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 →
“English Settlement” was released in 1982, and as opposed to “Black Sea” (the album that preceded it, and an album that was devised as a vehicle for live performances) the double LP hinted at the more pastoral sound the band was to adopt in earnest shortly. Of course, the embracement of such a tone was precipitated by the events that took place while they were touring “English Settlement” – first, Andy breaking down onstage and declaring the band would play live no more, and then the loss of Terry Chambers (the most level-headed member of the band, and someone who basically was in a group because he enjoyed playing live).
As I explained at the end of yesterday’s introduction, it was on “English Settlement” that Andy realized there was nothing wrong with exploring the capabilities that studios offer in terms of instrumentation. He no longer wanted to record only songs that could be replicated live exactly as they had gone down into tape. The record was then freed from a conceptual straightjacket and the results were to be the first true sampler of XTC as most of us love them: zany, daft, zany, wildly unpredictable, and zany. And utterly brilliant.
Each song is a true universe in itself. I think that there are not that many albums in which every note that you are hearing is germane to the actual constituency of a song as in the vast majority of the cuts featured on this double LP. With the exception of “Down In The Cockpit” and “Melt The Guns”, the extended duration of most of the songs is warranted – “Jason And The Argonauts” has an hypnotic instrumental passage that is not really a solo but rather a sagacious way to sustain the tension of the middle eight until the song comes back on track for its conclusion, and “Leisure” has some dissident breaks that amplify the tedium of the lyrics fabulously. Besides “All Of A Sudden” had to run that long if only because that was the only way the music could truly represent the inability to grasp the reality which is expressed in the song.
Discrimination based on race (“No Thugs In Our House” and “Knuckle Down”) and on gender (“Down In The Cockpit “) is a recurrent theme on English Settlement, and Colin sings about modernization in “Ball And Chain”, a song that precedes “Boarded Up” by two decades. The difference is that in “Ball And Chain” something was still standing up and could be ostensibly saved; by the time he wrote “Boarded Up” there was not such a chance. Continue reading →
Released In 1982, “English Settlemenet” Was To Be XTC’s Final Album Before They Became A Studio-only Band
Upon discovering XTC and reading every single article and clipping I could find about them, I intended to make “English Settlement” one of my first purchases. But chance and coincidence determined that the album would be one of the last I would actually buy. And I can frankly tell you that was not a bad thing.
XTC’s first (and only) double album ever, “English Settlement” (1982) is not for those who are just getting acquainted with the band, let alone the uninitiated. The rewards that the album yields are incommensurable, but you have to be patient in order to get to the point in which everything starts clicking divinely.
I must admit that this is the one and only XTC album in which I have a problem with Andy’s voice. Songs which are astonishingly good like “All Of A Sudden (It’s Too Late Now)” and the great album closer “Snowman” are hard to be appreciated at first because his delivery can’t fully accommodate the new styles that he began broaching by this point, and which are a clear step in a divergent direction from XTC’s previous high-powered period. (Something similar happened to Joe Strummer when The Clash began aiming for styles far removed from punk, most notably on the triple album “Sandinista!”) Continue reading →
Virgin Released "Fossil Fuel" As A Way Of Bidding Farewell To XTC. All The Singles Released Within Their Career Were Featured.
At roughly the same time that Geffen issued “Upsy Daisy Assortment” (a collection of hits and some noteworthy tunes from the Swindon’s outfit that was a bit whimsical to say the least) Virgin issued this 2-CD compilation. In the case of the British company, the focus was solely on singles. No track strayed from that conceit. The one exception was “Wrapped In Grey”, the song that caused the rift between XTC and Virgin way back in 1992, and which resulted in the band going on strike for the best part of the decade. Virgin decided to include it either as a way of burying the hatchet or as a final insult, a way of saying “there you go, take the goddamn song, it is now officially a ‘single’”. Which is which depends on the astute listener.
So, the album goes all the way from Andy’s much-despised “Science Friction” (from their debut EP) to Andy’s beloved “Wrapped In Grey” (from “Nonsuch“, their final album for Virgin).
"Upsy Daisy Assortment" Compiles Most Of XTC's True Classics WIth A Few Rarities Thrown In For Good Measure.
“Upsy Daisy Assortment” was released by Geffen (XTC’s American record company) in 1999, as the legal battle with Virgin was finally being dispelled and the band was to regain its freedom. It is a single CD that has some truly idiosyncratic cuts in addition to their indisputable classics.
Now, Andy says that the disc feels as if someone at Geffen had thrown darts at a chart with all their songs and assembled the compilation like that. Such a theory would explain why singles like “All You Pretty Girls” and “Wake Up” have been omitted, why “Funk Pop A Roll” found its way here instead of “Great Fire” and also why we have tracks such as “Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her” at the expense of others.
I have to be very honest with you. The disc does not feel as if someone had randomly thrown darts at a chart, it feels as if Andy had overseen the whole thing from start to finish.
Exhibit 1: The compilation omits both “White Music” and “Go 2”, albums that he actively dislikes (and even despises). The first track is “Life Begins At The Hop”.
Exhibit 2: “Sgt. Rock”, a track Andy reviles despite being one of the highest-charting singles of his is absent. Continue reading →