Saturday, 5 April 2014

50 songs to take to my grave - #6: Cannonball

"AaaOOOooo. AaaOOOooo. AaaOOOooo."

Some songs always elicit a huge fat cheesy grin from me when I hear them as they just sound so utterly timeless and continue to have such an enormous effect on me years after I first heard it. Cannonball by the Breeders is one of them.

Kim Deal was the first Pixies member to release material following the band's split with 1992's 'Safari' EP. While markedly different to Pixies, it kind of sounded like a Kim Deal record should - melodic, grungy and a little kooky. It took more than a year before it was followed up, but when it came - wow! Cannonball was still melodic and grungy, but the kooky was turned up to 11.

It begins in a rather odd manner - 16 seconds of feedback over which Kim soundchecks the mic ("check check, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1") and the band sings those "AaaOOOooo"s. Then it stops. Some drumsticks tap a cymbal stand, a classic little Kim Deal bass riff[1] and we're seemingly off and running. A cute little lead riff, more feedback and some nice distorted guitars, before Kim's vocals begin:

"Spitting in a wishing well
Gone to hell, crash!"

Then it stops again. Oops, no, wait a mo...

"I'm the last splash."

Off we go again. At the end of the verse, my favourite bit - the first line of the chorus "Want you, cuckoo, cannonball" is immediately followed by the choppy rhythmic strumming of muted guitar strings where the drums should be. Genius! The song continues with great guitar sounds, a superb vocal and more tricks up its sleeve than Paul Daniels[2], stopping, starting, stopping over and over again - a seriously crazy song, but one which just instills such delight in me it's hard to explain it.

It's ironic, when you think about it. At the heart of the Pixies split was Kim's resentment at not being allowed to contribute more songs to the band. Shortly after the break-up, she put this out, one of the greatest singles of the 90s. Before I heard Cannonball I was still mourning the Pixies split. After hearing it, I was so pleased as I suspected had Pixies stayed together, we might never have had the fucking awesome three and a half minutes of pure, unadulterated joy that is Cannonball. Perhaps even better, it felt like Kim Deal was enjoying making music again, and maybe that was the secret.

I fear that when this song is played at my funeral, I may just briefly come back to life for one final jump around. It may freak some people out, but at least I'll be sent off with a huge fat cheesy grin on my face!


[1] Played in fact by Josephine Wiggs - Kim played lead guitar in the Breeders
[2] For the benefit of non-UK readers: Paul Daniels


  1. It might be a fevered imagination, but I seem to remember another band in the 90's doing a cover version of Cannonball. I might be wrong.

    1. Not doubting you Webbie (perish the thought!), but other than the numerous You Tube clips of blokes in their bedroom giving it a run through, I've found nowt. It would be a brave person to take it on for real.

      While I was looking though, I came across this awesome article where the band discusses the recording of Last Splash and Cannonball. Well worth a read:

    2. It was the fevered mind. Bloody annoying getting old. I think I got it mixed with Elastica's Connection. Don't ask me how...