Two monumentally good bits of music had failed to provoke any interest in the record buying public. Nor had the debut LP, White Music, exactly set the heather alight.
The good news from the band’s perspective is that they had a record label who believed in their abilities and a number of champions within the music press consistently praising the records and giving positive reviews to the live shows.
It was the record company bosses who suggested that one of the tracks off the debut LP should be re-recorded for release as the third single. The band was teamed up with a different producer – RJ (Mutt) Lange – who at the time was relatively unknown but had some new wave credentials thanks to his work with The Boomtown Rats. As an aside, Lange would in later years become something of an uber-producer and make a fortune from his efforts with the likes of Billy Ocean, Bryan Adams and Shania Twain – but that probably don’t impress you much.
It has to be admitted however, that the results of what proved to be a one-off collaboration with XTC did result in one of the best non-hit singles of the era.
mp3 : XTC – This Is Pop?
It’s a fantastic lyric in which the point is made that, no matter the genre anyone ever tries to shoehorn a song into, if it becomes well-liked and celebrated (as was increasingly happening with punk and new wave) then by definition is has to be pop music being made by a pop band. It’s also a killer tune that somehow, once again, was ignored by mainstream radio on its release in April 1978.
Proof that Mutt Lange helped the band realise their potential can also be found in the two-minute ditty that was recorded for the b-side:-
mp3 : XTC – Heatwave
It’s not a cover of the Martha & the Vandellas song (as would be done by The Jam for the Setting Sons LP in 1979) but a Colin Moulding original which is far too catchy to have been wasted as a b-side. I don’t think I’m alone in reckoning it is similar in places to a big hit single from Elvis Costello & the Attractions.