The First Top 20 Single Penned By Andy Was A Song He Really Hated: “Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)”
As you know, the song that gave the Swindon-based art rockers their first taste of success was “Making Plans For Nigel”. That was the first single culled from “Drums & Wires”, and it was a Top 17 hit. But it wasn’t penned by Andy Partridge. Rather, it had been composed by bassist Colin Moulding.
Andy would have to wait until the next album (Black Sea) to have a Top 20 hit of his own. Yet, fate dictated that his least-liked composition from the whole LP was to be the one putting him on the map. The song “Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)” got to number 16 on the charts.
Andy was to lament forever more that a song harking back to his puerile writing days became his first hit. Remember, at that time he was already penning stuff like “Living Through Another Cuba” and “Respectable Street”. Continue reading →
As you have just read, “Skylarking” was recorded under a guillotine-sharp atmosphere. Todd Rundgren was determined to produce, and Andy was determined to have his way as usual. You look up “falling out” in Wikipedia and you will probably come across this drawing of Todd that Andy made during the sessions:
In hindsight, the right thing to say is that Todd saved XTC’s career. Andy readily admits it now. He infused the songs on offer (songs that were already very strong to begin with) with a sheen that was commercial without sacrificing any of the band’s trademark wit and whimsicality. This is evident the moment “Summer’s Cauldron” begins playing. A song that describes the inertia which characterizes these summer days when the whole world seems to be put on hold and life resembles an eternal vacation, it was a daring way to start the album made instantly approachable by the production. Continue reading →
The Front Cover. A Risque One Andy Had Drawn Was Rejected.
Skylarking was the album that managed to revive XTC’s career, a career that was at an all-time low ever since they had quitted touring. The two preceding albums (“Mummer” and “The Big Express”) had vanished without trace, and the predominant sentiment regarding the Swindon outfit was one of apathy.
Virgin was concerned about that, and proposed pairing the band with a producer whose ideas could complement XTC’s very own and redound to a creative goldrush. The choice of producer fell on Todd Rundgren, the American musician and producer known then for his work with Utopia. Todd was a no-nonsense person, and the relationship with Andy was to prove nightmarish from start to finish. This was to take an eventual toll on the band, and Colin actually decided to leave XTC as the sessions were climaxing. Continue reading →