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10 Albums That Changed My Life: Joey Santiago of The Pixies

In the 10 albums that Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago picked, you can hear each musical influence making its way way into his distinct guitar style.
Pixies' Joey Santiago. Photo by Travis Shinn.

Pixies' Joey Santiago. Photo by Travis Shinn.

Joey Santiago met Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis/Frank Black) when they were students at UMass Amherst. After they both dropped out of school, they formed Pixies in January 1986 with Thompson on rhythm guitar/lead vocals and Santiago on lead guitar. Recruiting Kim Deal on bass and David Lovering on drums, they were performing around Boston by late 1986. Their first record, Come On Pilgrim, was released in 1987. The first era of the band, which ended with their 1992 breakup, included four studio albums.

During the years between the stints with Pixies, Santiago performed on six of Thompson’s solo albums under the Frank Black moniker. Santiago also recorded with The Martinis during that period.

Pixies reunited in 2004 and have been active since then, recording three additional studio albums.

Pixies have live dates scheduled in Europe through the summer as well as an appearance at Chicago’s Riot Fest in September.

In the album picks below, you can see the influences that Santiago incorporated into his distinct guitar style.

— John Curley


The Beatles, 1967-1970 (The Blue Album)

This is the second half of their greatest hits, the first one was the Red Album 1962-1966. I had the Red Album before the Blue. While I loved the Red, the Blue was just the better era. The recordings were more adventurous. “I Am The Walrus” just blew me away. My brother gave this to me at Xmas when I was 10.


The Rolling Stones, Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol.2)

The Rolling Stones, Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol.2)

Another greatest hits. When you’re young, the greatest hits seemed like the biggest bang for your paper-route money. The octagon-shaped cover drew me to the album. “2000 Light Years From Home” was my favorite. I had a pair of headphones and pot from this point on. Backward sound effects, synthesizers and dreamy orchestrations. What more can you ask for? A bigger bag?



The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced

The first track was the one that I clung to at the time, “Purple Haze.” What an intro. Very angular. I had to learn it. This was the time I had my first electric guitar. My father smashed my acoustic when I came home sh*t-faced. A hidden blessing.


The Velvet Underground—The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground

I had no idea why I liked this album. It just felt like I was opening up to other forms of music. The whole album was opening my fragile eggshell mind.


Neil Young-Harvest

Neil Young, Harvest

Sometime in high school. A typical teenager that wanted to leave home. In retrospect, I started experiencing bouts of depression. “Out on the Weekend” captured every feeling I had in four minutes. That pedal steel guitar was a strange sensation.



AC/DC, Back in Black

Hello, whiskey. The f**k it years. I saw them play when this album came out. They embraced the suburban angst I had. It was a rebellion to what my friends were listening to, ’60s hippie music, the classic rock at the time. Liking this band was dangerous. LOL. I rode my bike to the hockey stadium they were playing. Got there too early. “Shoot To Thrill”’s bridge guitar mimicked a synthesizer to my ears. Very cool. 


Wes Montgomery-A Day in the Life

Wes Montgomery, A Day in the Life

I arrived with my bike to the arena to watch AC/DC so early that the public library across the street was still open. I went in to kill time and noticed you could borrow albums. They had a section with turntables and headphones. I grabbed this album because of The Beatles title. It was different. An intro to jazz for a rock-and-roll fan. Later on, the octave guitar would find its way to my playing.


Link Wray, At His Best

Link Wray, At His Best

Charles and I shared an apartment when we were taking summer courses at UMass. We did get high a lot and had a laugh listening to this album. We were taking apart an amp with a butter knife, thinking we could fix it. We put it back together and had left over parts. If you really think about it, that’s how we approached music. Take it apart and discard some parts whether it’s needed or not.


The Stooges Fun House

The Stooges, Fun House

Great guitars. F**k it attitude. Oh, I been dirt and I don’t care. That’s the way to live it at that time at a university we were planning on leaving.



Pixies, Bossanova

Yeah, it happened to us, too. Another band that no longer gets along and yet manages to put out something good. The myth of bands getting along like The Monkees has been debunked.