The single that never was.

I mentioned last week that the spelling of War Dance as Wardance on the b-side of The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead was an indication of how little regard there was for XTC at Virgin Records in the early 90s. What happened next was truly appalling and was the catalyst for the band grinding to a halt for a considerable period of time.

It was agreed that a third single should be lifted from Nonsuch and released in September 1992. It was to be Wrapped in Grey, one of the best-received tracks from the album. A slower than usual number with an emphasis on piano and strings, it was a very different sort of XTC, but there’s no doubt it was a song that everyone was proud of.

Artwork was produced, b-sides identified and in due course, some 7″ and CD singles were pressed only for them to be recalled and destroyed by the label, who had unilaterally decided it had no prospect of charting. The very few copies that got out into circulation are now worth a fortune – the CD single goes for £200 upwards and the even rarer vinyl for at least double that.

mp3 : XTC – Wrapped In Grey

The other songs slated for the single were Bungalow, a track from Nonsuch and another example of a song that none of us who had grown up with the post-punk material would ever have imagined being recorded by XTC; the demo version of Bungalow and a demo of a previously unreleased song called Rip Van Ruben.

The pulping of this 45 was the last straw for XTC and they asked to be released from their contract. Virgin Records refused to do so. No new material was recorded but the label happily issued some compilations to keep the money coming in. The impasse would last for a number of years.


6 thoughts on “THE XTC SINGLES (Part 30)

  1. A tragedy for the band, their fans, and quality music in general. The ensuing forced strike by XTC illustrated everything that was wrong with the music industry at the time, and it only got worse after. This series tells a lot of tales.

  2. One of the best things they ever did, just gorgeous. I guess i will be in a minority of one but the wait was worth it as apple venus is my favourite xtc lp

  3. …and it is Andy Partridge’s favourite album too as he stated on ‘This is Pop’ an excellent documentary on Sky Arts last night…
    I’ve been reading some fab comments on this blog over the whole series and as I’m a little bit younger (not much mind!) I only bought XTC albums from English Settlement onwards. I feel even within that remit XTC made at least 3 great albums and there just aren’t that many bands who have made 3 great albums – should be national treasures!

  4. A great song, but did Virgin have a point? Would it have got the airplay on the key daytime shows in the UK? September 1992 – Simon Mayo on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show and some boring tosh from a film about Robin Hood at No. 1 for what seemed like for ever. Discuss.

  5. Well I will side with JTFL + FORW here… Wrapped In Grey is just gorgeous, forlorn and yet if sounds of XTC to me, through and through. It’s the song that has kept me coming back to Nonesuch over the years. Chamber Pop at its most enchanting, Wrapped In Grey just flows through the speakers into your soul.
    The only good thing that came out of XTC’s self imposed silence was that it was the incubation for their final two albums, and once again I will nod to FORW and say the first of those, Apple Venus Vol. 1, is absolutely one of their greatest achievements.

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