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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!: Day 20 - XTC Beginning and End

Today I thought we'd take a brief look at the start and the end of the recording career of a much loved band from the UK, XTC. There's quite a few links to the music of XTC so click on them to indulge yourselves.

In 1977 XTC, a band from Swindon signed to Virgin Records and released their Debut 3D EP. You'd never have guessed that this band would carve out a 30 year career as whilst their Debut album charted their singles were not doing so well (their first singles chart placing was actually in Australia in September 1978 #86). They ended up releasing 40 Singles (only 9 of them made it into the Top 50!). Their second single, Statue of Liberty (here's the Old Grey Whistle Test Performance) got banned by the BBC who took objection to the line, "In my fantasy I sail beneath your skirt". A re-recorded version of This is Pop (Here's a live performance on Revolver from 1978) also didn't go anywhere either. I love the lyrics on it:
This is Pop
Andy Partridge

In a milk bar and feeling lost
Drinking sodas as cold as frost
Someone leans in my direction
Quizzing on my juke-box selection

What do you call that noise
That you put on?
This is pop, yeah, yeah
This is

On a walkway and moving fast
All I get is transistor blast
Someone leans in my direction
Quizzing on my station selection

What do you call that noise
That you put on?
This is pop, yeah, yeah
This is

We come the wrong way
We come the long way
We play the songs much too loud

This is pop, yeah yeah

"What do you call that noise?" XTC were one of those bands that you could not really confine to a specific genre. For their first EP they kind of got lumped in with the Punks, but they were not Punks at all, and then they got classed as New Wave (which in itself is a very broad church!) but they didn't necessarily fit there either. Despite their quirkiness they did have some moments of Pop brilliance: Life Begins At The Hop, Making Plans For Nigel, Generals and Majors, Towers of London, Sgt Rock (Is Going to Help Me), Senses Working Overtime, Love On A Farm Boy's Wages and Dear God.

Up until 1982 they were band that toured on a regular basis but on 18th March that year Andy Partridge suffered a mental breakdown at a Paris concert and it the tour they were on in Europe was cut short. A month later in Los Angeles the band pulled out of a show due to illness which was later revealed to be Partridge's ongoing battle with stage fright. The following day (3rd April) they played one last concert but did not continue with the tour. Their only live work would be 7 years later performing acoustic sets on the Radio. Between 1982-98 they were primarlily a Studio band releasing albums and singles under the XTC banner and also The Dukes of Stratosphear but the absence of touring soured the sales on many of these releases and eventually their relationship with Virgin Records.

White Music - XTC
Virgin Records
Produced by John Leckie
Released 20th January 1978
UK Chart #38

    Andy Partridge - guitar, vocals
    Colin Moulding - bass, vocals
    Barry Andrews - steam piano, clapped out organs
    Terry Chambers - drums

 White Music (2001 Remastered CD Version with Bonus Tracks)

Singles from White Music
January 1978

April 1978
* Different Recording to the Album version.


After a lengthy battle to get released from their Virgin contract the band set up their own label Idea Records and set about putting together a new album of material that they had written during the Virgin dispute. Apple Venus Volume 1 appeared in 1999 but at the expense of the departure of Dave Gregory after 20 years service (he had originally replaced Barry Andrews after the release of Go 2, the second XTC Album in 1978). He would rejoin the Dukes of Stratosphear in 2003 but not XTC

The second volume of Apple Venus, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) arrived in 2000. This would be the last new XTC music until 2005's Apple Box that included two Download only tracks, Spiral by Andy Partridge and Say It written by Colin Moulding and in December there was a Download only single Where Did The Ordinary People Go?

By November 2006 it was being reported that Andy Partridge had said that Colin Moulding no longer had any interest in writing, performing or even listening to music and that XTC would no longer continue without him. As if to make the point clear he even wrote in for the Swindon Advertiser in 2008:

"Yes I believe my musical partnership with Colin Moulding has come to an end. For reasons too personal and varied to go into here, but we had a good run as they say and produced some real good work. No, I won't be working with him in the future."
By the end of 2008 Moulding had resurfaced and was interviewed on a radio show confirming his disillusionment with muic but he was thinking of doing some solo work. He also spoke of how he and Partridge were once again communicating with each other via Email. 

I guess that was a vital thing to happen as work began on Reissuing albums, though few have seen the light of day as yet. In 2011 a Vinyl version of Skylarking was issued by Andy Partridge, and a APE Records remastered CD followed in 2014, Drums and Wires (not the 2014 mix but the 2001 remaster) was released in October 2014. Reissues on Vinyl and CD of English Settlement and Oranges & Lemons have not, as far as I'm aware, seen the light of day.

Let The Day Begin...Let The Day Start!
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