XTC ~ The Tapes & Steve Hutchins ~ The True Story

[Steve Hutchins sent this to Chalkhills – Ed.]
April 14th, 2015

I found out recently that various websites had articles about my former band XTC, with references to me when I was the lead vocalist in the mid 70's and also the fact that people were selling early recordings of the band.

As a matter of curiosity, I searched the net and read some of the articles and stories mentioning about me, which were mostly accurate, but some parts ridiculously untrue, so I thought that I would simply set the records straight for posterity and provide XTC fans with the accurate facts.

The more I looked the more I was amazed at the availability of the poor quality bootleg tapes that were available for sale, and thought that I would also put the record straight on that as well as to their origin.


I had been the vocalist in various bands on a semi-pro basis for some years, doing gigs everywhere and dreaming of stardom, as we all do !!!

Just prior to joining XTC (who were called The Helium Kidz that at the time) I was becoming more involved in the music business and the music people themselves, to try to find and join a good band. I had been offered various vocalist jobs, ranging from a band who thought they were about to break with their record being played regularly on the Radio, to cover bands who played regularly every night of the week for good money, but turned them all down.

But as to some cock & bull story about me being a window cleaner singing up a ladder when Andy's girlfriend heard me and recommended me to the band, it is complete and utter bullshit !!!

I quote from Andy's supposed version: We also dallied around with a singer from London called Steve Hutchings who was actually a good singer - he could wobble his voice - plus he knew some people in the record companies which was useful. My girlfriend heard him singing while he was up a ladder cleaning windows and invited him down to audition.

(As a matter of note, my formal education training was that of a scientist so most certainly not a window cleaner ~ also my surname is Hutchins !!!)

The truth was that I attended lots of drunken parties at that time, and it was at one of these parties that I met a girl who turned out to be Andy's girlfriend. The talk turned to music, I told her that I was a singer, she said my boyfriend's in a band and they are looking for a singer. I said I'm not really interested, but as she told me more about the band, it sounded interesting and so it was arranged that I would go for an audition in Swindon to see if I liked them and they liked me.

At the time I was living in a house in Wallington, Surrey, called Keats Cottage with 3 other musicians, playing in various scratch bands and jamming with anybody that happened to turn up, as it was a large house with one very large room, which was set up constantly as a music room with all the equipment.

The Swindon band, called The Helium Kidz at the time, consisted of:

Lead Guitar & Vocals
Bass Guitar
2nd Guitar

Andy Partridge
Colin Moulding
Terry Chambers
Dave Cartner

I drove to Swindon to audition with them one evening and it was decided that I would join the band. I used to drive regularly backwards and forwards from Wallington to Swindon to rehearse, as well as gigging with them.

This went on for a while and when we got into more rehearsing it was arranged that I would stay from time to time at Dave's house to reduce the driving and also get more practice time. I made sure that I paid my way in terms of board & lodgings and also bought Dave's wife flowers to say thank you for looking after me, which is not how it is written in some of the stories.

I suggested that the band come down to Wallington for a couple of days to play in our music room and to hopefully make a good demo tape to try to hawk around the record companies.

Also I note it states in some articles that I already had a manger, was able to get gigs and also to get recording sessions at that particular time.

All of which is totally untrue !!!

They came to Keats Cottage in Wallington and we recorded some great sessions in the front room on the 13th and 14th December 1974.

The songs were taped at 7 ½ ips on a decent quality reel to reel tape recorder with some overdubs and engineered by a good friend of mine, who was a bass player that I had been in a previous band with. He was called Alan Parkin, who was also living at Keats Cottage.

The songs recorded then were:
Private Eye
In Love With The Hurt
Shark In The Pool
Little Gold Runner

The band returned to Swindon and over the next few weeks, various discussions were had and it was decided by the band that Dave Cartner should leave and that happened.

The band continued with me now as the lead vocalist. Regular rehearsals continued with constant evening trips from Keats Cottage in Wallington to Swindon, with me returning very late, tired and sleepy driving home on the M4 in my 1275cc Mini Cooper S almost on auto-pilot.

On top of that, gigs were arranged and I always travelled up to Swindon to firstly meet up with the band and then drive off to the gigs in the big white van.

The band were talking about changing the name at the time and at a gig that we played, I was told that we were now going to be called Star Park and then The Snakes and so that is what we were called for a short time. I don't think the band were too keen on the name, because during our rehearsals we had co-written a track called Skyscraper and it was decided at that time to now call the band Sky Scraper, although we never gigged with that name.

I began to send the front room tapes that we recorded in December 1974 around to record companies and pester them to listen to the band and eventually I got a call from the offices of Wedge Music. This company was run by Tony Gordon who I believe had come back to the UK from Atlantic Records in the States and set up on his own. He was managing Sham 69 at the time and he really liked the band, especially the track called Private Eye.

I had now left Keats Cottage in Wallington and was living in Purley with a girl called Mandy and got the band to come to stay at my flat, so that we could visit Tony Gordon at Wedge Records in London.

I took the band to my local pub for a beer and whereas in Swindon they were regarded as ‘Gods’, here they were regarded as country bumpkins with strange West Country accents. Naturally the band did not like this.

We drove to London the following day and went to visit Tony Gordon at the Wedge offices and were later signed to them. Tony had the ability to contact the major record companies and by-pass some of the idiot A&R guys and he began to arrange meetings with them. Tony also arranged some recording sessions for us in studios such as Pye/Polydor where we later recorded the following tracks at 15 ips on NAB format.

Private Eye
In Love With The Hurt
Do You Really
It's About Time (Andy sang lead vocals as his voice fitted better to this track)

That is how the manager and the provision of recording sessions came into the equation at that time, NOT how it is written in some of the articles.

Record companies were very keen on the band, but we still did not have a deal. We were taken to a meeting with the boss of Decca Records, where essentially we were told that he thought that we were brilliant, but he didn't think that he could ‘sell us’ as we were not mainstream commercial.

We continued to rehearse and gig, but could not get the elusive record deal.

I then personally arranged and paid for another recording session in London in September 1975 and we recorded the following tracks, calling ourselves at that time The Snakes.

Star Park
Yabber Yabber Yabber
Saturn Boy
Shark In The Pool
Walkin' Cross The Ceiling
Neon Shuffle

These were once again recorded at 15 ips NAB, but I also made a 7 ½ ips Mono NAB Full Track copy at the recording studio.

The rehearsals and gigs continued and at one of the gigs, which was a local open air concert, Andy informed us that the name of the band was now going to be XTC, which all of us liked !!!

I decided at that time to open a music rehearsal studio in South London, to make things easier for us and told the band clearly, that if the record companies were uncertain if they wanted to sign us, then they needed to move to London, even if it meant sleeping on the floor of my flat, and play on the recognised London music gig circuit at all the venues that the A&R guys went to watch emerging bands.

In that way we would build a following of fans and we would have a much greater chance of getting the record deal. Unfortunately they would not do it and shortly afterwards I got a call from Colin Moulding one day to say that they were going to stay in Swindon on their own without me as the vocalist.

With the coming of punk and new wave, lots of bands were being signed at random from everywhere and XTC were signed to Virgin, simply because they were very good, even though they were not punk.

Without in anyway it being sour grapes, I consider the real identity of the band (with or without me) and the sheer brilliance of Andy's creativity was then compromised, but of course it did allow the band to show to the world how good they were, for which I am honestly really pleased.

I also understand that if they thought my direction and vocal style did not match where they wished to go, then a parting of the ways would naturally follow. That is the normal course of events in any bands development, with members coming and going, so once again not a problem.


I have seen written various things about early tapes that are circulating and my particular role in this, so let us also get things crystal clear as regards those tapes and some of the poor quality copies of copies that are on sale.

1. The tape that was made on 13th & 14th December 1974 at Keats Cottage, Wallington, Surrey, where we used the name The Helium Kidz, was paid for by me and is totally owned by me.

I have the MASTER tape here in my possession. (Comprising Tracks: Adrenalin, Private Eye, In Love With The Hurt, Shark In The Pool, Café, Little Gold Runner)

2. I have the MASTER tape arranged by Tony Gordon and recorded at Pye/Polydor studios. (Comprising Tracks: Private Eye, In Love With The Hurt, Do You Really, Its About Time)

3. The tape that was recorded in London in 1975 in a small independent studio near The Fulham Greyhound Music Pub, when we called ourselves The Snakes, was once again paid for by me and is totally owned by me.

I also have the MASTER tape and COPY tape here in my possession. (Comprising Tracks: Star Park, Yabber Yabber Yabber, Saturn Boy, Shark In The Pool, Walkin' Cross The Ceiling, Neon Shuffle)


I had often thought about copying and releasing some of these early recordings and did not initially do it. However I was approached by some people who asked about them and eventually I did make some rough cassette copies of them, advertised them in Melody maker for fun and sold a few.

However it is important to note that the cassette tapes contained only the copies from the masters of number 1 and 3 as noted above. They DID NOT contain any tracks from master number 2 as stated in some of the articles.

I can only assume that the tapes and discs that are available now for sale, are even poorer quality copies of these rough copies taken from the old style cassette tapes.

I was contacted by Virgin Records who were not happy about it and told them that the master tapes were my property and to go away, which they did.

Therefore the key issue is this:

The ONLY cassette tapes that I advertised and sold were a compilation from just two master tapes.

Side One of the cassette was from the master tape recorded on 13th & 14th December 1974 at Keats Cottage, Wallington, including Dave Cartner, which I arranged, paid for and own outright.

Side Two of the cassette was from the master tape recorded in London in 1975 in a small independent studio near The Fulham Greyhound Music Pub, without Dave Cartner, which I arranged, paid for and own outright.

Any other recordings that might be on sale are nothing to do with me at all and I would further point out that the master tape made at Pye/Polydor was NOT USED by me at all, albeit that I still own it and have it here in my possession.

So the comments made about me using the Decca or Pye or Polydor tapes are totally untrue.

It would be great for XTC fans to hear good quality tapes of the early days, rather than the poor quality stuff available at present.

So if it were of interest, it would be up to a professional company to contact me to possibly arrange to make excellent 1st class copies from the ORIGINAL MASTER of the old material to supply to the XTC fans in a proper manner, as opposed to copying the very poor quality copies of copies that they must have at present.

Steve Hutchins


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[Thanks to Steve Hutchins. Published with permission.]