From wiki:-

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) is the fourteenth and final studio album by the English band XTC, released on Cooking Vinyl/Idea Records on 23 May 2000. It is the second volume of the Apple Venus set and reached the UK Top 40 albums chart.

At this point, guitarist and singer Andy Partridge and bassist and singer Colin Moulding were the only two band members left. The duo therefore utilised session musicians on every track to fill in the musical elements that they were incapable of performing themselves. Partridge’s daughter Holly made her singing debut on record singing backup vocals in the song “Playground”.

One single was lifted from the album and as such was the last ever XTC 45 to be given a physical release:-

mp3 : XTC – I’m the Man Who Murdered Love

As farewells go, it’s not that bad. It’s tuneful, catchy and radio-friendly. I certainly would have anticipated it charting if it had been written and recorded earlier in their career.

Here’s yer b-sides:-

mp3 : XTC – I’m the Man Who Murdered Love (home demo)
XTC – Didn’t Hurt A Bit (Home Demo)

Yup….I’ve failed again at the last hurdle. The home demo version of this Colin Moulding song was put on the final single but seems to have been lost in the midst of time for a more-fleshed out version that appeared on the compilation Coat Of Many Colours that was released in 2002 and whose sleevenotes revealed it was an outtake for the Nonsuch album back in 1991/92:-

mp3 : XTC – It Didn’t Hurt A Bit

One final postscript.

It seems XTC released a download only single in 2005 that was later included on a very limited box set entitled Apple Vinyls that was released in December 2006.

This box set consisted of thirteen 7 inch singles compiling the 23 tracks from Apple Venus [Volume One] and Wasp Star [Apple Venus Volume Two] together with three previously download-only songs – the afore-mentioned single Where Did The Ordinary People Go? plus Say It and Spiral.

Copies of Apple Vinyls now retail on the second-hand market for more than £200. I’ll round off the series with these as they did, technically, feature on 7″ vinyl:-

mp3 : XTC – Where Did The Ordinary People Go?
mp3 : XTC – Say It
mp3 : XTC – Spiral

The last of these seems a wholly appropriate and wonderful way to close off this series. A largely unheralded and little known number that encapsulates everything that made XTC such an important and essential part of music over a 30-year period and which could be the catechist for T(n)VV.

Spiral, torn from the tone arm
Waking up the track
Dormant in the black valley of the vinyl

Spiral, dug by the diamond
Running it around, turn it into sound
Entering my spinal

Got to play all my favourite 45’s
Stacked way up high
Well everyday I spin away my 45’s
Help me to fly

Spiral, ripped from the record
Roll into the room, dissipate the gloom
Happiness eternal
Spiral, pulled from the plastic
Angel choirboys, devilish the noise
Heavenly infernal

Got to play all my favourite 45’s
Ten thousand times
Every day I spin away my 45’s
Help me to climb up

Spiral, torn from the tone arm
Waking up the track
Dormant in the black, valley of the vinyl
Spiral, dug by the diamond
Running it around, turn it into sound
Entering my spinal

Got to play all my favourite 45’s
Oh how they give
Every day I spin away my 45’s
How else do I live?

Hope you’ve enjoyed this series.  Stayed tuned for news of who will be appearing next in this particular slot.



See all that I said last week, it’s much the same this week. Except…….

……………..I have recently watched This Is Pop, a new documentary film that tells the tale of XTC.

It aired on Sky Arts here in the UK – the satellite station seemingly picked up the option after it had been rejected by the BBC – a big mistake on the part of the national broadcaster.  The film was every bit as different and entertaining as the band were throughout their time together.  It did centre around the often self-deprecating and very funny contributions of Andy Partridge but there was plenty of screen time given to the other band members, particularly Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory.  The vintage footage was priceless and there was a fair bit of honesty about where things had gone wrong over the years.  Some fans will be disappointed that the film largely focussed on the earlier years and the post-English Settlement material didn’t get anything like the same level of attention or detail, although there was a decent segment on the Dukes of Stratosphear project and the issues that arose around Skylarking.

The film does provide a reminder of how many other great groups over the years have grown and evolved to ensure they never got boring or clichéd.  It also was a wonderful reminder of why nobody could ever make the suggestion of XTC being a contender for the ‘Had It. Lost It’ feature in these pages.

And so while the final few singles the band would release aren’t to my personal tastes, I really am wide of the mark by suggesting that while they ‘have their charms, but it really isn’t XTC is it?’  The songs from Apple Venus Volume 1 are very much those of the band – they may be a long way removed from the sounds they made in the late 70s/early 80s but they are unmistakably, undeniably and still uniquely the work of XTC.  It’s my fault for not paying attention back in the day.

Single #2 from Apple Venus Volume 1 was released in June 1999. Just like its predecessor Easter Theatre, it didn’t chart, and it also had a similar style in terms of content:-

mp3 : XTC – I’d Like That
mp3 : XTC – I’d Like That (home demo)
XTC – How I’d Like That Came To Be

The demo actually appears to be two recordings spliced together – a genuine low-fi effort of about a minute in length before it becomes something a bit more sophisticated.  While it might not be my preferred choice of beverage,  JTFL will disagree as he included the song on an ICA in June 2016

I didn’t bother trying to track down the spoken word effort this time. Sorry if you were looking for it.

Next week is the final instalment of this series.  A huge thanks to all of you who have taken the time to drop by and offer your own views, thoughts and opinions.  Even those of you who found it boring.



Give thanks to the internet for the remaining few weeks of this series as I know absolutely nothing about what happened to XTC after their departure from Virgin Records. From wiki:-

After leaving Virgin, Partridge had the band’s accounts audited and it was discovered that the company had withheld substantial royalty payments from them. The settlement of the accounts provided the group with much-needed cash flow, allowing Partridge and Moulding to install fully equipped studios and work comfortably at home.

Though able to record the majority of their work themselves, they also used major commercial studios (including Abbey Road Studios in London) for some sessions. Finally released from Virgin, they formed their own label, Idea Records, and embarked on the recording of the ambitious “Apple Venus” project, a collection of the best material written during the band’s dispute with Virgin. The band’s initial plan had been to record a double album, featuring one disc of acoustic and orchestral songs and one of electric songs. Financial constraints forced the band to abandon the double album plan and finish and release the first volume (released 1999) before completing the second (2000).

During the recording sessions for Apple Venus Volume 1, Dave Gregory left the band after 20 years’ service. Ostensibly, this was due to “musical differences”—Gregory was unhappy with the plan to record an album whose arrangements relied largely upon orchestral instruments and keyboards rather than guitars

There were two singles lifted from Apple Venus Volume 1, the first of them in April 1999 on CD single only. It didn’t chart:-

mp3 : XTC – Easter Theatre
mp3 : XTC – Easter Theatre (home demo)
mp3 : XTC – How Easter Theatre Came To Be

The single has its charms, but it isn’t really XTC is it?

The demo is incredibly Beatles-eqsue if you like that sort of thing.

The last of the tracks is 13 minutes long, and it’s simply a spoken-track in which Andy Partridge provides a very detailed explanation of the song…incredible to think part of it dates back to 1986!!



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.



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.



The 90s dawned on us and the demand for idiosyncratic, guitar-led music was at it an all-time low since rock’n’roll had been ‘invented’ It was no real surprise that XTC battoned-down the hatches a bit and waited till February 1992 before emerging, blinking, into the daylight.

mp3 : XTC – The Disappointed

It’s unmistakably Andy Partridge on lead vocal and it’s a clever enough lyric, but the tune is a huge let down. Dull to the point of being a Tears For Fears mid-80s reject. But it did have its fans, reaching #33 in the UK singles charts and paving the way for the parent album Nonsuch to go Top 30 on its release a few months later.

The b-side of the 7″ was a Colin Moulding effort:-

mp3 : XTC – The Smartest Monkeys

I’ll hold my hands up and say that my first exposure to this was very recently as I had to go and find a lot of b-sides to complete the series.  If I had owned a copy of Nonsuch, I’d have been familar with it as it would later appear on the album.  I think it’s way superior to the a-side , but I’m afraid that’s damning it with faint praise as it’s not a patch on so much of the 70s and 80s output. They are both songs that would, I reckon, have had a live audience shuffling around the venue with boredom while waiting with anticipating for something more typical….so just as well then that the band didn’t tour!

The single also came out on 10″ format and on CD; it’s the latter I grabbed off Discogs a while back and here’s the other tracks:-

mp3 : XTC – Humble Daisy
mp3 : XTC – The Smartest Monkeys (demo)

Humble Daisy would also be on Nonsuch, and compared to the plethora a of otherwise unavailable b-sides in years gone by, this is also something of a letdown.

Nobody knew back then that this would be the final time XTC would ever have a hit single in the UK.



You’ll have spotted that I’ve been fond of the first two singles that were taken from Oranges and Lemons….and I’m happy to say that I give the thumbs-up to next 45:-

mp3 : XTC – The Loving

It wasn’t always this way. I didn’t take immediately to The Loving, but it’s one of those songs that I’ve grown increasingly fond of over the years. I was initially put off by its anthemic qualities and thinking it wasn’t distinct or quirky enough but as pop anthems go, it’s pretty decent. Another example of my tastes expanding as I get older.

It was released on 7″, 12″ and CD format. For once, there were no home demo songs. The common b-side to all three was also lifted from the album:-

mp3 : XTC – Cynical Days

Arguably, an even better song than the a-side, but far too complicated musically to stand any chance of getting radio play. Having said that, the fact that The Loving completely bombed means nothing would have been lost if this had been the band’s final single of the decade. It would have been an apt title.

The 12″ and CD contained a previously unreleased song:-

mp3 : XTC – The World Is Full Of Angry Young Men

It’s quite unexpected. But it has a sound I’m not that fond of…albeit I can see why some folk will think it’s a hidden gem.

It would more the best part of three years before XTC released their next batch of songs….but you don’t need to wait that long as I’ll be here next week as usual.




As mentioned last week, The Mayor of Simpleton, the first 45 lifted from the double-album Oranges and Lemons had taken XTC back into the UK Top 50 for the first time in almost six years and provided them with chart success in the USA.

Another excellent piece of radio-friendly pop was chosen as the next single in April 1989:_

mp3 : XTC – King For A Day

Given how often the Colin Moulding singles had hit payola in the past, it was something of a suprise and disappointment that this stalled outside the UK Top 75, albeit it fared better in the USA reaching #11 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart.

There’s an interesting and witty observation from Andy Partridge about this song:-

This is one of the three songs Colin wrote for Oranges & Lemons. All of them are rather down and dark but put to jolly music, which makes them even more poignant. The song’s about ass-licking and making a fool of yourself just to get fame and riches and success. The song’s a commando knife, dark and cutting. That’s a guess at what it’s about but I have seen the files and photographed them with my bow-tie camera so it’s an educated guess.

It was released on 7″, 12″ and CD. The 7″ and 12″ came with this b-side:-

mp3 : XTC – Happy Families

Another song that was, in a sense, wasted as a b-side. It’s a clever number that makes nice and subtle digs at the rich, famous and privileged.

The 12″ mix of the single comes in at more than seven minutes in length.  If you’re a fan of Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Tears For Fears then it’s likely for you.  That song’s absence from this blog over the years will give a clue as to where I stand on it…’s a single I have in the cupboard having picked up a second-hand copy a while back but it’s never been played much.

mp3 : XTC – King For A Day (12″mix)

The CD had, just like a number of recent singles, two home demos as the extra songs to the 7″ and 12″ versions of the single-

mp3 : XTC – My Paint Heroes (home demo)
mp3 : XTC – Skeltons (home demo)

The first is by Andy and the second by Colin.



It took a long time for the any new material to be released, but once again the alter-egos were busy with a second Dukes of Stratosphear album and single appearing just a month after Dear God in the summer of 87:-

mp3 : The Dukes of Stratosphear – You’re A Good Man Albert Brown

Maybe it was the fact the Dukes were getting more praise from many quarters, but the next XTC single and album come January/February 1989 were quite different in sound and look than any recent releases. There were more than a few hark-backs to 60s pop and psychedelia……..

The lead off single from what would subsequently the double-album Oranges and Lemons took the band back into the UK Top 50 for the first time in almost six years and would also provide them with their biggest chart success in the USA:-

mp3 : XTC – Mayor of Simpleton

It’s a real pop number with a catchy sing-a-long chorus. And a fine moment in the band’s history.

It was released in a number of formats here in the UK. This is the 7″ b-side:-

mp3 : XTC – One Of The Millions

A track that would also be included on the parent album on its release a month later. As a 7″ release, this makes for a high quality offer. Here’s the extra track from the 12″:-

mp3 : XTC – Ella Guru

This had originally appeared on the compilation LP Fast and Bulbous – A Tribute to Captain Beefheart released in June 1988. Not being a fan of the Captain, I can’t comment on how faithful or otherwise it is to the original. But I won’t be playing this version again after today. Made my ears hurt.

There was a second 12″ version also issued but all of its b-sides were previous singles – Dear God, Senses Working Overtime and Making Plans for Nigel.

A CD single was also available to buy. It contained two other tracks:-

mp3 : XTC – Living In A Haunted Heart
mp3 : XTC – The Good Things

Two demos, the first being by Andy and the second from Colin, recorded at their homes on four-track machines, much the same as the b-sides on the 12″ of The Meeting Place as featured in Part 23 of this series.

Neither song got developed any further.



You’ll hopefully remember that two weeks ago I mentioned that a b-side to Grass had later been released as a 45 in its own right.

mp3 : XTC – Dear God

Picking up a few bits’n’bobs from wiki and elsewhere, it would seem that Dear God was intended to be included on Skylarking but was left off as some folk at Virgin Records were concerned that the album was too long and that the song, being one which is critical of religion and christianity, would be too much for certain audiences, principally in America, and feared certain stores may have refused to stock the album. Seemingly, Andy Partridge went along with the idea as he felt it wasn’t quite a strong enough take on the subject matter.

Thus it was on the b-side to Grass; but then a number of DJs, principally across US College stations, began to pick up on the b-side and give it some airing and it began to climb the Billboard rock chart. It was subsequently added to later pressings of Skylarking, replacing the track Mermaid Smiled, and issued as a 45 here in the UK in June 1987, some nine months after its initial appearance as a b-side. It flopped despite being issued in 7″, 12″ and, for the first time for an XTC single, on CD (the latter brought together in one place all the Homo Safari recordings from earlier years)

Worth mentioning too that the first verse and closing line are sung by eight-year-old Jasmine Veillette, the daughter of a friend of Todd Rundgren.

The b-side has already been made available as an album track on Skylarking:-

mp3 : XTC – Big Day

The 12″ had a bonus track:-

mp3 : XTC – Another Satellite

It’s a different version of another song from Skylarking. It was recorded live for a BBC TV show – well liveish, in that the band put down a pre-recorded track with a drum machine and then sang over it.



Grass had flopped badly and Skylarking had been the first XTC album to fail to crack the charts. It was a gloomy time for all concerned, but a second single was lifted and released in February 1987, on 7″, 7″ clear vinyl and 12″:-

mp3 : XTC – The Meeting Place
mp3 : XTC – The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul

I was sure this would have been my first exposure to this song but on hearing it I had an inkling I had prior knowledge of it – turns out I has seen it on The Tube on Channel 4 when I hadn’t thought much of it (and still don’t). That and it being on Jonny’s ICA….sorry mate…….we can occasionally agree to disagree!!

The b-side is wholly unexpected. It’s damn near a jazz/swing number!! To paraphrase Star Trek….it’s XTC but not as we know it, Jim. I do quite like it, but it’s not one that I’d return to week-after-week.

The 12″ had four demo songs on it…and yup, I’ve tracked them down for today:-

mp3 : XTC – Terrorism (home demo)
mp3 : XTC – Let’s Make A Den (home demo)
mp3 : XTC – Find The Fox (home demo)
mp3 : XTC – The Troubles (home demo)

First one is all Andy Partridge

Second one is all Andy Partridge. It’s a song that Todd Rundgren insisted should open side two of the album Skylarking. The band had a go at it in the studio but it fell victim to the constant fighting between the producer and the songwriter

Third one is all Colin Moulding

Fourth one is all Andy Partridge



It would be eighteen months before XTC released their next 45 in September 1986 during which period spin-off psychedelic band The Dukes of Stratosphear had issued six-track mini-album, 25 O’Clock, from which this was issued as a single:-

mp3 : The Dukes of Stratosphear – The Mole From The Ministry

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the band had been teamed up with American rocker Todd Rundgren to work on the new album which would be released with the title Skylarking. It’s a record I’ve never bought, partly based on some rotten reviews at the time and also the fact that I couldn’t understand why Virgin Records had thought an act so quintessentially English would get something out of working with someone I regarded as so antiquated and likely unsympathetic to the band. Turns out that Andy Partridge hated the idea too but not Dave Gregory as this excerpt from a 1990 magazine piece illustrates:-

“Todd and Andy were like chalk and cheese as personalities, they didn’t hit it off from the start. Things just went from bad to worse. Andy was saying how much he hated the album, and when we returned home, he was very depressed about it. My only misgiving was that it was badly recorded. Perhaps Todd was trying to recreate a Sixties sound to capitalise on our Beatles fixation: but having said that, Skylarking is probably my favourite XTC album. Personally, I like what Todd did with the songs.”

Here’s its first single and the bonus track on the 12″:-

mp3 : XTC – Grass
mp3 : XTC – Extrovert

The b-side to Grass was later re-released as a 45 in its own right and I’ll return to it in due course. For now, I’ll simply say that Grass (which JTFL had included as part of an ICA) it’s not as bad as you would fear – but it does sound a lot like Modern Life Is Rubbish-era Blur from a few year later. What it doesn’t sound like at all is XTC……unlike Extrovert but it suffers from having those awful 80s horns-sounding keyboards on it.



The third and final single lifted from The Big Express was a Colin Moulding composition. Given it was the opening track on the album it was always a reasonable bet that the record label had it down as a potential single from the off. It’s a song that makes a promising start with the late 70s/early 80s era choppy guitars but it doesn’t really develop all that much with changes in tempo and volume proving to be a bit distracting:-

mp3 : XTC – Wake Up

The single version was about a minute or so shorter than the album version (which itself featured on the 12″ release). The b-side of the 7″ was a very old track, and indeed Take This Town featured earlier in this series as one half of a split single with The Ruts. Oh and there was a second b-side made available:-

mp3 : XTC – Mantis On Parole (Homo Safari Series No. 4)

And so, after six years the Homo Safari series was finally out there for all to appreciate…..

The 12″ contained all three of the songs on the 7″ but threw in three additional tracks. Only thing was, they were three of the earlier and better known singles – Making Plans For Nigel, Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me) and Senses Working Overtime – as if somehow folk buying Wake Up were completely new to the band.

A #95 flop in February 1985



One look at the 7″ sleeve (pictured up top) tells me that I’m about to listen to an anti-nuclear song.

And sure enough, the second single to be released off The Big Express proves to be such:-

mp3 : XTC – This World Over

In an era when the protest song was again becoming hugely fashionable, XTC did things in a really understated way in which there was no rabble-rousing or sing-a-long chorus;  instead it’s a melancholy and resigned number that sadly looks back at the aftermath of the bomb dropping on London as a parent tried to explain the madness of it all. It’s very listenable and has dated ok, but I should add it reminds me a bit of later-era The Police.

The 12″ had an extended version of the song and was housed in a sleeve that disguises somewhat the subject nature as the sleeve uses an old-fashioned passenger request button once commonly found on buses.  But the ‘Push Once’ message is very clever and subversive:-

mp3 : XTC – This World Over (full length mix)

The same b-side was on both releases:-

mp3 : XTC – Blue Overall

It’s a bit meh… but I do accept it’s a bit unusual for a song reflecting on a relationship gone wrong.

In an era of an expanded singles chart, this one managed to find itself at #99 for one week before disappearing to the bargain bins.



I mentioned a while back that I was going to run into difficulties with the series due to the fact I had stopped buying XTC singles and albums after English Settlement. I did at least manage to hear the singles off Mummer back in 1983 but by the time of the release of The Big Express the following year and later on I was hardly listening to any radio outside of Kid Jensen and John Peel and so wasn’t remotely aware of what the band were up to. As a consequence, the next three singles in this series, and their b-sides, are all new to me.

September 1984 saw the pre-album single written by Andy Partridge:-

mp3 : XTC – All Your Pretty Girls

It was released on 7″ with this b-side written by Colin Moulding:-

mp3 : XTC – Washaway

While the 12″ had this extra Partridge composition:-

mp3 : XTC – Red Brick Dream

I’m listening to these while thinking back to the singers and bands who were making waves in 1984 and realising just how of kilter these are with all that was going on. The single isn’t very good and the b-side sounds like a demo tune written by the boys of Abba. The extra track on the 12″ is probably the best of a bad lot.

There was still enough of a fan base to take the single to #55 in the charts.



Mummer, the sixth XTC album, had come out to a great deal of indifference in August 1983. For the first time, there was some negative press around the band in the weekly papers. It could be down to the sort of critical backlash that tends to come the way of most bands and singers when they get to this number of recordings although another factor was likely that thet were no longer playing live/touring which meant journalists were being fed only studio material and press releases.

Out of all this came an unlikely minor hit with the third single lifted from the album reaching #50 in the charts. It’s a superb piece of music – not the most obvious of singles – with a gentle almost folk-like tune that sounded as if it should be the background music to some sort of classic BBC TV children’s animation show like Camberwick Green or Trumpton.

mp3 : XTC – Love On A Farmboy’s Wages

It later transpired this song was the straw which broke the camel’s back as far as drummer Terry Chambers was concerned. He has been increasingly frustrated by the lack of live shows and perhaps he was hopeful that something would happen to promote the release of Mummer. It soon became clear that no such plans would be hatched and the record label wasn’t going to insist on it either. When he was asked to play in a jazz-style for this song he refused to do so and quit there and then, leading to Peter Phipps being drafted in to join the band. Who’d have thought that one of the former stickmen with The Glitter Band would end up in XTC? Not me….

The real irony in terms of the release of Love On A Farmboy’s Wages is that it was issued as a 2 x 7″ pack and in 12″ format; the former offered one b-side lifted from Mummer along with two new recordings while the latter was a reminder of XTC as a live force, with three songs from the gig at the Hammersmith Odeon, London back in May 1981.

mp3 : XTC – In Loving Memory Of A Name
mp3 : XTC – Desert Island
mp3 : XTC – Toys
mp3 : XTC – Burning With Optimism’s Flame (live)
mp3 : XTC – English Roundabout (live)
mp3 : XTC – Cut It Out (live)

All picked up for use in this series.  Second appearance for Cut It Out as a b-side in a 2 x 7″ release.   It’s actually an instrumental version of Scissor Man, as found on Drums and Wires and under which name the Peel Session version was issued in the Towers of London double-pack.



The next single came out at the height of the summer of 1983 at a time when I was gearing up to move out of the parental home and into my own space within student accommodation. It was also when The Smiths, New Order, Aztec Camera, The The, Billy Bragg, The Style Council and The Go-Betweens were increasingly becoming the bands of choice.  XTC were old hat…..

I will however, say in defence of this Colin Moulding composition, is that I should have bought it back in the day as it would have fitted beautifully onto the compilation tapes that I was making at the time…it’s a gentle and lovely song that has dated fairly well.  But at the time, having only heard it once via radio, I dismissed it immediately and didn’t seek it out.

mp3 : XTC – Wonderland (single edit)

My first exposure to the b-side came as I put this posting together.  It’s certainly a big improvement on the tracks on the previous single and initially I thought it was nothing that I’d come back to all that often.  But three or four listens and it is growing on me.  It’s a good solid b-side.

mp3 : XTC – Jump

I think this was the first XTC single to be issued on Picture Disc.





Now we get into the section of the series where I will struggle a bit.

You might recall a couple of weeks back my passing comment that I don’t own any XTC albums after English Settlement. This is partly down to the fact that 1983 saw me fall head over heels for so many other great bands and singers that there was no room for XTC anymore; it wasn’t helped by me being bitterly disappointed by the singles that were released to support their next album, and none more so than this from April 83:-

mp3 : XTC – Great Fire

I thought it limp and uninspiring on its release and I haven’t changed my mind since.

It was released on 7″ and 12″ in two different but equally appalling sleeves (as you can see above). The 12″ enabled the continuation of the Homo Safari series that had begun back in 1979 on the flip side of Making Plans For Nigel. Nos 1-3 had been released previously so it begged the question about what happened to No.4 (it turns out this would eventually appear in 1987)

mp3 : XTC – Gold
mp3 : XTC – Frost Circus (No. 5 In The Homo Safari Series)
mp3 : XTC – Procession Towards Learning Land (No. 6 In The Homo Safari Series)

Crap single. A ‘trying too hard to fit in with contemporary pop’ B-side – complete with horns – that seemed so alien to the sound of XTC and two boring instrumentals. File under inessential recordings.

I’m sure at least one of my regulars, to whom I am both grateful and of whom I am always in awe of, will drop by with a wonderfully-worded and persuasive contribution that proves my opinion, in this instance, is wrong!



The third and final single released from English Settlement didn’t get anywhere near the charts. It’s a song with a sound that harks back a little while to the  Black Sea era and was slightly at odds with the more acoustic and gentle material on the current album. But then again, its a tune totally befitting the tale of a nasty right-wing hooligan activist and a family who wouldn’t be out-of-place on Respectable Street:-

mp3 : XTC – No Thugs In Our House

Only released as a 7″ single, it came with elaborate packaging with the sleeve opening to form a theatre while you could utilise cartoon characters to re-enact the song lyrics which were re-produced in full on the reverse, along with to whom each line was attributed, in what was described as “No Thugs In Our House: A musical in three acts by XTC.”

You’ll also be able to make out from the back of the sleeve that three songs were made available on the b-side of the single:-

mp3 : XTC – Chain of Command
mp3 : XTC – Limelight
mp3 : XTC – Over Rusty Water

You’ll also see that the first two tracks were from the free single given away with the first pressings of Drums and Wires and therefore would already be well-known and likely owned by most long-standing fans.  The last track is an ambient instrumental lasting less than 90 seconds and is, again, very much for completists.

Maybe the fact that so little of the music was new contributed to the fact that the single sold poorly.



In last week’s look at Senses Working Overtime, I made the suggestion that its parent double-album English Settlement had a little bit of filler, a line that led Echorich to, rightly, ask me to justify such a view.

What I would like to say at the outset is English Settlement is a wonderfully and occasionally eccentric record packed with great, idiosyncratic and beautifully crafted songs. All these years on, I reckon it’s the best of the first five albums released by XTC in terms of how it has really stood the test of time since its release back in 1982. Of its fifteen tracks, there are maybe four that I haven’t ever quite taken to – All Of A Sudden (It’s Too Late), Fly On The Wall, Down In The Cockpit and Snowman – but at the same time they’re not the sort of tracks that I ever skip on the few occasions I listen to the album these days (and it is one I have on vinyl and CD).

The reason that I suggest its the best of the first five albums and not the best ever XTC album is simply down to me not being in a position to express any opinion as, sad to say, I don’t actually own copies of any LPs they released after this…but that’s something I’ll come back to in a future point in this series.

The success of Senses Working Overtime removed any pressure to have a hit single which is probably just as well as not all that many of the rest of the songs on the album were really the poppy sing-a-long sort you’d expect to hear much on daytime radio stations; one of the exceptions was this catchy sounding ditty which castigated urban development:-

mp3 : XTC – Ball and Chain

Turned out to be the first real flop single attributed to Colin Moulding, only reaching #58 in March 1982. Unusually, the single version was no different from that on the album. It was released on 7″ and 12″ formats and these were your b-sides:-

mp3 : XTC – Punch and Judy
mp3 : XTC – Heaven Is Paved With Broken Glass
mp3 : XTC – Cockpit Dance Mixture

Neither of Punch and Judy and Heaven Is Paved With Broken Glass would have sounded out-of-place on the parent album but I’m guessing the thinking was that some new songs had to be kept back for b-sides….in this case very superior and enjoyable b-sides.

Cockpit Dance Mixture was the extra track on the 12″ and is an experimental take on the album track Down In The Cockpit. One for the curious and completists.

There’s a short postscript required today…..

It turned out that the folk at Virgin Records, having heard early versions of the new material had been really keen to have Ball and Chain, together with Punch and Judy, released as an advance double-A sided single but felt the band should work with uber-producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley for the optimum results. The group and producers entered into the studio in March 1981 but within a few minutes sparks began to fly and Langer walked out on the recording leaving Winstanley behind to try to salvage something.

The results were deemed more than acceptable but by the time they went into the studio with Hugh Padgham to record the other songs for English Settlement it was decided it wouldn’t make sense to have a one-off single with different producers standing out like a sore thumbs and so both tracks were re-recorded.

The Langer/Winstanley versions eventually saw the light of day on a 4xCD compilation box set released in 2002 that pulled together demos, rarities and live tracks amlongside some band favorites.

mp3 : XTC – Ball and Chain (Langer/Winstanley version)
mp3 : XTC – Punch and Judy (Langer/Winstanley version)

Andy and Colin both feel these versions are superior to those which were released back in the day. It’s fair comment as they are punchier and more radio-friendly.