Posts Tagged ‘Andy Partridge’

Stephen Duffy’s 1998 album was one of his three very good – albeit rather ‘lost’ – solo records from the 1990s. This one was particularly ill-fated, since label intervention meant that the album that was eventually released wasn’t really what Stephen wanted to put out at the time. Fed up, he reformed The Lilac Time and just moved on. 21 years later, fan and friend Pete Paphides decided that a revised edition of “I Love My Friends” would be the inaugural release on his new label Needle Mythology. With Duffy’s assistance they restored I Love My Friends to a kind of ‘director’s cut’ version with the mood-spoiling Andy Partridge-produced tracks removed and a few of others (that had been B-sides at the time) reinstated. The running order was also re-jigged for good measure. The album was remastered and sounded great on vinyl, but CD fans were really spoiled by a whole extra disc of ‘selected demos’ (all unreleased) that were delivered as a bonus item within the gatefold CD wallet.

Stephen Duffy’s 1996 solo album I Love My Friends has been made available for the first time ever on vinyl and vinyl replica CD. Produced by Stephen Street, the album was released to unanimously positive reviews and remains a favourite among his fans.

Following a time of personal upheaval, the album was the result of an unprecedented creativity for Stephen. “The tunes and the words were coming faster than I could write them down. That’s the dichotomy of I Love My Friends. My interior world was falling apart, but creatively it was a charmed existence.”

After tasting worldwide chart success with his 1985 hit Kiss Me, Stephen went on to record four albums of exquisite bucolic pop with his group The Lilac Time before recommencing his solo career. Stephen was a formative player in the West Midlands post-punk scene alongside Swell Maps and Duran Duran, whose first incarnation he fronted. In 2002, he reunited with Nick Rhodes to release an album of their early songs with the group.

For I Love My Friends, Stephen has reverted to the original intended sequence for the album, which was produced by Stephen Street, restoring fan favourites Mao Badge and In The Evening Of Her Day to the track list.

The two Andy Partridge-produced tracks recorded at the behest of Stephen’s label as putative singles now feature on a seven-inch single, which comes with the record. As with all Needle Mythology releases, a vinyl replica CD is available.

The CD version ofI Love My Friends features a bonus CD Blown Away – Selected Demos Volume 1 – ten previously unreleased demos for songs written during the I Love My Friends sessions but never recorded for the finished album.

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XTC detractors would often accuse the band of being “too quirky.” While they definitely had that side, their debut, ‘White Music,’ showed that they were not going to be some cookie-cutter new wave or punk rock band. The opening frantic surge of “Radios in Motion” gets things rolling and it’s all forward drive from there. “Statue of Liberty” and “This Is Pop?” are among the many treasures here as they sounded like none of the punk era brethren, but rather like some holy merging of ‘Trout Mask Replica’ and ‘With the Beatles’ on an amphetamine bender. While they would rapidly move forward with each release, ‘White Music’ was a hell of a place to start.

This one is a bit uneven, I think mainly due to the band attempting to find its voice. Overall, the album has all that quirkiness that defined the band in their early years, which works most of the time. It seems Colin Moulding is trying a little too hard to be quirky on two of the three songs he wrote, but I’ll Set Myself On Fire is a good early effort. Radios In Motion is a fantastic opening track and Andy Partridge also scores well with Into The Atom Age, New Town Animal, and This Is Pop? (I do agree with that other list-maker that the later single version of this song is much better). However, their cover of Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower really does fall flat.

They’re one of the best groups that Britain ever produced. I don’t know why everyone goes on about someone like Morrissey making the best British pop when in fact XTC did it better that anyone else. I remember when they did ‘This Is Pop’, and I just thought, ‘Yeah this is pop. This is pop.’ It seemed like such a brilliant thing for them to say. Pop is what they were doing and they were writing all these great songs, going on about the whole punk thing and not being embarrassed about writing great pop songs.”

An album that was more influential than successful, White Music was the first album by the much-loved English new wave popsters around whom an obsessive cult following has grown over the years. The album includes one of Andy Partridge’s most enduring song “This Is Pop”, and was produced by John Leckie, who subsequently has gone on to work with the Stone Roses, Radiohead and others.

XTC This is POP

One of the most prolific and influential bands to emerge from the U.K punk explosion of the late ’70s was XTC. A new documentary on the band titled This Is Pop is due soon and, much like the band itself, is not your traditional rockumentary.

This Is Pop presents the story of the band without going the traditional, linear story route. Instead, the XTC tale is told through the use of animation, archive and specially-shot sequences along with brand-new interviews with members Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, Terry Chambers and Dave Gregory. Although band leader Partridge is on board for the film, he has more than a few reservations about the whole process.

“What don’t I like about about music documentaries?”, he asks himself in the trailer embedded above. “I don’t like all of it. I don’t like the bald old bloke talking about the ‘good old days.’ I hate all that stuff. … The whole rockumentary thing bores the very buttocks off me.”

Though XTC officially broke up in 2006, their reputation has continued to grow in their absence, thanks to songs such as “Senses Working Overtime,” “Making Plans for Nigel,” and “Dear God.” Along with the band members, the trailer features interviews with Stewart Copeland of the Police and actor Harry Shearer.

“I think the word is out,” said Colin Moulding. “It’s taken a bloody long time, but I think people are catching up and appreciating what we did.” Partridge, ever the elusive genius, shows a bit or bravado in his assessment of the band, linking XTC to the Beatles. “Occasionally, once in a very rare while, you get a band that starts pretty good, gets better and better and better. And that’s rare. And I think, and I have to say, I have to be immodest… We are the other band that did that.”

We Will Rock You: The Twenty Best XTC Songs

XTC have one of the most fascinating career progressions in music. From their highly-energetic, eclectic, punkish new wave of their first album, to the pastoral, acoustic-driven songs found on “English Settlement,” XTC seem to have something for everybody. Let us not forget XTC’s psychedelic pop masterpiece “Skylarking,” the incredibly authentic-sounding ‘60’s psychedelic rock as The Dukes of Stratosphear, and the orchestral arrangements on “Apple Venus, Pt. 1.” Andy Partridge’s lyrics also warrant a shout out, truly intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics.

Primary songwriter and lead singer Andy Partridge expertly balanced his experimental side — angular guitar parts mixed with jittery rhythms — with strong sensibilities for pop melodies and hooks, and his partner-in-crime, Colin Moulding, was capable of contributing a few gems of his own on every record.

This may seem like high praise, but the only band that XTC are second to in terms of melodic sensibility is The Beatles, which will certainly be an understandable position to reach after listening through their discography. How so many songs sound like they can be hits, but were not, is unfortunate, but XTC does maintain a sizable and highly passionate fan base, as indicated by numerous active online fan clubs, groups, and cover bands. XTC’s music contains a ton of variety, so to get the best picture of the band as a whole, all of their era’s should be sampled.

Though their final album of new material was released in 2000, interest in their music and legacy has continued to grow over the years. Over the span of around 30 years total, XTC delivered 14 proper albums, dozens of classic singles, and several collections of demos, dubs and remixes along the way. Taken as a whole, their catalog shows how they evolved from one of the many arty English post-punk bands to retro-psychedelia and beyond.

Essential Albums: “Skylarking” (1986), “English Settlement” (1982), “Chips from the Chocolate Fireball” (as The Dukes of Stratosphear) (1987), “Apple Venus, Pt. 1” (1999), “White Music” (1978)

Bookended by label standoffs, “Nonsuch” found the band XTC trying new things. There was a new producer, a new drummer, and a newfound interest orchestral settings.  XTC’s relationship with Virgin Records had also declined due to lack of success in America, which then completely fell apart after Nonsuch arrived on April 27th, 1992.

They’d struggled mightily to even get the project underway. “Basically, we were (messed) around a lot by various people,” Colin Moulding said in 1992. “A guy at the record company did his darndest to stop us making a record – why, I don’t know. Every time we came up with songs, he’d say, ‘Oh, there are no singles here, fellas. Go back and write some more.’ He did that too many times, and we said, ‘Look, take him off the case.’”

There followed a lengthy search for a producer. “Hugh Padgham and Steve Lillywhite, whom we had worked at the beginning with, had in mind to produce the album – but finally, Lillywhite had no time for it,” Andy Partridge in 1992. “We contacted John Paul Jones, but he was too expensive. Then Bill Bottrell, the engineer of Bad, was ready to come in our homes with his studio. But the deal did not work.”

The arrival of former drummer of Fairport Convention Dave Mattacks, , led XTC to producer Gus Dudgeon. Mattacks had heard that Dudgeon – most famous for his collaborations with Elton John wanted to work with XTC. That opened up new creative vistas: The sessions found Partridge adding dollops of strings, even as the band tightened their focus on introspective pop.

“We hadn’t messed much with the orchestral thing [until Nonsuch], said Partridge “At least now I got to, if not exorcise a huge ghost from me, I certainly got to give the beast a name. Should I wish to kill it, it certainly would be easier for me to kill it now. But for the time being, I certainly got something out of my system that has been bugging me for a long time – which is non-rock-and-rock-flavored meal.”

The results, typically quite lush and measured, fit somewhere between the pastoral quirks of 1986’s “Skylarking”  with the sleek modernity of 1989’s Oranges and Lemons, though Nonsuch was often far more reflective than either. Andy Partridge was gaining an ever-growing appreciation for accompaniment, and song construction and it showed.

‘Oranges & Lemons’ was XTC’s biggest album and the three-year gap for the follow-up was the longest in the band’s history to that point. ‘Nonsuch’ appeared in 1992 and was well worth the wait. It still stands as one of the band’s strongest all-around albums. From the joyous opener, “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” to the closer “Books Are Burning,” ‘Nonsuch’ is packed with gems.

“There was no full conscious decision to make it wildly different from the last,” Moulding  “But it was a different studio, different musicians a different drummer, different producer. It’s going to come out a little different.”

Not that this 17-song set couldn’t rock, as evidenced by the quirky “Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead.” XTC’s softer, detailed musings on “The Disappointed,” “ My Bird Performs” and “Holly Up On Poppy” however, were far more representative of Nonsuch.

Partridge and Moulding constructed the songs separately, as per usual, then worked things out live with long-time multi-instrumentalist Dave Gregory and the newly arrived Mattacks. “We never collaborate,” said Moulding “Each person puts his little prints on them, but we don’t write together. There’s a lot of freedom to do what each of us likes with the other’s songs, however.”

Despite it all, they ended up – once again – coming away with something that was quintessentially XTC. Fans back home seemed to get that. “The Disappointed,” like Nonsuch, crept into the U.K. Top 40. Unfortunately, “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” stalled at No. 71, just before the next conflict opened up with Virgin Records.

Andy Partridge wanted to release “Wrapped In Grey” as the third single from Nonsuch, and even shot a video for the song. XTC’s label, however, vetoed the idea. Before it was over, XTC had called a strike against Virgin, hoping to extricate themselves once and for all from a relationship that dated back to 1977. As the standoff dragged on, they remained inactive for most of the ’90s. In fact, XTC didn’t emerge again until 1999’s similarly orchestral Apple Venus Vol. 1 – and, by then, Dave Gregory was being eased out the door.

Even back in 1992, Gregory seemed resigned to sitting by as pitched disagreements unfolded. “If push comes to shove, it must be done Andy’s way,” Gregory  “I’ve learned to live with it, and it usually bears fruit. Andy always knows what he wants; there are never any grey areas. But occasionally the fur does fly.”

Andy Partridge – Vocals, electric guitars & percussion
Colin Moulding – Bass guitar
Dave Gregory – Electric 6- & 12-string guitars & synthesizer
Dave Mattacks – Drums, percussion & sitar sample

1. The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead 0:00
2. My Bird Performs 5:02
3. Dear Madam Barnum 8:53
4. Humble Daisy 11:42
5. The Smartest Monkeys 15:19
6. The Disappointed 19:37
7. Holly Up on Poppy 23:00
8. Crocodile 26:05
9. Rook 30:02
10. Omnibus 33:49
11. That Wave 37:10
12. Then She Appeared 40:44
13. War Dance 44:36
14. Wrapped In Grey 47:58
15. The Ugly Underneath 51:45
16. Bungalow 55:36
17. Books Are Burning 58:25

It is perhaps very telling that all of the review blurbs on the back cover of Andy Partridge and Todd Bernhardt’s Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC are written by fellow musicians and songwriters. Andy Partridge has always been a musician’s musician.

Complicated Game is a series of candid and detailed interviews with Andy Partridge about many of XTC’s most well-known songs. Todd Bernhardt, the interviewer, is a fellow musician, XTC mega-fan, and friend of Andy’s, so they don’t shy away from discussing the nitty-gritty details of chord changes, instruments used, studio hacks, and other compositional and engineering minutia.

In the chapter on “Senses Working Overtime,” Andy explains how the whole song came about as he was fooling around on a new Martin guitar and he played a “messed-up E-flat.” He thought it sounded very Medieval so he tried to find other chords that went with it (A-flat minor and D-flat). He says the rest of the song sort of composed itself from there. We also learn that “English Settlement” was their “new instruments record.” The band members had all just gotten new instruments (Andy, the Martin, Dave Gregory, a 12-string Richenbacker, Colin Moulding, a fretless bass) and they were excited to noodle around on them to see what they could do.

There are many other interesting and fun revelations in the book. “This is Pop,” from White Music, was Andy’s way of rejecting the pigeonholing of the punk label, making sure that everyone was reminded that this is pop music, plain and simple, and that ain’t a dirty word. About Wasp Star’s “Church of Women,” Partridge, being uncharacteristically boastful, claims that his guitar solo on that track “is as good as any Steely Dan guitar solo. There! I’ve said it now.” In discussing the very early (1977) Be Bop Deluxe-inspired “Statue of Liberty,” Andy reveals that the lyrics came to him while he was playing around with the “real Lou Reed kind of chord change” of C,G, A-minor, back to G. He looked up to see his then-girlfriend and future wife, Marianne, ironing. As she held the iron aloft in one hand, trying to untangle the cord, holding clothes in the other, her hair wild from having just washed it, she looked to Andy like some “weird, futuristic version of the Statue of Liberty.” And the song was born. There are countless wonderful little gems like this throughout the book.

Complicated Game also includes a walking tour of Swindon, Andy’s hometown, and reproductions of original lyric sheets and some of Partridge’s design sketches for album art. Jawbone Press has done a really admirable job in putting this collection together.

For XTC fans, I cannot recommend Complicated Game game enough. My only criticism of it is that, given how wonderful the included song chapters are, I found myself wishing to read about some of my favorite songs that aren’t included (the book features 30 songs). Bernhardt has actually conducted over 80 interviews with Partridge.

XTC released their fifth studio record, the double album “English Settlement”, on February 12th, 1982. When compared to the band’s previous record, 1980’s Black Sea or the 1979’s post-punk milestone Drums & Wires “English Settlement” is less frantic and more deliberate-sounding. The album spawned three UK singles: “Senses Working Overtime” “Ball And Chain” and “No Thugs in Our House”. Partridge and Moulding write brilliant, thought provoking, intelligent songs bundled up in the most enthralling, original and enduring arrangements of pop music you could imagine. Partridge as a purveyor of perfect pop must be up there with the very best, his songs are funny, touching, and impossibly catchy. For me this is his and the rest of the band (particularly Moulding)’s best work, and what’s more it’s a double album.

This translates to music that’s stubbornly in between genres and resists pigeonholing. Take the first two songs on the album, “Runaways” and “Ball and Chain.” The former boasts slippery grooves and haunted, stair-step harmonies; the latter is one of XTC’s best songs, a biting condemnation of destructive forward progress (“Motorways and office blocks / They’re standing on the spot where stood a home”) burnished with majestic keyboards and a roller coaster-caliber melody.

Elsewhere, the pastoral “Yacht Dance” feels like a precursor to 1986’s “Skylarking”  “All of a Sudden (It’s Too Late)” merges burnished guitars with soulful bass slinkyness and the sharp-angled “Leisure” is a lurching, caterwauling mod-pop. “It’s Nearly Africa,” meanwhile, features rhythms that resemble a muted version of Adam and the Ants’ “Burundi Beat” style, while “Fly On The Wall” harkens to XTC’s buzzing synthpunk days and “Down in the Cockpit” is full-on ska-pop.

English Settlement was firmly new wave, in the sense that it felt like a new beginning not just for XTC, but for the genres the band shepherded and embraced. “I’m becoming much less interested in music and much more in words,” Partridge said in 1982. “And I think it’s beginning to show. On this album, there are a lot of words per track, if you see what I mean. Also, much simpler forms of music appeal to me—I think the music’s getting simpler as the years go by, and this is not a desire to say, ‘Hey, let’s make some money.’ It’s just that I’m trying to simplify the music and be more effective with less.”

One such song is the raucous “No Thugs In Our House,” an intricate song driven by “a desire to write this rather old-fashioned/modern morality tale,” Partridge said in Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC. Featuring a cast of characters including a pair of ignorant parents, a policeman and a deceptively innocent teenager named Graham, who “slept on/Dreaming of a world where he could do/Just what he wanted to”—the song is a piece of trenchant societal commentary.
“At the time it was written, there was an awful lot of awareness of the National Front in England—we’d done at least one Rock Against Racism festival by that time—and at that point in England, there was an awful lot of anti-right kind of feeling, because it seemed like they were growing in prominence,” Partridge continued. “It was probably more to do with the paranoia of the time rather than their actual prominence, if you know what I mean.”

Other songs were more explicit about their political stance. The breezy, tropical-sounding “Melt The Guns,” for example, is an indictment of trigger-happy American foreign policy and a call for gun control (“Melt the guns and never more to fire them”). (In an abstract way, the music is also a complement to the 1975’s “UGH!”) And “Knuckle Down” is an earnest, anti-racism song: ” So put aside the hoodoo and some of the voodoo/About people being different/They’re not so different.”
“I think it’s our most English record,” Partridge has said “That’s why it has that title, you see. It’s kind of an ambiguous title. [In fact], the British cover is an embossed prehistoric hill carving of a horse—literally a kind of Iron Age advertisement for an English settlement that was on top of the hill when the first settlers came to England.
“And it’s us living here, settling here,” he adds, “and also the settling of viewpoints, when two people have a disagreement or a different view and they get something settled.”

English Settlement also contained XTC’s biggest U.K. chart hit, “Senses Working Overtime,” which reached No. 10 on the charts. It was “the obvious choice for the single, And I must admit, I was trying to write a single when I wrote it. I knew it was going to be a single when we recorded it, but I wasn’t too embarrassed about it being crass, because it wasn’t.”
Meanwhile, “Jason and the Argonauts”—a whimsical song about the overwhelming abundance of riches encountered during world travels—arrived as Partridge had decided he was done with the road life, despite the fact XTC had moved up the ranks to headlining bands that traveled in a bus. “This [song] was written from a perspective where I knew I didn’t want to tour, I knew I was not enjoying the treadmill. I was beginning to feel really like a prisoner.
“I did actually spend quite a bit of time in the studio trying this concept out on the others—getting them one at a time and saying to them, ‘What do you think about not touring this album?’” he added. “Just testing the depths, you know. But the universal message was, ‘Oh, it’ll be great! Let’s get out there.’”

However, Partridge was indeed done with live shows. In May 1982, the band’s U.S. tour was scrapped after he collapsed before a Hollywood Palladium show, due to what Creem Magazine reported at the time as “complete mental and physical exhaustion.” In reality, it was crippling stage fright, as Partridge interviewed in 1989.
“I was forced by the manager to feign physical illness so promoters wouldn’t have my legs broken,” he said. “The only good thing about touring was that for an hour you had a good sweat and a jump around. It was like a high-decibel sauna. But when I started to get stage fright, that ended it.” English Settlement was also the last XTC album recorded while Terry Chambers was still a full member, although Chambers did appear on a few tracks of Mummer . The band’s retirement from the road, caused by Partridge’s nervous breakdown, meant that he could no longer make money as the band’s drummer, only as a guest performer.
Still, English Settlement became XTC’s highest-charting LP for years .English Settlement has become one of XTC’s most enduring releases—a record with much to explore and messages that feel enduring and resonant today.

Personnel

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Out this week is the deluxe expanded album SKYLARKING reissued in a 5.1 surround sound from Steven Wilson,this track “Dear God” from the brilliant english band XTC who released the album in 1986 the track DEAR GOD was not originally on the final running list but was added after it became hugely popular after a radio station in the USA flipped the A-Side of the song “Grass” to play the anti-theist anthem leaving off the track “Mermaid Smile”. the sessions produced by Todd Rundgren who famously did not get along with Andy Partridge, XTC were melodic angular pop with jagged riffs this reissue is one of the finest album to be released at that time its lush broad and deeply expansive and parts of the psychedelia sound for the next Dukes of stratosphere appear

xtc skylarking