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'Where Is My Mind?': A history of the Pixies' song in TV and film

“Where Is My Mind?” is widely regarded of one of the best songs by the Boston-based band the Pixies, and it has become quite a popular song for no less than three television shows this year.

Quick history lesson: The Pixies were formed in 1986, and their debut album, Surfer Rosa, became an archetype for the nineties alternative and grunge movement. Kurt Cobain has repeatedly said in interviews that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is an imitation of a Pixies song. The Pixies are also known for having a quiet, low-fi verse and a loud chorus. The combination of singer Frank Black’s intense vocals and bassist Kim Deal’s ethereal backup singing is another hallmark, and another reason why so many of the band’s songs are beloved.

Although the song “Where Is My Mind?” was released on Surfer Rosa in 1988, the band’s place in cult-movie status was solidified when it was played over the ending of 1999’s now cult favorite Fight Club, and featured prominently in the trailer. The song choice was perfect: The opening strumming was the best accompaniment to buildings collapsing, and the actual lyric “Where is my mind?” directly refers to the narrator and his delusions of splitting into his Tyler Durden persona. (It’s not a spoiler if a movie is 16 years old.)

Because of this movie, lots of new generations of discovered the Pixies, and to our great happiness, the band reunited in 2004. Although their post–Surfer Rosa albums were a critical success, the earlier albums are the ones that are heralded. Since Fight Club, many film and television shows have used the song in its original incarnation and in cover versions.

For example, the (incredibly underappreciated) Sucker Punch (2011) used a cover by star Emily Browning. Again, this is likely referring to someone’s mental state, as the film takes place in a mental institution, and the women are constantly questioning their reality.

Observe and Report (2009), which is similarly underrated, used a cover by City Wolf during its most memorable and very not-safe-for-work climax, in which our antihero finally does good by chasing and apprehending a notorious mall flasher.

However, in 2015 alone, I’ve heard it or a version of it in no fewer than four different shows/films. It’s been a running theme in season two of The Leftovers for Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) as he tries to rid himself of the visions of Patti Levin and to overcome the destruction (emotional and physical) left in Mapleton.

The Leftovers also featured a cover version by Maxence Cyrin, which transforms the song into quite a melancholy one. This version was also recently heard on an episode of Mr. Robot:

As well as another cover, this one by Mindy Jones, on Blindspot:

Additionally, this year it was played during the epilogue of Eli Roth’s Knock Knock, as the camera panned through the house to show the destruction left by the two antagonists. The song is presented from the perspective of Keanu Reeves, who went through physical and emotional torture.

Then there plenty of other appearances of the song, in shows such as Veronica Mars, Californication, The 4400, and Criminal Minds.

Perhaps the song’s resurgence is coincidental, but it still seems to be the go-to song when someone is struggling with mental illness, aka losing their mind. It seems a bit too on-the-nose in those cases, however: We imagine the character asking themselves this question to represent their mental illness. If we are going with that type of song pairing, why not Seal’s “Crazy?” or why not the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”? And there are hundreds more to choose from.

The answer is obvious: “Where Is My Mind?” far surpasses any song connoting mental illness, much less most songs in general. The song also accomplishes something else: It creates a full rock sound with upbeat, major chord changes, indicating things are great … until the quiet refrain, the minor instrumentation, and the almost whispered title question—indicating that things really aren’t okay, that the loss of mental control is secretive and shameful. The song itself wavers between minor and major chords. The Pixies version almost sounds celebratory, while the piano version give it a melancholy tone. I’ve joked that the piano music in The Leftovers is a cue for the audience that they should start getting choked up.

The showrunners and producers of these films/television shows are not wrong to use the song. However, the verses are typically less accessible or traditional, as is another hallmark of the Pixies’ songs:

I was swimmin’ in the Caribbean
Animals were hiding behind a rock
Except the little fish
Bumped into me
I swear he was trying
To talk to me, coy Koi.

Singer/songwriter Frank Black cites as the song’s influence an experience he had while snorkeling in the Caribbean. They lyrics are probably about how the sea is a different world and he felt out of place—in his mind especially—and not about mental illness. However, that is the beauty of music: It can be interpreted any way it is needed to evoke emotion or narrative in a story.

So even if the song is really about snorkeling, we’ll always remember the phrase “Where is my mind?” sung over a quick flash of a naked man, spliced into the reel by the mischievous Tyler Durden, before the credits of Fight Club.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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