Wiki actually gives The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead an entry of its own:-
The song follows the story of Peter Pumpkinhead, a man who comes to an unspecified town, “spreading wisdom and cash around.” He is extremely popular with the people of the town, but extremely unpopular with government figures. In the end, Peter Pumpkinhead is killed by his enemies and, “nailed to a chunk of wood.”
The name Peter Pumpkinhead came about by Andy Partridge having carved out a Halloween jack o’lantern and, following the October festival, sticking it on one of the fence posts in his garden. Partridge walked past the pumpkin each day on the way to his composing shed and, feeling sorry for the increasingly decaying fruit head, decided to write a song about him.
Released in March 1992, it stuck at #71 in the UK charts, but did better in the USA, reaching #1 in Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart, just as King For A Day had achieved three years previously.
mp3 : XTC – The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
The wiki entry, however, is more likely down to the fact that the song was given the cover treatment in 1994 by Crash Test Dummies for inclusion on the soundtrack to the hit comedy Dumb and Dumber.
As for the original XTC single, again it is nothing along the lines I expected from being so particularly acquainted with their late 70s/early 80s output. It’s a tune that reminds me of the sort of upbeat songs The The included on Dusk, and so I’m happy to give it a thumbs-up.
Now to your b-sides. This from the 7″ vinyl:-
mp3 : XTC – War Dance
A Colin Moulding composition. It’s another that reminds me of The The, thanks this time to the ambitious arrangement and the very clear anti-war sentiments contained in the lyric. Hugely enjoyable and far too good to be wasted simply on a b-side, so I was glad to see it was also included on the parent LP Nonsuch.
The fact that the song title does seem to have consisted of two words and yet the sleeve to the 45 has it as one word is perhaps an indication of how little care and attention was given to XTC by Virgin Records at this point in time.
Two more tracks were on the CD single:-
mp3 : XTC – My Bird Performs (Demo)
mp3 : XTC – Always Winter Never Christmas (demo)
The former is the early version of a song that I’m informed was recorded by the entire band and included on Nonsuch. It’s pleasant enough without being one that I’d go overboard about…mind ypu, there’s good bass playing on it as you’d expect.
The latter is more worked up than I imagined a demo could be which would indicate the band were on the verge of recoding it properly, either for the album or a ‘proper’ b-side. I’m hearing it as a sort of hybrid….there’s a touch of Faron Young by Prefab Sprout in the rhythm and beat…..but there’s also something akin to an afro-beat kicking around in there. It’s all just a bit too busy and undistinguished for my liking, but hey, it is a bonus b-side on a CD single from 1992 so nobody was ever making grandiose claims on its behalf.