Synopsis of Pop Music
“And all the world is football-shaped,
It's just for me to kick in space,
And I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste
And I've got one, two, three, four, five
senses working overtime...”
Here are two things that don’t regularly inspire band worship: a we’re-pop-and-proud-of-it sensibility and a staunch refusal, since 1982, to tour. But XTC, with their handful of albums and their not always smooth-as-silk band history, has that devotion in spades. They just did it the old fashioned way—a lot of great songs.
First the band was called Star Park, coming at you from the very unfrequented-by-tourists town of Swindon in Wiltshire, England. Guitarist and singer Andy Partridge, bassist Colin Moulding and drummer Terry Chambers next called themselves the Helium Kidz. They were influenced by the punk rock that was stomping through their country (but Partridge liked show tunes as well), and very well-liked around their homeland. The boys from Swindon would soon add keyboardist Barry Andrews (from King Crimson) to their ranks, and toy with some more band names—like The Dukes of Stratosphear and XTC. They decided on the latter, but never let the 'Dukes' idea stray too far from their hearts.
XTC auditioned for a handful of labels, and were turned down by everyone except Virgin. White Music, their debut album (recorded in a week), soon won critical praise and fortified their fan base in the U.K. After their sophomore Go 2, Andrews left the band (too many run-ins with Partridge in the studio, says the ‘Andy Partridge: A Sometimes Difficult Genius’ lore), but would be heard from later in both the League of Gentlemen and Shriekback. Guitarist David Gregory, also of Swindon, took his place.
Their 1979 third album Drums and Wires was produced by Steve Lillywhite and spawned the hit “Making Plans for Nigel” and “Senses Working Overtime.” The next year’s Black Sea, with the likes of “Towers of London” and “Generals and Majors” was their first real success in the States. XTC toured tenaciously in these years, scoring another major hit with “Senses Working Overtime,” from 1982's English Settlement. But after Partridge collapsed on stage in 1982, thanks to stage-fright-related maladies, he announced the band would never play live again. Chambers, who loved nothing more than hitting the stage and pounding away, quit the outfit as a result.
In 1985, dressed as their purple paisley’d alter egos, the Dukes of Stratosphear, they released an EP called 25 O’Clock. Skylarking was released in 1986, after (here’s more of that lore) an arduous recording session with producer Todd Rundgren. The controversial and memorable “Dear God” single came whence.
The Dukes saw the light of day again in 1987, with their second release, Psonic Psunspot. Then back as XTC again, Oranges and Lemons took that jokey Dukes’ psychedelia and mixed it with some late-60’s reminiscent, guitar-driven rock. Gregory quit the band in 1998, and now, the XTC core—Partridge and Mouding—will work at keeping their fans as devoted as they always were (though celebrity-shy artists tend not to like the word 'devoted'). Apple Venus, Pt. 1 in 1999 was the streamlined band’s first release in seven years, which they followed up with Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Part 2) in 2000.
So forget concerts and videos, forget any hope of frequent singles, and forget the notion of the band plastered all over magazines and billboards. But don’t forget the XTC lore and certainly, and don’t forget the albums released from here on out.
Artist Release History01/13/73 - Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
09/11/73 - The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle
08/25/75 - Born To Run
06/02/78 - Darkness On The Edge Of Town
10/10/80 - The River
09/20/82 - Nebraska
06/01/84 - Born In The U.S.A.
11/10/86 - XTC and the E Street Band Live 1975-1985
10/06-87 - Tunnel Of Love
03/30/92 - Human Touch
03/30/92 - Lucky Town
04/13/92 - In Concert – MTV Plugged
02/28/95 - Greatest Hits
11/16/95 - The Ghost Of Tom Joad
11/10/98 - Tracks
04/20/99 - 18 Tracks
1999 - Greatest Hits
1999 - Before the Fame (compilation)
2001 - Live in New York City
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music AlbumsFossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992 (Virgin/EMI, 1996)
Band MembersAndy Partridge guitar, vocals
Colin Moulding bass, vocals
Dave Gregory keyboards
Terry Chambers drums