The New Rock'n'Roll - The A-Z of Rock in the '80s
Stuart Coupe and Glenn A. Baker

A mug shot of XTC, with prime mover Andy Partridge (with glasses) looking less than amused.


XTC began life in Swindon in 1973 with Andy Partridge (guitar and vocals), Colin Moulding (bass and vocals) and Terry Chambers (drums). They worked under various names including Skyscraper, Star Park and Snakes. In 1975, as The Helium Kids, they recorded for Decca but none of the tracks made it onto vinyl. In 1976 Partridge described their music as “ant music” on handouts and around this time, Barry Andrews joined the group on keyboards. In early 1977 they recorded for CBS but again the results were not released.

Finally, late in 1977 the group signed to Virgin as XTC. Since then they have not looked back and have become one of the most influential and popular New Music groups to emerge from England.

XTC's first release was the 3D-EP in October 1977, from which one track, Science Friction, was released as a single in Australia only. In January 1978, XTC's first album White Noise [sic], was issued along with the single, Statue Of Liberty. Two further singles, This Is Pop and Are You Receiving Me?, followed later that year along with their second album, Go 2, in November. After recording that album, Andrews left and was replaced by guitarist Dave Gregory (ex-Alehouse and Dean Gabber & The Gabberdines).

XTC began 1979 with a new single, Life Begins At The Hop, in April and in August they released their third album, Drums And Wires, and another single, Making Plans For Nigel. To coincide with their release, they played a very successful pub and club tour of Australia. 1980 kicked off with a single, Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down, in March, and then in August their fourth album, Black Sea, was released. This highly acclaimed album spawned four notable singles, Generals And Majors, Towers Of London, Sgt. Rock and Respectable Street — the last being their only release of 1981.

The group toured Australia again in late 1980, and, in between their extensive touring of Britain and the US during 1981, played Caracas, Venezuela, and Barcelona, Spain.

In early 1982 XTC released their first double album, English Settlement, which produced two singles, Senses Working Overtime and Ball And Chain. For most of 1982, the group were unable to work, either live or in the studio, due to the illness which beset Andy Partridge. In November of that year, a retrospective double album was released called Waxworks/Beeswax. Waxworks contained the A sides of their past singles, while Beeswax held the best of their idiosyncratic B sides. In some markets, the set was released as a single album, Waxworks. Viewed in such a collected situation, the cream of XTC's output stands up remarkably well as stylised, hard-edged pop-rock, well laden with some devastating hooks and intelligent song structure.

Thanks to Bill Wikstrom for the content, and Tomm Stu for the cover information and image.


UK group formed 1977.

Original/Current line-up: Andy Partridge, guitar, vocals; Colin Moulding, bass, vocals; Barry Andrews, keyboards; Terry Chambers, drums.

Career: Partridge organised XTC as punk band in Swindon, near London. This Is Pop? single attracted some attention and revealed XTC to be power-pop group in punk clothing. This became more apparent by time solid third album, Drums And Wires, appeared in 1979.

Next LP yielded minor hit, Sergeant Rock, which earned some US airplay and write-off as lightweight by UK press. In 1982 Senses Working Overtime put band back in UK charts, and double LP English Settlement (cut to single LP for US market) received critical approval. End of 1982 produced singles compilation (UK only) Waxworks. In promotional move, this album was issued for limited time with second LP, Beeswax, comprising B-side.

Hit Singles: US UK
Making Plans For Nigel, 1979 17
Sergeant Rock, 1981 16
Senses Working Overtime, 1982 10

Drums And Wires, XTC. Courtesy Virgin Records.


White Music (Virgin-Epic/Virgin), 1978

Go 2 (Virgin-Epic/Virgin), 1978

Drums And Wires (Virgin-Epic/Virgin), 1979

Black Sea (Virgin), 1980

English Settlement (—/Virgin), 1982

English Settlement (Single) (Virgin-Epic/—), 1982

Waxworks: Some Singles 1977-1982 (—/Virgin), 1982

Beeswax: Some B-sides 1977-1982 (—/Virgin), 1982

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[Thanks to Bill Wikstrom and Tomm Stu]