Crystal Frontier

Album: Even My Sure Things Fall Through (2000)
Play Video


  • This song was inspired by the 1995 novel The Crystal Frontier by the Mexican author Carlos Fuentes. The book deals with people whose lives traverse between Mexico and the United States, a theme that has always interested the Calexico songwriters Joey Burns and John Convertino, who named their group after a border town in California. Burns explained in Bomb magazine: "'Crystal Frontier' describes the history of the Southwest as always having been a crossroads. A place of illusions and even delusion. The first verse follows Fray Marcos setting out to find Cabeza de Vaca's seven lost cities of gold and running into the Zuni instead. The second verse is about a maquiladora worker in Juarez trying to support her family by working in a tire factory. And the last verse is from a story I read in a Tucson paper about kids that live on both sides of the border and have access to both sides. They're kind of players that can get you whatever you want cheap, drugs or sex if you're coming from the US side, and Air Jordans, Nike garb and label stuff back over to the Mexican side. This place has always had a quality of struggle."
  • On June 13, 2008, NASA transmitted this song to space, playing it to wake up the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery. The song was chosen by congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the wife of Shuttle commander Mark Kelly. Giffords was the representative from the 8th congressional district, which includes Tucson, where Calexico is based.

    In our interview with Joey Burns of Calexico, he explained: "Gabby asked us to pick a song and we chose
    'Crystal Frontier.' I thought, what better way to wake up than with an upbeat song with lots of trumpets."

    On January 8, 2011, Giffords was shot by a crazed gunman during an appearance. She survived, and in May Kelly found himself back in space, this time aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. With Giffords recovering, Kelly asked Calexico for a wake-up song, and the group chose their track "Slowness."


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Dr. John

Dr. JohnSongwriter Interviews

The good doctor shares some candid insights on recording with Phil Spector and The Black Keys.

Daniel Lanois

Daniel LanoisSongwriter Interviews

Daniel Lanois on his album Heavy Sun, and the inside stories of songs he produced for U2, Peter Gabriel, and Bob Dylan.

Chris Isaak

Chris IsaakSongwriter Interviews

Chris tells the story of "Wicked Game," talks milkshakes and moonpies at Sun Records, and explains why women always get their way.

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).

Gary Brooker of Procol Harum

Gary Brooker of Procol HarumSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer and pianist for Procol Harum, Gary talks about finding the musical ideas to match the words.

Bill Withers

Bill WithersSongwriter Interviews

Soul music legend Bill Withers on how life experience and the company you keep leads to classic songs like "Lean On Me."