Andy Partridge on Sound Opinions

Transcription of interview of Andy Partridge on 2 March 1999 during Sound Opinions show on 93.1 FM WXRT radio in Chicago, IL. The question for the night was, "Sgt. Pepper's: Is it the best album of all time, or the most overrated?" Andy Partridge phoned in from the midst of a California in-store appearance. Fellow Chicagoans: If I got any of the Cast of Characters wrong in the transcript, please forgive me - I don't have the best recording of this show!
Transcribed by: David Lake and Piriya Vongkasemsiri.

Cast of Characters:

ML - Marty Lennertz (WXRT DJ, moderator)
JD - Jim DeRogatis (rock critic for Chicago Sun-Times)
GK - Greg Kot (rock critic for Chicago Tribune)
TH - Terri Hemmert (WXRT DJ, special guest)
AP - Andy Partridge (special guest)

ML: Alright, it's Sound Opinions on XRT and we're now joined by our other illustrious guest from XTC, Andy Partridge. Andy, welcome to Sound Opinions.

AP: Hi, how are ya?

ML: We're doing quite well.

JD: Thanks for taking time out Andy, we really appreciate it.

AP: No problem. I'm very surreal 'cause I'm right in the middle of an in-store, signing everybody's everything.

XRT: [laughs]

AP: They brought the entire contents of their villages, some of them. You know, sheep, chickens... I'm signing it all.

ML: It's really great of you to call at this time, we really appreciate it.

AP: No problem.

TH: Thanks Andy. And Julian Lennon sends his best. He was sorry he missed you.

AP: Julian Lennon sends his...? I send my vest.

TH: [laughs] Well, he would like that. What size?

AP: I think he needs it.

GK: Well anyway, I was talking to Andy yesterday. Andy, maybe you recall this in the blur of interviews you've been doing in these last couple weeks. But, I mentioned to him that we're going to be talking about the Beatles tonight and Sgt. Pepper specifically and Andy whispers to me "It's my least favourite album". [laughs]

AP: Yeah, yeah, I don't want to pee on your bonfire or anything. But, Revolver was more the cat's whiskers.

JD: Thank you, that makes it official now. If Andy Partridge says it.

GK: That's right, now Andy, can you elaborate on that a bit? What about Sgt. Pepper left you cold?

AP: Uh, it never left me cold. I just preferred... Revolver just seemed to be their height. It seemed to be more urgent and more biting. And I thought Peppers was a little diffuse. And, dare I say it. I'm gonna be hung, drawn and quartered for this, had a couple fillers on it.

GK: Ahhh [laughs]

AP: I mean, 'Good Morning' [makes hesitant air-sucking sound].

XRT: Uh-huh. Right, right.

AP: Oh, and, dare I say it, old Georgie with his 'Within You, Without You'.

ALL: [laughter]

AP: If it had 'Strawberry Fields' and 'Penny Lane' on there in their place, well, it may have been unconquerable. But, oh dear, [air-sucking sound] a couple of fillers.

ML: Andy, did you feel like that at the time, or is this in retrospect?

AP: Actually, at the time I seem to remember always skipping 'Good Morning'. You know, even as a kid thinking, [in kid voice] "This is not good enough!".

XRT: [laughs]

AP: But, uh, I'm much more of a Revolver man. It just seemed to catch the Beatles at a point where I think they were flaming at their brightest. And, uh, I think Pepper, you know, broke a lot of barriers and it had to be made. It was... it's a dirty hippie old job, but someone's got to do it. You know, but it had to be made, but I don't think it's their finest.

GK: I think, you know, Andy I agree with you, and one of the points we sort of were bringing up was it's more a record, at least I believe this, it's a record more about sound than songs.

AP: It's more about sounds than songs...

XRT: Right.

AP: ...and, uh, as I say, I think 'Good Morning' is a little bit on the old 'B' side bag. And, oh dear, my favorite on there actually was, uh, I still think it is ace, A-1 now, is 'Getting Better'. I think it's absolutely the bees knees. That's the best track on there in my opinion.

JD: We were thinking there was a connection here too, because of Apple Venus, which we reviewed last week. You know, your move towards orchestral sounds now with the new music. One of the ones we just actually threw away was how much easier it might have been for them to make this record if they had a sampler then, like you did with much of your orchestral sounds.

AP: Sure, well, I think there's a lot of facts about Pepper that people get wrong, they say "Yeah, the greatest thing made on 4-track". But, how many 4-tracks was it made on? Fill up one, bounce to another. Fill that one up, bounce to another, and so on. So, eventually they probably had as many as 40 tracks of stuff piled up. You know, so, it's not as primitive a technology as people might think.

GK: But the idea of using a 41-piece orchestra as they did on 'A Day In The Life'. That was pretty much a novel concept for a rock and roll record.

AP: Sure, well in fact we, uh, we just used a 40-piece orchestra on Apple Venus...

XRT: Right.

AP: ...and we did it in the same studio, in the same [mimics orchestral fanfare] 'bahhhhm-bahm-bahhhm-bahm-bahm' place.

XRT: Mm-hmm. [laughs]

AP: You know that place.

ML: I hope someone's taping this.

AP: I was the only one with a red nose. I can't figure it out.

TH: [laughs] I got it. O.K. I think getting all those musicians though, not to play in the traditional sense. That ascending line they play to get to the chord, to get trained musicians to play that, was an incredible feat on George Martin's part.

AP: Oh yeah, but I think he had a lot of respect in the orchestral world. And he is one of the few people that could have encouraged them to do it.

TH: Exactly.

JD: Andy, and then you know, psychedelic is a word that often gets misunderstood in rock history and I think it means different things to everybody who's ever made a record that can be classified as psychedelic. But to me, you know, a lot of XTC's finest work going way back, to back when you were punks, even, uh, you know, has fallen under that rubric, and, and as does the best of the Beatles albums, Revolver, as you mentioned, and Pepper. Um, do you think that the Beatles created a way of approaching the recording studio with those records that continues in your music and in the music of lots of other bands, uh...

AP: I think they wrote the bible, yeah. I really think they did...

JD: But beyond the technical thing...

AP: ...there's a lot of people that haven't even approached the clear, concise and, damnit, inventive way that they look at pop music. They've left an enormous fingerprint on me.

GK: Andy, you came up, basically, in an era when a lot of this stuff was sort of being sneered at. Uh, you guys were a young band coming out of England in that whole punk era. Not a punk band per se, but certainly an era where, where the old was sort of being swept away and the new was being born...

AP: Oh, I think it was necessary at the time to do that. I really do. I think music had got so flatulent and stodgy and stupid that it needed a kick in the guts. It really did.

GK: Mm-hmm. But was your attitude about the Beatles always pretty much the same, I mean, did you feel that they were, you know, a great group when you were forming XTC in the early days?

AP: My, my influence never really allowed to come out until we got into our stride making albums and then I realized how big they went in as a kid. 'Cause I realized that the farther I went down the road, the nearer I got to Beatledom. So, maybe it's a place where a lot of people are gonna ultimately end up if they get better. It's like some sort of Emerald City, you know. It's a place where you have to end up. It's the capital city of good popness or something.

JD: Now, now when you did the Dukes Of Stratosphear records, the EP and the album, I don't know if, a lot of people might not, you have to be a deep XTC fan to know about these, two records that Andy and the band made, uh, pretty much on the equipment that was used for Revolver and Pepper's and in the way, I mean you guys tried to use all period recording techniques, right?

AP: We tried to, yeah, we tried to, uh, we actually, I mean I'll cheat and tell you that we did it on a 24-track mixer.

JD: Ah.

AP: But we tried to use, you know, the same mics, the same guitars, the same amps, the same effects.

JD: So, what was, what was revealing about that experiment?

AP: Uh... what you can do with a sense of urgency in double quick time, I mean all those Dukes recordings were like one, two takes at the most. And uh, the Dukes were the band we all wanted to be in when we were at school.

XRT: [laughs]

AP: It had to be done, you know...

XRT: [laughs]

AP: ...had to get it out of our system and lay the ghost of the Dukes.

GK: Right, right. Andy we know you got to get back and sign some cd's, you've probably got a waiting horde there.

AP: Yeah, there's a couple hundred people going [eating flesh sound] "Uhhnnnya-uhhnnya-uhnnnya", chewing each other's arms.

GK: [laughs] But we, we actually had a version of "Strawberry Fields Forever" driven in by a hardcore Andy Partridge fan, uh, earlier this evening. He says, "I've got this amazing recording of Andy Partridge singing Strawberry Fields Forever". Do you remember that recording?

AP: I do, 'cause I went down to see Dave one afternoon and he was actually in the business of, uh, of like forging this track for something to do. And he got bored between records and he was forging this track and he's saying, [in very gravelly voice] "Ohhh, I haven't really got the voice to sing it, I wonder if you'd sing it". And I said, "How do you want it done?". And he said "Just like the real thing if you can", so I had a go at singing it, you know, a la Lennon.

XRT: [laughs] Uh-huh. That's pretty darn close! You do a remarkable job!

AP: That was LenIN by the way. [in Russian accent] "Won't you take me down, I'm going to Strawberry Fields".

TH: [laughs] Marx and Lenin, yeah.

GK: Andy, thanks, thanks so much for taking time tonight, it was a real pleasure having you on. We really appreciate you doing this.

AP: O.K., well... thank you.

GK: And we'll talk to you soon, I hope. Thanks.

AP: Cheers, medears!

ML: Bye Andy.

AP: Good bye.

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