Of Scratches and Needles

What do ya do when Mark Stern calls up and asks for a new track for the upcoming BYO anniversary compilation album? Well, when yer dealing with an organization that has as much embarassing dirt on us as the brothers Stern (*cough* Sacramento 1983 *cough*), you damn well get to the studio!

R-L  Mark, Shawn, and Adam, the nice one!
R-L Mark, Shawn, and Adam, the nice one!

Seems as though for this project they are asking bands to cover a track from one of their previous landmark collections. Pretty cool idea–We had a track appear on the compilation Something to Believe In way back in 1952. We had the song Indian Summer on that crazy disc, and the thought of covering another track from that record sounded like a fun project. And of course, we’re lazy, so the thought of not actually having to write a new song was Mr. Bonus!

Squint your eyes and you can see a lady riding a unicorn...
Squint your eyes and you can see a lady riding a unicorn...

Well, after confirming that someone already took the Jonses’ Pillbox, we of course had to have a go at the Nils’ Scratches and Needles! We’ve always loved this song, but I never quite knew all the lyrics. The Nils were a Montreal band, really more of a contemporary of the Replacements and Husker Du than to us punk knuckleheads. Besides sharing residence on that one compilation, really knew nothing else of the band.

A quick web search only coughed up a few bios, and then I came across an obituary by our old pal Jack Rabid…Seems Alex Soria, the songwriter/singer died of a violent train track suicide, apparently strung out and desolate. When you look on the lyrics of the song, which deal with addiction and the hypocrisy of the heroin chic culture, the story of Alex and the Nils takes on a darkly ironic twist. Reports on Alex’ last moments on Earth have him standing on the tracks, holding up a hand to the oncoming metal. As a desperate gesture of halt or an apologetic wave goodbye, no one will ever know. He left behind his brother Carlos, who always stood by him in bands, bass in hand.

The Nils
The Nils

A quick email to Jack got me in contact with Woody at Toroto based Mag Wheel Records and I was quickly caught up on all things Nils! Woody graciously sent us lyrics and a grip of cds, including other Nils tributes and tracks from other Soria projects. I sent Woody back a few things, and we began one of those friendly, faceless long distance relationships unique to the Web. At the end of one of Woody’s emails, he mentioned that Carlos heard we were doing this project and seemed excited. There was a phone number, he said Carlos wasn’t much for emails…
Carlos and Alex
Carlos and Alex

I called Carlos a few days later, and he was happy that we were doing the track. They always thought Needles and Indian Summer were the 2 best tracks on the record, and yeah-funny how they are pretty much made up of the same damn chords! He filled me in on his career, how he was actually out here for a bit playing with Mike Conley from MIA, who tragically also suffered an early death. He mentioned how he might try to get the Nils back together, this and that. As we were ending the call, he wondered if BYO might be interested in his new band covering Indian Summer for the comp.
I said I didn’t know…

Alex Soria
Alex Soria
Posted in CH3

10 thoughts on “Of Scratches and Needles

  1. I ended up here while searching for the lyrics to Scratches and Needles… I’m having the same experience, the web is coming up empty. Is it possible to post ’em or email ’em to me?


  2. The Nils…my old band did our second ever gig with them back in ’86. For one reason or another fate (and their own demons)simply conspired against them. Every once in awhile I pull out an old shoe box and look through old stacks of photos taken at that show.


  3. wow I’d love to have the lyrics to both indian summer and scratches and needles!!

    Something to believe in was an amazing album for me…


    1. (Scratches lyrics are on the blog

      Indian Summer

      A little late for warning
      I think I’ve heard enough as it is
      So don’t try to tell me
      That it can’t much worse than this

      Feel out of place and as lost
      As a hot day in Autumn

      As the days grow colder
      And people yell Prepare for the End!
      If we can’t grow older
      At least we’ll leave a corpse with a tan

      Feel out of place and so lost
      Is it hot enough for you?

      I just want to know how to live
      In the Indian Summer

      God I feel so helpless
      I wanna live, I wanna live true
      So I hang my rosary
      Around the bottle hid in my room

      Feel out of place and as lost
      As an Indian Summer

      And so you say it’s coming
      The life we love just slips from our hold
      Like an Indian Summer
      A memory before it grows cold

      Just one last look at the Sun
      Before we go under…..


      1. Thanks a bunch.

        For my next trich I will ask you to come to KC and play….(-;

        Actually this means a lot, I love this song.


  4. I finally got 2 records of Nils on the web and downloaded it. When I first got the first BYO compilation I thought it was a californian band…
    Great song, great band!


  5. I couldn’t agree more that “Indian Summer” and “Scratches and Needles” were the best songs on that disc. Pretty sure I knew “Indian Summer” from the live shows (if my Alzheimer’s meds are working) so was looking forward to it on a more permanent form of media, but I knew nothing of The Nils.

    It wasn’t until the internet that I could even find out a little about them. So it was really cool when I saw you guys covering the song in a video. It was like the two bands broke through their grooved vinyl prophylactic barrier and had a bastard child.

    Never heard of this “project” from BYO Inc. but then again I guess I ain’t looking that direction all the time. But I am glad you guys did such an awesome job on this track. Yeah, you guys coulda rocked “Pillbox” this way to Sunday, but I think only you guys could have done The Nils justice the way you did.

    Alright, I have wasted enough of my life for one day on this Channel Three blog (again)…thanks…


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