Watch What You're Doing (lost Pixies cover version of Larry Norman song; 1987)

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The Purple Tape cover art

Status: Lost

The Pixies are an alternative rock band that formed in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1986. The band initially released five albums to critical acclaim before disbanding in 1993 and have since been hailed as one of the most influential indie/alternative rock bands of all time. In 2004, the band reunited to play sold-out reunion tours and in 2013, started writing new music again. The Pixies have been cited as a major influence by the likes of Kurt Cobain, Thom Yorke, and David Bowie.

Shortly after their formation, the Pixies started playing small club shows to gain traction. In March of 1987, after being discovered by music producer Gary Smith, the band recorded a seventeen-song demo tape that has become known among fans as The Purple Tape. The tape was sent out to various record labels and eventually caught the attention of British label 4AD, who selected eight of the seventeen songs from the tape for the band's debut EP Come On Pilgrim, released the same year. The remaining nine songs from the tape were later released on the eponymous archival album Pixies in 2002.

While The Purple Tape is well known to Pixies fans, what many fans don't know is that one additional song was recorded during the sessions for the tape: a cover of "Watch What You're Doing" by Christian rock singer Larry Norman. The song was left off the tape and has never been officially released in any form, nor has it appeared on bootlegs or internet file-sharing sites. Gary Smith, the producer for The Purple Tape sessions, claims he is the only person in possession of the song, but admits that the recording "perhaps, by now, [is] unplayable."[1] If what Smith says is true, the recording may never see the light of day.

While there is almost no hope of the Pixies version being released, the frontman of the Pixies, Black Francis (under his alternate stage name Frank Black), performed the song with Larry Norman himself in 2005 at one of Norman's final live performances prior to his death. A video recording of this performance is available on YouTube and Vimeo.

Interestingly, even though the Pixies version was never released, a lyric from the song ("Come on pilgrim, you know He loves you") was quoted in the Pixies song "Levitate Me" and was the source of the title of the band's debut EP Come On Pilgrim.


"Watch What You're Doing" by Larry Norman.

Frank Black performing "Watch What You're Doing" with Larry Norman in 2005.

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