• The idea of an XTC thread came up here, in the body parts thread of all places. We thought it might be worth starting an XTC thread. I'm still not too sure and wonder if it'll just be two of us but I thought I'd give it a go. I have noticed before that some Genesis fans are XTC fans too so there must be something that appeals in both for some of us.


    They began in the 1970s as a sort of power-pop band but as many bands did, they got considered as part of the punk/new-wave movements. I certainly never considered them punk - while I liked punk and they did have some of that punk-style energy I could see straight off there was more to XTC in terms of their songwriting, which was mainly by singer/guitarist Andy Partridge, about 80% with the rest written by bassist Colin Moulding who sang on his own compositions. Partridge's songs in particular were distinguished by clever word-play within usually very cohesive often 'thematic' lyrics. He also had a great knack for melody and producing compact songs crammed with jumpy stop-start rhythms and McCartneyesque vertical tunes, something that became more prevalent with time. In the same Beatles terms Moulding was more the Lennon with his horizontal tunes, though it's not a great comparison in all honesty. His wordplay was less colourful but he still had a good ear for a song and possibly their best-known hit Making Plans For Nigel was one of his.


    Their original lineup was completed by the shrill cartoony keyboards of Barry Andrews and the thundering drums of Terry Chambers. Andrews left and, with a pre-fame Thomas Dolby knocking on the door to replace him, Partridge took the seemingly perverse decision to add a second guitarist instead, Dave Gregory. (Another link, Partridge was producer on Dolby's first single, Urges).


    They were from Swindon in the English westcountry and this formerly industrial railway town informed some of their work. Their live shows could be famously incendiary and Partridge was a lively front-man fizzing with energy, so it was a shock that he had a breakdown on tour in 1982 and was never able to face stage work again; XTC ceased to be a touring band from that point on. They continued putting out albums until 2000 by which time they'd evolved into a very different kind of band, with often rich pastoral orchestral tones bearing no resemblance to the twitchy power-pop of their early days.


    So after banging on about them here's where I discover it's just me and foxfeeder who are remotely interested! (Though I hope not).

    Abandon all reason

  • I know there are others who like them here, too. I'm sure Counting Out Time has mentioned them before. While Andy is the songwriting heavyweight in the band, it's worth pointing out that Colin, in any other band, might have been the key men. While they were, indeed, never punk, the Barry Andrews era doesn't really interest me much. Dave Gregory has, to my mind, similarities to Steve Hackett. Never a songwriter AT ALL, he influenced the bands sound and provided arrangements that proved key in their artistic success, if not commercial. His leaving made them poorer too, the 2 Apple Venus album's have never really held my attention much either.


    It's worth mentioning, they went the opposite way to Genesis, starting as pop and becoming prog!


    Another Satellite, from 1984's Skylarking, is a song telling a woman who was, it appeared, an obsessed fan to quit it. Eventually, it turned out Partridges wife was controlling him with the drugs he was prescribed for his anxiety issues, and he is now (still?) married to the subject of the song.


    Of course, as this photo of me in Pompeii last year shows, I'm not JUST an XTC fan:

    Ian


    Works with chess - Not with life

  • ^ Some interesting points there. And surprising ones too; not that I can claim to know your tastes especially well, but I instinctively thought you'd like at least the first Apple Venus album. There are a couple of beautiful songs on it - Easter Theatre, Harvest Festival, I Can't Own Her, and some of their most complex, layered work. It might be my favourite album of theirs.


    Pop to 'prog'.... I'm not sure about that. What of their later work feels proggy to you? I remember Moulding saying he had Genesis in mind when he wrote The Smartest Monkeys and wanted a Wakeman-esque solo from Gregory, himself a bit of a progger who now plays with a Swindon-based band The Tin Spirits who include Genesis and Crimson songs in their set. Partridge also said he wanted Nick Davis to produce that album as he loved the sound he brought to We Can't Dance.


    You are absolutely right, DG was vital in their arrangements. Also, while I do like the Andrews era, I prefer the later stuff and thought DG's arrival improved their overall sound. Black Sea is still a huge album for me.


    Re Another Satellite (a great song) - yes he did end up with the subject of that track, Erica something?, who was also the girl with him on the cold grey November beach in Seagulls Screaming, his record of a secret tryst.

    Abandon all reason

  • I must confess, I don't know their music at all. I know who they are of course and I think I heard Skylarking once at a friend's but they just passed me by, at the time there was always some other artist whose album I had to get and when you are in your teens, you only have so much money to devote to albums. Interesting thread though, it might motivate me to give them a go, although I doubt I might be as receptive as I was back then.

  • There's certainly some quality in Apple Venus, River or Orchids and I Can't Own Her are good, but it never quite hits the spot, overall. Most of the later stuff sounds proggy to me, there's more to prog than 10 minute songs. Black Sea, and in particular Towers of London, via the TV docu "XTC at the manor" are what got me and a friend into XTC in the first place.


    Seagulls Screaming, one of my XTC top ten, and topical, as I'm currently on holiday in Tenby!

    Ian


    Works with chess - Not with life

  • I'm not a fan of their catalogue all the way through, but what I like I like a lot. The early songs were OK, but I didn't connect with them until perhaps the single "Senses Working Overtime", which is a pop gem with a bit of weirdness in the verses. I love Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons as albums fully. They are packed with clever pop gems. Nonsuch is pretty good, and I love about half of Apple Venus Vol. 1.

  • Playing one of my favourite albums of theirs tonight - Oranges & Lemons


    My enjoyment of XTC started with the album Mummer. I played it non stop for weeks - loved the tracks Wonderland and Love On A Farmboy's Wages. After that I started collecting their earlier albums and was surprised how many songs I had heard but just did not know they were XTC. My best 3 albums would be Oranges & Lemons, Mummer and Apple Venus Vol 1. I also have a soft spot for Coat Of Many Cupboards which has much rare material

    “Without music, life would be a mistake”

  • My enjoyment of XTC started with the album Mummer. I played it non stop for weeks - loved the tracks Wonderland and Love On A Farmboy's Wages. After that I started collecting their earlier albums and was surprised how many songs I had heard but just did not know they were XTC. My best 3 albums would be Oranges & Lemons, Mummer and Apple Venus Vol 1. I also have a soft spot for Coat Of Many Cupboards which has much rare material

    I'm with you on Mummer. I played it incessantly when it came out. I'd just started at university, getting to grips with that and making new friends so it really defines that time and takes me back. I love Beating Of Hearts, Great Fire, Ladybird and Funkpoparoll. And as you say, Farmboy, what a song. I used to get so frustrated, they did such great intelligent pop songs and they barely charted.


    Partridge told the story of how Farmboy led to drummer Terry Chambers leaving. He was already miffed that they stopped touring as he loved being on the road. Now he was frustrated in the studio with the tricksier, folkier material of Mummer. Farmboy finished him off, he couldn't get behind it. In the middle of it, he put his sticks down, said "Nah, don't like this new stuff, I'm off. Bye!" and grabbed his jacket and left. Partridge said they all sat there, open mouthed, plectrums poised in mid-air, the cymbals still swaying. Possibly the quickest, most no-nonsense departure of a band member? (Apparently that was very like him).

    Abandon all reason

  • Of course, as this photo of me in Pompeii last year shows, I'm not JUST an XTC fan:

    I have the same shirt and yes you can't have an XTC discussion without The Dukes being mentioned. Two of my favourite 'XTC' songs are from those albums: Your Gold Dress, and Pale & Precious.

    Abandon all reason

  • I'm a fan of the Gregory era as well. I adore Skylarking, Oranges and Lemons, and Nonsuch. I like Black Sea, English Settlement, and Mummer from the earlier days. Apple Venus is great too.


    I did actually get to see them live on TV on The David Letterman show - they did "King For A Day" and I think one other song ("Mayor of Simpleton" seems to be the most likely song since they were promoting Oranges and Lemons at the time, but I'm not 100% sure). I wish I could have seen them live in person.


    I did like their psychedelic personas as well.

    Stepping out the back way, hoping nobody sees...

  • It's a tough call, but I think my favourite album is The Big Express, as it has 3 of my favourite XTC songs, This World Over, Wake Up, and Seagulls Screaming. The others are all pretty good too, no pun intended! :whistling:

    Ian


    Works with chess - Not with life

  • It's a tough call, but I think my favourite album is The Big Express, as it has 3 of my favourite XTC songs, This World Over, Wake Up, and Seagulls Screaming. The others are all pretty good too, no pun intended! :whistling:

    It's a great album and those are terrific tracks. Wake Up is for me probably their best opener, and together with I Remember The Sun you have two of my favourite Moulding songs, the latter a very evocative lyric as is Seagulls, one of Partridge's best. This World Over movingly captures the level of nuclear paranoia we all lived with in the early 80s. And the album has one of my favourite song pairings, the searing anti-violence Reign Of Blows which segues into the beautifully inconsequential You're The Wish You Are I Had. I love its combination of scatterbrained verse and bright shiny hook of a chorus. They continued to write superb songs after but I do feel they reached something of a peak on that album. No weak points and not a microgram of fat on it.

    Abandon all reason

  • I'm a fan of the Gregory era as well. I adore Skylarking, Oranges and Lemons, and Nonsuch. I like Black Sea, English Settlement, and Mummer from the earlier days. Apple Venus is great too.


    I did actually get to see them live on TV on The David Letterman show - they did "King For A Day" and I think one other song ("Mayor of Simpleton" seems to be the most likely song since they were promoting Oranges and Lemons at the time, but I'm not 100% sure). I wish I could have seen them live in person.


    I did like their psychedelic personas as well.


    It's a tough call, but I think my favourite album is The Big Express, as it has 3 of my favourite XTC songs, This World Over, Wake Up, and Seagulls Screaming. The others are all pretty good too, no pun intended! :whistling:

    ...and you reminded me that I'm a fan of The Big Express too! ^^ Thank you!

    Stepping out the back way, hoping nobody sees...

  • I posted about the surround sound mix of XTC's Black sea on the "recent purchases" thread, and mentioned a couple of interesting things about the album from the sleeve notes. Rather that hi-jack that thread, I'll post this "also mentioned" item here:


    Apparently, the scratched record effect used at the start of "Respectable Street" was done by mutilating a test pressing of Peter Gabriel's 3rd album, which presumably they had lying around as Hugh Padgham was involved in both albums.

    Ian


    Works with chess - Not with life

  • I posted about the surround sound mix of XTC's Black sea on the "recent purchases" thread, and mentioned a couple of interesting things about the album from the sleeve notes. Rather that hi-jack that thread, I'll post this "also mentioned" item here:


    Apparently, the scratched record effect used at the start of "Respectable Street" was done by mutilating a test pressing of Peter Gabriel's 3rd album, which presumably they had lying around as Hugh Padgham was involved in both albums.

    It would have been even more apropos if they had mutilated a copy of the 2nd album.

  • I only just learned Terry Chambers has gone back on the road. In 2018 he and Colin Moulding got a band together and did 5 gigs at Swindon Arts Centre under the name TC&i. The idea was for Moulding to get the chance of doing some of his XTC songs live that he'd never got to perform before. That done, he went back into retirement.


    Chambers has now reassembled the band minus CM and, with the blessing (and involvement in some of the arrangements) of Andy Partridge, called it EXTC. They have just got one date set up so far, at Edinburgh Queens Hall.

    Abandon all reason

  • Didn't realise you didn't know about TC&I, they also did a 4 track ep, which I think is only a download or vinyl. The single, in effect, was Scatter Me


    Ian


    Works with chess - Not with life

  • Thanks. Yes pretty good. TC still as meat-and-potatoes as ever! The Man Who Died is especially good. CM in good voice.


    You didn't want to get over to Swindon for any of the gigs? No plans for Edinburgh?

    Abandon all reason

  • No, never seen XTC live anyway, as most haven't, and not that keen to now, but I have to say, it's almost a shame Colin was in XTC, in any other band he'd have probably been head songwriter, and frankly, he'd have been up to it.

    Ian


    Works with chess - Not with life

  • Free Andy Partridge track "Cavegirl" available to download at Burning Shed. You need to register or already have registered with them to get it.

    Ian


    Works with chess - Not with life