told me, he swears tryin' to talk to me, to me, to me".
"Where Is My Mind?" tells a story of being of addled right from the opening lyrics. In my interpretation the"With your feet in the air and your head on the ground" refers directly to diving.
But why diving?
The lyrics indicate that the person being described is looking back at his body and is free to dive into any medium. They go on to say "Try this trick and spin it yeah, your head will collapse but there's nothing in it". The alternate explanation would mean a mindless individual as he stumbles and falters and eventually collapses. The "trick" would refer to the act losing one's mind. But this is just my interpretation.
"Way out in the water, see it swimming" would be another important part of the song since it talks about the mind being separated from the body and being taken away by the waves of the ocean drifting aimlessly without any purpose. I also feel that the first part of the song should give the most part of the meaning to this song, since it talks of collapsing on to the ground, the next part of the song should be treated as a dreamlike unconscious state where he sees images of the sea and the subsequent chase by the fish and furthered by his mind being pulled away by the waves of the ocean.
Though Frank Black reports that the lyrics are really inconsequential to the song and that a lot of Black-penned Pixies lyrics resist easy analysis. This doesn't mean we can't learn anything from them; rather, it actually tells us a lot about the band. The quirky, sometimes incoherent lyrics play to their style and form in "Where is my mind?” The lyrics are very sketchy and have little or no relation to the song but then again that's exactly what the song is trying to say, that the details about the song is unnecessary and so is the theme. That's what the Pixies try to do by leading you on to believe that lyrics are the most essential part and have a convoluted meaning which cannot be easily interpreted because of the intensely "deep" meaning. But that's not what it is.
You might not realize the first time you listen to this song and you will be lost if you only focus on the lyrics. The Pixies do this brilliantly and literally ask you the question “WHERE IS MY MIND?” and makes you question the song’s title.
In an interview this is what Frank Black had to say:
"Eighty percent of it's baloney, yeah... I write the songs by singing a whole bunch of syllables along with the chord progressions, and they become words. A bunch of five words might mean something, or stand for something. But the five words after it, or preceding it, sure as hell won't have anything to do with them."
Therefore from the outset we should realize that the lyrics are incoherent for a reason and they play right into the ultimate aim of the song which gives a description of realization that one's mind is out of focus, that one is weary and is not thinking straight and that one should wake up from the daze that is their mundane existence.
It would also seem that the song is talking about how we're all being controlled by some entity that is forcing us to think or to act in a way that it wants us to. Not such a crazy thought right?
Think about it.
Isn't the government forcing us to think in a certain way, aren't the constant mindless Television programming and advertisements feeding on our creativity and driving us?
When we sit down and try to create something new isn't the way we think or act or do anything seem like it's rehash of something we saw and all we did was build on it without trying to create anything new ,there's always some sort of influence or a reference to something,because our mind is gone, it's not there, it's under the influence of a drug, the drug of the present.
The art of Steve Cutts is something that this song can be related to.
The Pixies were highly influential on the following decade of music a.k.a the 90s; grunge emerged from the ashes of Punk Rock, and The Pixies were the main reason this happened.
Kurt Cobain once said, "I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip-off the Pixies." So it's safe to say that a lot of Nirvana's popularity is directly related to the influence of The Pixies. Radiohead, The Foo Fighters The Smashing Pumpkins, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Modest Mouse, Nada Surf, Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade are other bands who were also heavily influenced by The Pixies. The Pixies are therefore an essential part and parcel of modern rock. Their influence has been on every band small or big.
It has been featured in all sorts of media and has been covered incessantly by artists on YouTube. Placebo, Kings of Leon, Sammy Adams, James Blunt, Arcade Fire, THePETEBOX, Sunday Girl along with several other bands have covered this song.
It has also been featured in the recent TV show, Mr. Robot where a piano cover version of Maxene Cyrin has been used. The song however gained its greatest success after Fight Club. The scene before the end credits where Edward Norton and Helena Bonham are juxtaposed in front of the towers as they were crumbling down perfectly conveyed the song’s message. It works perfectly in the film since it talks about the character Tyler Durden losing control of his grip on reality and developing a split personality. A common theme seen is that most films of the ilk of Fight Club and Sucker Punch is that it's a funny kind of story, Horns and Mr. Nobody which have similar themes of emotional instability, hallucinations, mental fatigue, and being unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality.
The fact is that this song for a lot of people is an escape of sorts. For one it is a wonderful song to listen to, it is the perfect mix of surf rock and punk rock. The entire song is so very ambient and pure that each word sounds exactly as it is supposed to sound. For me, this song helps to let go of the unimportant and insignificant things that bother me constantly. It's also a great influence on artistic sensibilities.
I envision the song taking place completely underwater and having a growing sinking feeling as the song progresses. The beginning of the song feels like a wave crashing right after Kim Deal says the words “OHHH STOP”. The rest of the song though having little correlation to the meaning, is very soothing. Frank Black writes about how he was swimming in the Caribbean and how a fish came up to him and started talking to him and how many other fishes were hiding behind rocks. The imagery is strong in this one. Coupled with the brash, unrefined surf rock/punk rock mash up is a brilliant song to listen to. The amalgamation of the acoustic guitar and drums works perfectly and creates a feeling of a live stadium performance.
On April 13, 2004, NASA used "Where Is My Mind?" to wake up the team working on the Mars rover Spirit in honor of its software transplant. I think that's a good reason to listen to this song.
Check out the link below!