THE XTC SINGLES (Part 7)

It was something of a strange decision not to follow-up ‘Nigel’ with any other track from the LP Drums and Wires. This was partly down to XTC, like many of their peers, wanting to minimise the number of singles associated with any album, but it was also linked to something mentioned in a previous post, namely that loads of new material was being written at a fantastically quick rate thanks in part to the band now having, in effect, two principal songwriters.

This led to the a non-album single being the next UK release in March 1980.

mp3 : XTC – Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down

Despite being a decent enough track, albeit at more than four minutes in length a bit of an epic as far as the singles went, this latest effort failed to trouble the charts, thus becoming the fifth successive Andy Partridge composed 45 to suffer such a fate. It’s another fine and clever lyric in which the protagonist is offering sage advice to a female of the species predicting that while her looks, wit and charm have her currently floating in exalted circles within a new and upmarket social gathering, there will inevitably come a time when she will have to rely on old friends. The tune though is a wee bit clunky and that made it less than ideal for radio play and thus difficult to pick up on.

In contrast, the single came with a quality b-side:-

mp3 : XTC – Ten Feet Tall

The original version of Ten Feet Tall was, and still is, one of the best tracks on Drums and Wires. It was the first mid-tempo love song that the band had recorded and was a pointer to where they could go in the future once the fad for new-wave had worn off (as it was already threatening to do).

The label thought that a re-recorded version with more electric rather than acoustic guitars would work as a single, primarily for an American market. And so the band re-cut the song and it was released in the USA where it sunk without trace but made available for UK fans as the b-side. If more had been made of the fact that it was a new recording – perhaps indeed going as far as making it a double-A side with the likelihood of airplay – then maybe it wouldn’t have been a flop.

I say this with a bit of conviction in that I didn’t buy Wait Till Your Boat Comes Down at the immediate time of release – I had seen copies in the shop but was, at a time when value had to be sought from any purchases, shied away as the b-side looked like it was the album version. Nothing on the sleeve indicated otherwise unless you looked closely a the name of the producer in small print. A wasted opportunity but then again, a bargain bin copy at half-price just a few weeks later was a personal consolation of sorts.

JC

8 thoughts on “THE XTC SINGLES (Part 7)

  1. Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down has much more in common with their next album, Black Sea. It’s a reasonable song, but it’s never struck me as a great choice as a single.
    As for Ten Feet Tall, it’s just beautiful New Wave love song that shows off the magical touch of Colin Moulding. There’s just something very classic about this pop song. The final build to the end of the song gets in your head and swirls around and around.

  2. To this day, I can’t hear Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down without thinking there will be a series of clicks at the end before General and Majors kicks in. When I was a surly kid, I first had this song on a cassette of Waxworks that I bought at a general store during a god-forsaken family camping trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. There is no earthly reason why this rural store that sold guns, tires and feed for farm animals should have Waxworks, but the clouds lifted when I saw it. I listened to the tape all week on my Sony Walkman with auto reverse, and the last song on side 1 was Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down. Then there was the familiar clicks of the machine switching to side 2 and Generals and Majors. I sat alone on the rocks that bordered the lake and sang along to Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down as the water vessels passed. Without Waxworks, I think I would have jumped in.

  3. As you say, Wait Till Your Boat just didn’t sound like an obvious single. Ten Feet Tall was far more catchy and would certainly have got more airplay and off the back of Nigel may have even scraped into the “mugshots” on Top Of The Pops.

  4. ‘Ten Feet Tall’ is more evidence of Moulding’s brilliance, if any was needed. Best thing about ‘Boat Goes Down’ for me is the image of teenage Brian listening to it on a midwestern camping trip. On cassette!

  5. Brian – What a great memory of a song – well it might not have been a great time up in “Lower Canada,” but I can imagine XTC getting you through.

  6. ‘Ten Feet Tall’ was a single in the US (their first?) – a completely re-recorded version of the track from that on D&W

  7. I always found the ending so haunting, I’m also a big fan of the original Ten Feet Tall rather than this version. You have a long way to go on this singles thread and I’m loving it

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