Andy Partridge on Radio One

Radio One

Hello, my mother saw it fit for some bizarre reason to call me Andy Partridge and I find it equally fit to call my group XTC.

XTC is a band that is held up with some ridicule in its own country, and branded a bunch of smart-arses, or intelligent bottoms, and in other countries in the world they seem to love the very trousers off us.

We have a career that started in the public eye about 1977, in fact we'd been going for some years before that but the climate wasn't right for people to be interested in what we were doing.

I just don't want to be called the grandmother of Britpop, thank you. I have this inherent mistrust of anything with the word "Brit" attached.

We don't purposefully try to be English; we don't sit down and say, "Let's get this measuring device, we'll have a cup of hot tea with a special measuring-thing lead in it to power it, and we'll see how we register on the double-decker bus-ometer, and if we just put a dollop of HP sauce on it, if it starts glowing radioactive we'll know we're terribly British". But I think one of the strengths of the band, that may have been overlooked by a lot of the English people who have been snooty about us in the past, is the fact that we're natural, we're unashamedly what we are.

We're not groovy, we're not cool, whatever you might deem those things to be this week, we sing songs about what we wanna sing songs about; they're things that have happened to us, or things that we see happening to other people around us; we are nothing other than the end product of all of our influences; and it's most probably all the groups we liked as kids, which would have been The Beatles, The Small Faces, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks were enormous for me; we don't sing in forced accents about forced subjects in a forced way, it comes out natural, and if you don't like natural, you ain't gonna like us.

When we first came to the public eye in 77, it was: "Oh, they must be punk. Let me see, let's have a look, they're thin and young and they've got short hair and they make noisy music, that's definitely punk." Then when punk calmed down and they couldn't decide whether we were punk or not, because we weren't your average punky thing, they thought, "Wait a minute, he's got a suit on, and his hair's a bit more suede-y now - they're mods - and the bass player, he's got a stripy blazer - bloody hell, they were mods all along". Then the 80s are coming on there, and it's: "Wait a minute he's grown his hair a bit - ah, they're New Romantics, aren't they!" We've had all that chucked at us. It's just people's desperation to label you.

I tell you why we became hippies for two albums. The Dukes of Stratosphear were the band that as school children we all wanted to be. We'd rush to school with our little knees blue, in our shorts, and, "Have you seen this, it's called ‘Arnold Layne’," or, "‘See Emily Play’," or, "It's ‘My White Bicycle’ by a group called Tomorrow." We all thought that when we grew up, we were going to be in a band just like one of those bands. History walks on and you suddenly find yourself all grown up and in a group, but not like the group you thought you were going to be in when you were a little kid. So we thought we'd do a bit of Stalinist revision on history, we'd do a bit of fake history and be the Dukes of Stratosphear, which was actually a name I was toying with in 1975. I didn't know whether to call ourselves the Dukes of Stratosphear or XTC. I chose XTC because you could write it bigger on posters.

Immensely proud of the song ‘Rook’ from Nonsuch, which came after a period of a few months when I just couldn't write anything, I was really bunged up, real cork-in-the-ass writer's block. I was messing around on the keyboard, which I can't play. I tell you how bad I am on a keyboard: when I found a chord shape I liked I actually made a cardboard hand in that chord shape, so that I could do it without getting cramp, then I could move it round and still retain the same relationship of the notes, with this cardboard hand. I discovered a beautiful combination of chords, quite by accident, that really made me cry.

The song ‘Bungalow’ by Colin, who's the good-looking one who stands there with the bass around his neck, he that looks like the bastard son of Rudolph Nureyev and Chrissie Hynde . . . damn it, I wish I'd written that song. It's just two people planning for their future. His parents and my parents, all their lives - and still do, because mine are still alive - lived on a council estate, and I did until I was 20, they still live there now; and they have this thing where they have this dream of buying a bungalow. And so he wrote this song really as a homage to his parents' and my parents' generation's ideal of "we'll save and save and save, and we'll buy a bungalow by the sea". I just wish I'd written it, because he came up with this really touching little song which is actually about as far from rock 'n' roll as you can get.

‘Wrapped in Grey’, which is another softy, I sat at the keyboard one day and found this little bam-da-dum bam-da-dum, rollicking little chord change that reminded me of Burt Bacharach. This song came out as talking about you don't have to accept the bland idea of the world that a lot of people sell you as you grow up, about you've got to be straight and behave, and don't be unusual, don't be weird, don't use your imagination, stick on the safe side, stay on the safe and narrow, be grey. So ‘Wrapped in Grey’ is an exaltation for people to be as colourful as they can be because very soon you'll be dead and gone.

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Transcribed by Mark Fisher