Today is going to be one of the highlights of the week’s golf in Hilton Head as I’m scheduled to play over a course which has, for years, hosted a tournament on the PGA Tour. I thought it would therefore be appropriate to feature an old posting from someone who will be with me today – Mr John Greer – and given that some words on XTC a few weeeks back proved to be one of the most popular ever to feature on the blog, I’ve gone back to what he said on 7 June 2009:-
I remember the first time I ever saw XTC it was in 1978 on the music show Revolver; I was in the bar of St Andrews University, I worked for the University , I wasn’t a student.
Revolver was an ITV music show, which preceded Channel 4’s The Tube; it only ran for one series of 8 episodes and had Peter Cook as the manager of the fictional nightclub where the show was being filmed.
XTC played their single This Is Pop and the following Monday I had to buy it. It seemed to be totally different to any of the other singles of the day with a very angular sound. Their appearance on Revolver can be seen on youtube if you have a search.
The previously released single Statue Of Liberty had been banned by the BBC for having the line “sail beneath your skirt”, this song showed off the band’s great early sound which was a hybrid of punk, reggae and ska. Andy Partridge preferred to call their style of music ‘New Pop’ rather than ‘New Wave’.
mp3 : XTC – Statue Of Liberty
1979 saw the release of the band’s most successful album Drums and Wires, with the wonderful single Making Plans for Nigel. It was during the accompanying tour that I saw them for the one and only time at The Odeon in Edinburgh.
Lead singer Andy Partridge had always suffered from stage fright, but he struggled on until he suffered a breakdown on stage during one of the first concerts of the English Settlement tour in Paris in 1982. It was reported that his wife had thrown away his supply of Valium. According to the band’s biography, Andy had the drug prescribed to him as a teenager during his parents’ divorce and over the subsequent years, having never been withdrawn from the drug he had become overly-dependent on it.
The European and British dates were cancelled and after one show, the U.S leg was also abandoned, and in due course XTC withdrew from live appearances and became almost exclusively a studio band, only occasionally performing live on radio shows.
As with most people my music buying changed with age, marriage and becoming a father and the subsequent 5 albums passed me by, but I did buy the occasional single found while trawling in record shops.
I also did with hindsight, a very stupid thing; I sold all my vinyl albums, 12-inch singles and singles. I thought CDs were easier to store and transport when we moved house, – and on a few occasions on this blog JC himself has talked of the agony of and woes of losing many classics in a change of address.
Indeed it was JC, who gave me the compilation CD, Fossil Fuel as a birthday gift, that started my interest in listening to XTC again. The early singles were as good and fresh as ever and I liked the newer material.
Over the years XTC have influenced many bands, it’s hard not to listen to The Futureheads without hearing a similar sound, and I recently read an article where Coldplay credit Andy Partridge’s writing as being a major influence.
In 2003, I heard a single on Radio 2 and thought it was pure XTC; it turned out to be aband from my own Kingdom Of Fife – indeed they were from my old stomping ground of St Andrews – Dogs Die In Hot Cars, with their minor hit I Love You Cause I Have To.
On Boxing Day 2007, I was standing doing the dishes in the kitchen, feeling quite sorry for myself, as I’d been down to Berwick to see Raith Rovers suffer an unexpected defeat to Berwick Rangers, when Bob Harris played, again on Radio 2, a track that lifted my gloom for a wee while.
It was the wonderful Wrapped in Grey by XTC. At that moment I thought it was a new track but I later found out it was from their album Nonsuch. It prompted me to download the album. I had the singles from Nonsuch on Fossil Fuel but I’d never heard this track.
mp3 : XTC – Wrapped In Grey
I read recently the band felt it was one of their finest moments and would be perfect to release as a single; they loved the Pet Sounds feel to it. But the band were in dispute with Virgin Records and after pressing thousands of singles, they were recalled and destroyed.
During their long career, XTC have also released material under a variety of pseudonyms, including two albums of psychedelic outings as The Dukes of Stratosphear, a Viz comic’s promotional single as Johnny Japes and his Jesticles, and a Christmas-themed single as The Three Wise Men.
My younger brother had also been a XTC fan and I think the concert in Edinburgh in 1979 was the only gig we ever attended together. He did have the The Dukes Of Stratosphear albums and the track I always loved was Vanishing Girl. The albums were a homage to 60’s pop and psychedelia. If you were to listen to Vanishing Girl alongside the Small Faces it wouldn’t seem out of place.
mp3 : The Dukes of Stratosphear – Vanishing Girl
As recently as 2007 XTC were still releasing new tracks via their own online streaming webpage.
As a footnote, a very good friend of mine and reader of this blog, Iain Fenton always hated XTC, after Andy Partridge made a statement to the NME or Sounds that “ all the Scots were good at, was growing ginger hair!!! …… At this point, I have to explain that when I still had hair it was ginger ( well….. strawberry blonde)….