June 2000 / Number 193


Primordial prestige
artist and XTC frontman
pens his own epitaph

I'm an endangered species because of the chords. I'm an endangered species because of the fences, the gates, the walls of verses. The dead paths and manicured crazy golf green strips that lead to bridges and middle eights. I'm trapped by the five bar gates and eight bar sections that steer me bleeding slowly around the tiled abbatoir corridors of the song. From my throat life stuff leads out like coloured jam, and still I trudge, grinding out "the songs." If I grind out more songs then my reward will be ... the need to grind out even more songs. Around I go, around the perfect pathway of Disneyland after dark. Locked in and stumbling on, past the tweaked topiary lyrics. Form a line here for the approach to chorus land, where I get to ride downhill toward the exit for a bit. Rest my legs maybe. How did I get caught here in melody Auschwitz? Songs make you free. Hear me, I'm an endangered species. Help, I'm a prisoner in a hard days night hell camp.

I'll tell you who lured me into the tar. The smell of the bubble gum and her mother's perfume. The tactile twitch of her white rubber back as my skinny fingers strummed impotently on her bra strap. I jammed with the Move's "Fire Brigade" pecking at the pit of my stomach. How do they do that passion penis play alchemy from inside a Dansette? The kitchen of the Methodist church youth club became ten billion tons of limestone pressing on me, catching me, a trainee fossil. Roy Wood wanted me to become an endangered species.

Andy Partridge

I'll tell you who lured me into the trap. The summer sun, orange as her slacks. Magnetic, lifting us up and over the concrete parking bollards outside the pub. Windows up, the bar jukebox spewed out the magic carpet. It was patterned by Syd Barrett's venusian guitar stitchery. We did "See Emily Play." Perhaps it was leapfrog like Vanessa and me? Pink Floyd knew I tried, but misunderstood too. Damn their eyes, I had to make that confection with them. This way, they gestured, as the psychedelic snare closed around my junior dodo ankles. I would become one of the living dead as well.

I'll tell you who lured me into the cage. Carl Wilson and his pleading sped up voice telling me about the colourful clothes she wore. From under my blankets, from out of my hearing aid pink plastic earphone and my portable Mission: Impossible reel to reel tape recorder. Not to mention those bastards the Beatles, giving me a guided tour around their guitar biting baroque architecture of "Rain." Or Ray Davies letting me ride his wooden roller coaster called "Autumn Almanac," that sleazy uncle, beckoning me on with candy floss "Wonderboy" and the who world of sweets laid before me with "Waterloo Sunset." One day this will all be yours, just step into this hell mouth, these jaws of no return. This labyrinth where you are both Theseus and the minotaur. Just step into the addiction of the song, sweetheart.

I'm an endangered species because I'm a song junkie. The intro hits and the laudanum loll whacks my head. I'm Patrick McGoohan in a Village of my own design. Running up and down the scales, how do I get to Number One? Damn them all for snagging me, damned them all for setting me down like a slot racing car, sentenced to run around and around conducting up my nine volts worth of power through my pen. Chasing around the tune, looking for a way off of that plastic track at the same time as trying to perfect each lap.

Andy Partridge

Where does a song junkie get his high? It's not in the computer built perfection dead climbing frame of programmed music. I want to smell the climber, not the bars. It's not in the faint heart folk twinkle of a thousand cold stars with acoustic guitars, failing to ignite the second hand seventies students as they freeze each other out in their permafrost bedsits. My "man" won't be waiting for me leaning against a wall of corporate fuzz and parentally approved piercings, flail you pigeons, flail your white dreadlocks and fart your dogbark vocals. You don't lift me up on stale wings. My opium den isn't behind the rappers, their pretend real world of guns, hos and bitches and their million dollar britches. I'm starving to death, this Brontosaurus can't eat your boy band soup with girl power crackers. My mouth has healed over.

When you're public enemy number one in the cha-cha-cha-cha-charts, king of art pop Alcatraz, smart Alec and his droogs, clever Dick Nixon the prick who burst your bubblegum, Jonah pop junkie from inside the wailing guitar's belly, what do you do? The only way for the last Songasaurus to survive is to turn yourself inside out. Put your arm down your throat and pull. Yeah let it all out, you'll feel better. Up comes the carcass of McCartney, the leprous lungs and liver of Lennon. Bits of Bacharach, blobs of Beefheart, some bebop bones dressing in the fetid flesh of a fourteen year old's foibles. The only food is the need to vomit up and re-consume your own musical past. All there is to eat!

Sure, Beck can be good, but he doesn't make breakfast for me anymore, I'm not twelve, I'm forty six. Sure Radiohead have the odd good tune, but they're not chefs du cuisine in my kitchen, I'm not eleven, I'm nearer forty seven. When you're busy wretching up, you can't put anything else in. This Dino is starving. I'm running on air.

Hey, it's not all bad. One man's desperate writhing is another man's ballet. One man's drowning scream is another's sonorous ballad. I'm not crashing around trying to squash you mammals. It's okay, I know I'm corned beef walking, but I have good guts to pull out yet. I'm packed with dead dreams. Mmm, they smell good. Come see my wares. Just waft away the flies. See what those old buggers did to me. They built their Godzilla in my belly all those years ago, but the pet shop doesn't stock its feed.

When not drawing pictures of himself under siege, Andy Partridge is the guiding light of Britpop legends XTC, whose new album, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), was released last week on TVT.

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[Thanks to Ian C. Stewart]