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RIP Steve Albini

Steve Albini, music producer and engineer involved with hundreds of albums for many artists passed away yesterday. Among the many acts Albini was connected to was the band, Pixies and their creation of the song, “Cactus,” which Bowie covered on the 2002 album, Heathen.

Bowie, who also performed the song live on tour, added an element to the song that I always found to be curious until I was reading about Albini yesterday. At one point, in the middle of the song, the musicians shout out the letters D-A-V-I-D. Why? The song works for Bowie, but it’s not Bowie’s original song and doesn’t seem to be about Bowie. Well, though I heard the original version by Pixies, I hadn’t noticed that they do the same thing, spelling out their band’s name. The feature was a nod to T-Rex, which did the same thing in the song, “The Groover.” Pixies members were divided as to whether that element of the song should be included, but Albini liked it and it was left in. This might have been part of its appeal to Bowie— he had a special appreciation of T-Rex, having had a sense of rivalry with that band’s lead singer, Marc Bolan in the early part of his career. Bowie himself made musical and lyrical references to Bolan and T-Rex a few times, including in the song “Black Country Rock” (1970), in which he imitates Bolan’s quivering voice, and in “All the Young Dudes (1972), which includes the lines, “Oh, man, I need TV when I’ve got T-Rex.”

Pixies performed “Cactus” in tribute to Bowie after Bowie’s death in 2016. I’m quite sure that were Bowie still alive, he would perform the song in honor of Albini. RIP.

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Note: I was originally planning to post part 11 of my Bowie and politics series, but the piece just isn’t ready. Come back next week for that one…

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