Interview with Andy Partridge

Issue 2, Autumn 1982

On the 22nd February, 1982 two of Limelight's most intrepid reporters set out in search of ecstasy. Word was out that a certain Mr. A. Partridge was expected to indulge in an interview with Phil Easton on Liverpool's Radio City. Phil's nightly show is traditionally (heavy) rock orientated but it would seem that this particular D.J. has a soft-spot for the Swindon quartet. He's chosen a few of their records (including "Take This Town") as singles of the week and he confessed to a genuine liking for English Settlement.

We decided on our tactics. If the rumour was true (an earlier date given had been cancelled) and if this was Andy's only appointment, then maybe he was travelling up by train.

Plan One: check for any incoming trains from Swindon at Lime Street Station. There were a couple due at about the right time, but he wouldn't have been able to return on the same day, so.....

Plan Two: Check with Radio City (I'd rung earlier, but they hadn't been too sure). Having battled through the glass doors which can only be opened electronically, by the doorman from his desk (can't imagine why), we asked our question. "I don't know," came the apologetic reply, "Phil doesn't tell us anything until he comes in.

Chucked back out onto the now gloomy street, we resorted to Plan Three. I remembered reading that XTC always stay at The Holiday Inn when they tour, so off we trundled across town. In our fading jeans and duffle coats we felt rather out of place in the airconditioned climate full of neatly turned-out businessmen and women. "Has a Mr. Partridge checked in?" I questioned courageously. Happy to get a reply, even if it was "No", we returned, our hopes subsiding, to Radio City.

We got back just as Phil's programme was about to begin and now, to our delight, the once vacant notice board read: "Radio City Welcomes ... XTC."

There was a different doorman now so, having got through the fortress-style door, we asked if anyone had arrived and then tried to explain who we were. Nobody had arrived and the doorman seemed to be half under the impression that we were Andy Partridge! Nevertheless, he let us hang around until whoever we were meant to be waiting for turned up.

They eventually did turn up, in the form of Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and a gentleman by the name of Peter Price who seemed to be in charge of them. They signed in, saw us, relieved themselves (not simultaneously you understand) and then left to settle in at the hotel, much to the confusion of the doorman. They returned and we chatted for a while before the interview was due to commence. It transpired that they'd been doing radio interviews all day across the country and this was to be their last one. When it was time to go into the studio, Andy saw that we were let in as well. We sat quietly in a corner trying desperately not to laugh out loud at the wonderfully humorous language of Andy and Colin.

There now follows an edited version of what was broadcast.

Phil: How long did it take you to record this mammoth double helping of XTC on your new album?

Andy: Not very long; six weeks which is no longer than we've taken to record any of the others except for White Music which was done in about five minutes! White Music was done in ten days.

Phil: Your Record Company must love you.

Andy: Well, we tend to do expensive things like drinking purely champagne.

Phil: This is why you're sitting there in your shark-skin suit of course!

Andy: Actually, it's an old shark, it's just been hollowed out!

Phil: A lot of bands would take a year to write 15 songs, are you prolific?

Andy: No, Church of England mate! We came off the last big leg of touring in dune of 1981 and from then until October we were writing, rehearsing and putting bits and pieces together.

Phil: Is there an overall concept idea to the album or is it literally 15 songs?

Colin: It's a bag full of songs.

Andy: From that time. The only thing being our personalities and how they came out at that time.

Phil: Was there a particular reason for the title?

Andy: I think that they are our most English songs. That was occurring to us as we were putting them together.

Colin: It's also a local landmark.

Andy: It's nice to use the cover concept, the prehistoric picture on the front.

Colin: So it's real getting it together in the country.

Over the course of the evening Phil played "Runaways", "Snowman", "No Thugs in our House", "Melt The Guns" and "Fly on the Wall".

This is what Andy had to say about "Snowman":

Andy: It's a cross between "When I'm Cleaning Windows" and "Fame" by David Bowie! It's basically a jilted song and how girls can make you feel awfully unnoticed when you're trying to get their attention.

Phil: [Reading from Record Company Biography] "following their travels abroad, in the late Summer of 1981, XTC began preparing to record their fifth album..."

Andy: Sounds like the script of a Tintin story, following their travels abroad..!

Phil: Apparently, it says here, you're quite popular in America.

Andy: We are.

Phil: Which bits?

Andy: The big bit between Mexico and Canada. They quite like us actually, which is quite surprising, because I thought we'd never make any impression on them.

Phil: Do they understand your music?

Andy: Not totally, but then it doesn't really matter because they have good fun trying to decipher it.

Phil: Possibly the more approachable sounds of British pop songs will catch on in America, especially with the word "English" in one's album title.

Andy: I think the Record Company are changing it to "American Settlement!" Try and rake a few more sales in. They did have an awful time with the record cover because they just did not know what the White horse was.

Colin: They're not happy unless they've got some bird on the front....

Andy: .... In hot pants, with two orbs out, ice cream cones and "Buy this record" in big dayglow letters across the top!

They just couldn't understand it: "That's a Goddam bad drawing of a horse!"

Phil: Will it be the same when it comes out in America then?

Andy: No, they've issued a really ropey copy. They've changed the lettering to make it "more readable". They've printed not with embossing or any of that grassy effect. It's shoddy, but hopefully people will see beyond the shod and get to the diamonds inside.

You've got to be able to speak the language, not just American, but all this tour jacket and hand shakes and bronzing gel and "You guys are really going global. There .5 a ground-swell for you guys. You guys are really lifting up in the North 80's." They just talk chart talk.

Phil: Back to the music and "No Thugs In Our House".

Andy: It's two parents talking to each other about the fact that their son, who they assume is an angel, is doing all these awful things. They refuse to accept the fact that he's beating up people.

Colin: Actually, parents play a big part in XTC songs.

Andy: They do. We must have had pretty kinky childhoods. I know I certainly did and I think you had a reasonably kinky one as well!

Colin: We were talking about that yesterday.

Andy: We were, we better carry on before this gets a bit smutty!

Phil: How do you see XTC developing in the future? You can't keep on being highly prolific with songs, surely?

Andy: It's true, we're going to conk out one day and get even fatter and balder and older. We're obviously going to dry up one day, but until that day...

Phil: Are you continually writing songs? Will you dash back to the hotel tonight and knock off a quick stanza or two?

Andy: Knock off a quick something! No, I've got to be in a song writing mood to write. I can't just pick up a pen and say "I feel the inspiration."

Colin: You can jot down lyrics when you're driving along in the car or something, but actually getting the song together completely...

Andy: You've got to be in a jig-saw making mood.

Colin: When you're at home relaxing.

Soon after this, Phil unexpectedly brought your two intrepid reporters into the conversation much to our dismay. We stuttered out something incoherent about why we liked them and then shut up again. After the programme we said our goodbyes as Phil took them all off to a restaurant he knew.

This is Pop!

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[Transcribed by Marcus Deininger, thanks to Mark Fisher]