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Last Updated:
Sep 2, 2007

September 30, 2007 - Sunday


Andy discusses "Then She Appeared"

Song of the Week -- Andy's take

Part of an ongoing series of interviews by Todd Bernhardt with Andy Partridge about the songs we feature each week on MySpace. This week's song, "Then She Appeared," is from 1992's Nonsuch. (Kim continues to astound with her uncanny ability to guess each upcoming interview -- she's four for four so far. I've been badgering her for help with stock picks and lottery numbers, but, oracle-like, she sits silently, smiling, taunting me in my hour of need.)

We'll be back at in two weeks with an interview about a song that was written as a late single for what some people saw as an autumnal album. In the meantime, given that Halloween is on its way, you might want to check out the aptly named Monstrance!

TB: Let's talk about "Then She Appeared." The chorus on this one shares the same melody as "Goodbye Humanosaurus."

AP: There's a history to all this. It mutated after a while into "Humanosaurus" and then back again.

TB: I remember being surprised when you and I first talked about this, because I had thought that "Humanosaurus" came first.

AP: There used to be a beautiful magazine, very glossy, thick paper, about psychedelic music called Strange Things Are Happening, that contained cover-mount singles -- flexi-discs. It was run by a chap called Phil Smee. He came to interview us when the Dukes of Stratosphear stuff came out -- he was a big fan, because he loves that kind of music. We stayed in touch after he interviewed us for the Dukes, and around about 1990, I was talking to him and I said, "How about I give you a double-sided flexi-disc that is two bands, ostensibly from the late '60s, that nobody's ever heard of?" And he thought that was a great idea!

So, on my little 8-track cassette recorder I did two songs by two different bands -- one song was "It's Snowing Angels," by a band that was a vague mix of The Lovin' Spoonful and Donovan, called "Choc Cigar Chief Champion." And the other side of the disc was to be a song called "Then She Appeared," by a group called "The Golden." I really love that name, actually -- The Golden. We should have done more stuff by them.

So I did these recordings at home, and sent them off to him, and he loved them. And then, lo and behold, the magazine folded through lack of funds, and they never came out! So I was stuck with these two recordings, not knowing what to do with them, because they'd been written in "a style of," if you know what I mean. The lyrics were intentionally psychedelically daft for "Then She Appeared" -- if you hear the demo on Fuzzy Warbles [Volume 2], that's the original song that I sent to him. You can hear that the lyrics are a little dafter.

I thought, "Well, this song isn't going to get done by us, because it's a sort of rejected Dukes-type song, so I'm going to nab that change that makes that 'I was a little frightened' section" for a song I was working on at the time called "Goodbye Humanosaurus," [available on Fuzzy Warbles, Vol. 3] because that works perfectly in that key -- it's in D as well. I figured I'd nab that bit of that now-redundant song, because I really liked that change and the melody that went with it.

So, I wrote this song called "Goodbye Humanosaurus," inserted the best chord and melody bits from "Then She Appeared," and then we duly rehearsed "Goodbye Humanosaurus" for the Nonsuch album, but I don't think Dave and Colin liked it much. We kicked it around in several different styles -- I remember thinking, "Well, if we were the Stones, we'd try it in a Blues-y style, we'd try it in a Country style, we'd try it in a Rock-and-Roll style," whatever. And so we tried it in an empty, throbbing, almost "Come Together" kind of way, and that didn't seem to work. Then we tried it faster and more Country-fied, and that didn't seem to work, either. And they didn't like it as that sort of slow, Folk-y thing that I had originally recorded, so it just didn't come to life, you know? I couldn't convince them to cover it. So it went back in the drawer.

So, when Gus Dudgeon came on board at the last second as producer for the Nonsuch album, he wanted to hear everything, demos of everything, so I mischievously put the track by Choc Cigar Chief Champion and the track by The Golden on the tape I sent him. And he said [mimics Dudgeon], "Oh, I love that song 'Then She Appeared'!" And I said, "Well, it's a bit of a joke really, Gus, because it was done for this psychedelic magazine, and it's kind of like the Dukes -- it's by this make-believe band called The Golden." [same voice] "Oh, no no, it's wonderful! I'll tell you what, that's one of your bloody singles -- you've got to do it!" He was so keen on that song that he convinced me that we should record it. I didn't want to record it! I don't think the band did either, because it was already kind of dead in the water.

He swore it was a single, and his enthusiasm just carried me along, and it was like "Okay, let's do it!" And the others said, "Well, if he really believes it's a single, let's do it." So I insisted on trying to tighten up the lyrics a little bit more, make them slightly less psychedelically daft.

So, basically, it was Gus pushing and pushing for it that got us to do it, but we never intended to record it. And then, when people got to hear the rejected "Goodbye Humanosaurus" on the fanclub cassette that came out after Nonsuch, they thought, "Well, they've plundered 'Then She Appeared' here," but no -- actually, "Then She Appeared" came first.

TB: It's funny to me that you say you tightened up the lyrics, because looking at the two versions, it seems to me that the lyrics for the album version are almost more psychedelic!

AP: But they're more -- I think they're just smarter. They've references to things that mean something to me, as well as puns and other stuff that I like.

TB: "All Edward leared..."

AP: Exactly. It's like [laughs], is Edward a city full of people, or a person, or everyone called Edward and they're leering at you because you just appeared there? I thought, also, Edward Lear -- yeah, he'd appreciate the nonsense kind of nonsense of that little couplet there. So, that was good. And the Phrygian cap -- that's an allusion to the symbol of France, who is Marianne, and that was my wife at the time...

TB: So, that was intentional?

AP: Oh yeah! I thought, I'll put her in a song -- she's the figure in the Phrygian cap. Who did the famous painting of them storming the barricades? She's coming over the barricades, holding a flag, and she's wearing the cap there -- bare-breasted, of course! [Outrageous Frrrench accent] "Oh, but of course! Can you just get your titties out for the lads?" [laughs] So yeah, that sort of symbol of France was Marianne, so I thought, "Okay, I'll put her in the song -- she'll be the figure in the Phrygian cap."

TB: And you've got "Catherine wheeled"...

AP: Yeah, that's another one. Not as good as "All Edward leared," though.

TB: "Hookah with my senses bubbled."

AP: Yeah, very Victorian! Very Victorian psychedelic.

TB: And, of course, you've got the title for the next album, as people said you tended to do back in those days.

AP: Yeah, with Apple Venus it was intentional, because someone had this theory -- which was actually wrong. For example, it's not "oranges and lemons" in the song -- it's "orange and lemon raincoats roll and tumble." And it's "nonesuch" as in "non-existent" -- "some nonesuch net holds me aloft." Not "nonsuch" as in "incomparable."

TB: But you're saying that on Apple Venus you did do it on purpose?

AP: On that one, because I'd read this theory that people had that we took all our album titles from the previous album. I thought, "Well, I'm going to do that, then! I'll plunder the phrase 'Apple Venus'."

TB: So, we can start a contest, then, if there is another XTC album, to see what lyric from Wasp Star that you'll lift for it?

AP: [chortles] Uh, "Buffalo Billion"! [laughs]

TB: "Stupidly Happy"! You'll be stupidly happy to be doing another album.

AP: No, it'll have to be something more obscure!

TB: "The Element Gets Hot."

AP: [laughs] Yeah, something like that. "Show You the Pin." There you go.

So, where were we? Lyrically, I tried to tighten things up a little, and make them a little smarter, with a few things that would make people kind of smile -- like, the idea of what appears. Well, the first photographic images on Fox Talbot's new gel that he'd invented -- they would have slowly appeared, you know? And I like the idea of mentioning Fox Talbot in a song.

TB: Oh, sure! He doesn't get mentioned nearly enough in popular music.

AP: He hung around near here -- I think it was Lacock where he lived. But yeah, there are not too many songs that Fox Talbot appears in, in our oeuvre.

TB: Let's talk about the music a little bit. Obviously, you had the demo already.

AP: Yeah, I suppose The Golden's version became the demo, to some extent. I mean, I tinkered with the lyrics but I still tried to keep true to the psychedelic roots, if you see what I mean, of the song.

I've made notes -- what have we got? We've got a fake Mellotron! We didn't take our Mellotron into the studio for the Nonsuch album, because I had a thing called a the E-mu Proteus, and I could put together a pretty convincing-sounding out-of-tune Mellotron. So we actually did with the Proteus, because [chuckles] I don't think we could fit the Mellotron in anyone's car!

TB: I'd always assumed that the flutes in the song were some kind of synth. But you were trying to emulate a Mellotron.

AP: Yeah, like a flute patch of something. But it was a sample or something in the emulator -- all you do is you mess up the tuning scale, so that it's not quite in tune with itself, because that sounds like a Mellotron. And then you take off any tail, so when you take off your hand, the sound just stops dead, and that's like a Mellotron as well. And then you've got it -- no decay, and it's out of tune with itself! It's going to sound like a Mellotron.

TB: And now, of course, you can just buy software. You have that, right?

AP: Yeah, I've got all the tapes on the virtual Mellotron.

TB: How about the guitars?

AP: Dave's playing the 12-string -- one of the chiming 12-strings, and I'm playing a very wiry, twangerous guitar [imitates part] -- that very repetitive pattern in D. I said it wasn't quite twangerous enough, and Dave Mattacks said, "Oh, I've got a sample of sitar in my bank of samples." We found one in D, and so it gets triggered off on the off-beats, along with my and Dave's guitar parts.

He actually had a very useful sample of a pig, that we used for "Crocodile."

TB: Really?

AP: Yeah, you know the grunting sound in the song? That's a sample of a pig.

TB: And Mattacks is doing that? Was he triggering it?

AP: He probably just played it, actually. He said, "Oh, I've got some samples," and in "Crocodile," near the end, you can hear this low grunting sound -- it's a sample of a pig, slowed down.

TB: Let's talk about the drums.

AP: I remember sitting with Dave Mattacks and talking about hip-hop-y kind of groovy rhythms that have certain accents, and we talked about whether we should actually program something, because I wanted something jumpy that would be a counterpoint to the guitar pattern. But he ended up doing it pretty much live, I think. He did it on a tom-tom.

TB: It's a tom? Whenever I've played along with this song, I've always done it on the kick drum

AP: No, I think it's a floor tom, all padded over, because it's got this little "whup." I've written here "buppabup." Because that's what it sounds like!

I think I'd heard it on, was it that Milli Vanilli record? You know the one?

TB: [laughing]

AP: Aw, c'mon, the poor fuckers -- he didn't need to kill himself!

TB: Oh, I didn't know about that!

AP: Oh yeah, one of them was so ashamed about giving the Grammy back, because they weren't even on that album. But, you know, that happens a lot in music. Should all The Monkees go and off themselves?

TB: Well, but it was pretty well-known that The Monkees were a manufactured band, but I also see what you were saying.

AP: That Milli Vanilli record was out by then, wasn't it? Because I remember that [sings] "buppabup buppabup Baby" thing on it -- that was the accent that I liked. I was trying to tell Dave Mattacks, that's the kind of thing I wanted, just to give this rather pedestrian-sounding thing a bit of jump, you know? He ended up just incorporating it into the kit. Of course, there's that backwards drumming on the beginning as well. Mattacks is like a groovy machine -- he's a very good player.

TB: Yep. Colin does some great bass stuff on this as well.

AP: But it's what's on the demo, I'm afraid.

TB: So he's playing your part?

AP: Pretty much, I think. He and Dave are singing backup throughout the song.

TB: Yep. During that descending guitar part, are they singing "la la"? Or "wah-wah-wah"?

AP: Oh, Jesus! Hard for me to remember. It's probably la's -- you know, that kind of rather fey Kinks-like kind of thing. Gus convinced me to move the backing vocals to a different place. If you hear the demo, they're in a totally different accent.

TB: So, anything else about this song?

AP: Yeah, it's not one of my favorites from this album, I've got to say. But Gus was convinced it was a single.

TB: I know lots of people who really love it. Do you think your feelings have to do with the fact that you know your original intent for it?

AP: Yeah -- to me, I'd already mentally thrown it away, you see. And then to have someone rave about it so much, you're like, "Oh, Jesus, maybe I'm insane. Maybe we really should record this."

TB: Yeah, "there's something here that even I didn't see."

AP: Yeah. And maybe that's true, because a lot of people seem to like it. But I'd already filed it as failure and thrown it away.

TB: Listening to it now, do you feel like you realized something out of it, with his help, and with the full band playing on it...

AP: I think Mattacks' solid drumming helps it, and it's quite tastefully arranged. There never seems to be too much playing. The sounds sort of exchange -- there's the backwards drumming, and then, when the forward drumming kicks in, it's between those holes, or it takes over, or it exchanges with that. The guitars have got that constant D ringing on the off-beat, but there is other stuff that fills in the little stuff around that. It just seems nicely arranged.

And although the lyrics are 100 percent silly, it does seem charming. Again, I haven't heard it for a long time, and I played it this afternoon, and thought, "I wouldn't hold it up there as one of my top 20 songs, but I think it has a charm."

TB: And, you know, you say the lyrics are silly, but I'd call them playful.

AP: Okay.

TB: They're not silly in an annoying way.

AP: No, they're good-natured silly. Likeably silly [pauses, then sings "likeably silly" to the tune of "Stupidly Happy," then laughs]. There's the follow-up!

TB: [producer voice] That's great, baby!

AP: [laughs] So, hang on, we've got "I'm Henry the Eighth" -- can you do "I'm Johnny the Ninth"? And then follow that with "I'm Tony the Eleventh"!

6:53 PM

©2007 by Todd Bernhardt and Andy Partridge. All Rights Reserved.