THE XTC SINGLES (Part 12)

One that I had to go and pick up from Discogs. And it wasn’t that cheap once I added P&P.

Respectable Street was and remains one of my favourites songs on Black Sea. It’s the opening song on Side A and it sets the tone for what turned out to be, at that point in time, the most tuneful, accessible and witty album by XTC. I loved the old-fashioned, crackly way that the song opened before bursting into a superb riff and, unusually, straight into the chorus before the first of the verses having its sly dig at behaviour in suburbia. But it had no chance of being a single thanks to a few ‘naughty’ words like contraception, sex-position and abortion, not to mention a couple of product placements for Cosmopolitan magazine and Sony.

Turns out the clever folk at Virgin Records had anticipated this and so had asked Andy Partridge to re-write some of the lyrics and replace some of the possibly offending words that could lead the BBC to refuse to air the song. The move turned out to be a waste of time and money as the different version still didn’t get played and the single flopped completely on its release in March 1981.  I still reckon much of that was down to forgetting to replace the product placement stuff:-

mp3 : XTC – Respectable Street (single version)

It wasn’t a 45 I bought at the time as, being of age when such things mattered, I hated the idea of the censored lyric. Turns out that it wasn’t included on the Waxworks compilation which is why I had to send off for it. The b-sides weren’t includes on Beeswax, the companion album to the compilation and so I never heard either of these songs until 36 years after their release:-

mp3 : XTC – Strange Tales, Strange Tails
mp3 : XTC – Officer Blue

The fact that this was the fourth single released from Black Sea and it managed to yield two new songs as b-sides when a previous single had relied on a live track should set alarm bells ringing. This was reaching down into the bottom of the barrel and scraping away. The band have publicly stated that they are among the worst things they have ever put down on vinyl.

The former sounds half-finished from a lyrical point of view and the tune veers all over the place as if it’s a jam gotten out of control. The latter is actually not all that bad in the grand scheme of things, but I suppose when you’ve been spoiling fans with the quality of the songs on the two most recent albums it will feel as if you’re now offering something a bit second-rate.

JC

7 thoughts on “THE XTC SINGLES (Part 12)

  1. If you were going to compare a band to XTC, who would it be? Brian sent in a lovely ICA about The Sugarplastic, who have a lot of similar qualities to XTC, but I’m not sure anyone other than he and I ever heard that band. I’ve really been enjoying this series, having been hooked on the band from pretty early on (early enough to have had the pleasure of seeing them live), and I’m thrilled to hear new songs for the first time. But what’s most striking to me is that, after all this time, there’s no one else that sounds anything like XTC. Brilliant. Never sounds dated, never sounds like anyone else.

  2. Respectable Street is BIG MUSIC! No punches pulled, no hidden subtexts or noodling. It is Pop with power, not formulaic Power Pop. Opening with the chorus is bold and in keeping with the strength and confidence of Respectable Street. Partridge gets right to the job of reflecting late 70s/early 80s suburban life and the reality bubbling beneath the hedge rows and shiny cars parked in the drives. On the album the power of the music isn’t even given a chance to wane as Respectable Street flows right into Generals And Majors – it’s one of the greatest album openings I can think of.

  3. Spot on JC and ER — that’s exactly why I led off my XTC/Partridge ICA with this tune.

  4. I have never seen this 7″ before. Looking at the art above made me do a double take. Great words about a great song from all of the participants. Well done. JC, when this series wraps up, would you consider ranking the albums? Would love your opinion.

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