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From: chalkhills-request@presto.ig.com
To: chalkhills@presto.ig.com
Subject: Chalkhills #267


                  Chalkhills, Number 267

                  Tuesday, 16 March 1993
Today's Topics:
                 Rearranging _SkyLarking_
               Dear God vs. Mermaid Smiled
         James' Restructuring of "Skylarking..."
                    Another Satellite
                      no no no no no
                  Be Rundgren-for-a-Day!
                  Help with some chords
           Re: The Great Skylarking Controversy
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Subject: Rearranging _SkyLarking_
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 93 12:31:56 +0100
From: Christopher Lishka <lishka@uxuw04.cern.ch>

Although I usually sit back and simply read the ramblings in this
group, for once I feel I have to share my views.

In my humble opinion, the rearrangements proposed for _Skylarking_ are
nonsense.  For me, this album is XTC's only "perfect" work, a CD that
flows together from the beautiful first words of "Drowning here in
Summer's cauldron..." to the lovely reflective chorus of "Sacrificial
Bonfire."

Replacing songs like "Earn Enough for Us", "Another Satellite", and
"Sacrificial Bonfire" simply destroys the mood of _Skylarking_, that
of a Summer day spent laying on the grass thinking about life and all
its inconsistencies.  The mix is perfect, from laziness to love to
hellish-work to questioning religion to thoughts on death to change.
The songs flow all the way through.  For me, there are few other
albums that evoke such strong moods: _Skylarking_ always reminds me of
the pleasures of Summer, the soundtrack to _Cal_ always brings to mind
the love and longing of that film, Midnight Oil's _Diesel and Dust_
always brings to mind protest and rebellion of a race that is being
crowded out by "moderns".

The only butchery I have done to _Skylarking_ is to remove a song so I
could fit it on a 45 minute cassette.  Which song?  _Big Day_, which
for me is the one that doesn't quite fit.  _Skylarking_ works
wonderfully both with and without it, IMHO.

Personally, I feel that XTC has never come as close to producing a CD
that flows so well.  Parts of _The Big Express_ come close.  _English
Settlement_ fits together fairly well but puts me to sleep too(!).
_Mummer_ gets very close, but somehow jerks around a bit too much for
my taste (ending with "Funk Pop a Roll" is too jarring for my ears).
Maybe the closest to the flow of _Skylarking_ is the Dukes of
Stratosphear CD (_Chips from the Chocolate Fireball_?), which although
jumping all over the place maintains an odd consistency that has
really grown on me.

As for "perfect" albums (and "perfect" album sides), for me there are
relatively few: side two of the Beatles' _Abbey Road_, side one of
Talking Heads' _Naked_, side one of Kate Bush's _The Dreaming_, all of
Tom Waits' _Swordfish Trombones_, and all of XTC's _Skylarking_.  So I
humbly say "Leave _Skylarking_ alone!"
                                                .oO Chris Oo.

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Date: Thu, 11 Mar 93 06:26:18 PST
From: 11-Mar-1993 0904 <wilson@pharos.enet.dec.com>
Subject: Dear God vs. Mermaid Smiled

Ah...one of my favorite subjects: the "Mermaid Smiled"/"Dear God"
controversy.

Let me say up front that "Dear God", although one of XTC's better
known songs, is one of my least favorite. "Mermaid Smiled" is
superior musically, IMO, and I detest Geffen for removing it
>from the album to insert "Dear God."

See, what happened was this: a single was released in the UK and
in Canada, with "Dear God" on the B-side, and as copies began
to filter into the U.S. college radio market, what got played
was "Dear God" instead of the A-side (I think it was "Grass").

Now, get serious - when you think of "Skylarking," do you think of a
song like "Dear God"? It's one of the ironies of XTC's career
that "Dear God" became the Big Hit from an album that was intended
to be mainly a Summery, Beach Boys type affair, with overtones of
the recently defunct Dukes of Stratosphear.

"Mermaid Smiled" is essential for Side 2 because this side is
somber; it's the down side of the cycle. MS perks up Side 2.

If you buy the non-U.S. version of "Skylarking," you get "Mermaid
Smiled." (If you buy the Canadian CD, you get both "Mermaid
Smiled" and "Dear God.")

I won't deny that "Dear God" fits in the "cycle" that Todd envisioned,
but so does "Mermaid Smiled." Besides, the Everyman in Skylarking
already took his cut at religion in "Season Cycle": "Everybody
says join our religion, get to Heaven/I say 'No, thanks, why
Bless my Soul! I'm already there." For me, this is enough.
"Mermaid Smiled" talks about the loss of childhood wonder,
a much more interesting topic than the "there is no God"
argument. (I bet after "Skylarking," Andy felt "There is no
Todd!") :-)

The original intent of "Skylarking" is to have "Mermaid Smiled"
instead of "Dear God." The decision to put "Dear God" in MS's
place was a Geffen profit move...there was nothing artistic
about it.

Regarding the comment about "Sacrificial Bonfire" being unnecessary
(or something like that) - no way! This song is essential to
complete the cycle (from birth to death, from Spring to Winter,
or whatever). "Dying" is too somber; one wonder if this is
really the end? But, in fire, Colin claims, there is a kind of
pagan rebirth from the ashes and a purging of evil, a necessary
step for life to exist - death. So, even in death, life can go on.

Well, that's my take on it. Feel free to disagree!

Wes

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From: Wallowing in My Own Obscenity <Christian@unh.edu>
Subject: James' Restructuring of "Skylarking..."
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1993 11:48:10 -0500 (EST)

James, I agreed with some of what you said, but I'd like to discuss a few
points further...

|        VOORHEES@nsula.edu is totally right about 'Dear God'.  However I
|do think that 'Mermaid Smiled' is one of the most gorgeous songs XTC has ever
|recorded.  SO, I propose the following changes to "Skylarking" that are
|definitely needed.

|--Leave the first seven songs alone.  They are as perfect a side of
|an album as XTC has had.  (Sorry Engligh Settlement side 2 fans!)

Agreed.  The way that "Ballet " fades into "1000 Umbrellas" and then into
"Season Cycle" is flawless and achingly beautiful.  This is without doubt
my favorite transition in any XTC album, although the entrance to "Snowman"
on "English Settlement" is the most orgasmic.

|--Replace 'Earn Enough For Us' with 'Extrovert'.  If Andy really felt
|that 'Sgt. Rock' was the most disposable song he had ever written,
|he must have forgotten he had ever written this one.  'Extrovert',
|however, is truly unique.  And, really deserved a place on this
|album.

I kinda liked "Earn Enough for Us."  But I've always been a sucker
for Andy's industrial woe songs ("Notes and Coins" in particular).  I'd
leave this where it is, and even though I have it on CD, I can see that it's
a good entrance for the second side of a tape or record...

|--Leave 'Big Day' where its at.

Replace "Big Day" with "Extrovert."  I HATE this song.  Colin's such a whiny
second-rater, and this song is nothing but disappointing after the first side.
The lyrics are surpassed in corniness only by a few Rush songs and Colin's
other great lyric failure, "Smartest Monkeys."

|--Replace 'Another Satellite' with 'Mermaid Smiled'.  After reading
|Chris Twomey's book and hearing that both Andy and the Virgin A&R
|guy made a big push for this song, I was really puzzled.  Does
|anybody really see much in this song?  I really think it brings the
|proceedings to a screeching halt!  As previously stated, 'Mermaid
|Smiled' is a great addition.

I don't understand why you'd want to change this song.  It's mournful, echoey,
soulful, everything that I like about XTC on "Big Express" or "Black Sea."
Plus, I like the metaphors Andy comes up with.  Actually, this is one of
the songs I played over and over again when I bought the album.  I even like
the transition from "Big Day" to "Satellite," although I think with
"Extrovert" in the former spot, I'd want something else to buffer it.  Maybe
"Mermaid Smiled," since that sort of skirts the border between sadness and
the exuberance of "Extrovert."

|--Keep 'The Man...', 'Dear God' and 'Dying' where they are.
|--Dump 'Sacrificial Bonfire'.  If the wonderful Todd Rundgren had
|wanted a cyclical record, why didn't he just end with a "death"
|song?  Anyways, its tough on the ears listening to Colin grovel
|through two depressing songs in a row.

How about dumping "Dying," and sticking in "Sacrificial Bonfire?"  I find
Colin's nasal inanities a little more tolerable in "Bonfire," and I think it's
a stronger song than "Dying."

|There now, that line up would have won a grammy, huh?  O.K. I know
|there will be dissention about this.  So, as a defense I ask for those,
|like me, who have always had a rough time getting through the second side
|to speak up.

This isn't really a criticism.  I like some of what you've done here.  A lot,
actually.  It's just now how _I_ would've gone about it.

--
Christian Longshore Claiborn -=- christian@unh.edu
"No one wants advice--only corroboration." -- John Steinbeck

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From: treefrog@netcom.com (An Earthling...Really!)
Subject: Another Satellite
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 93 18:32:25 PST

I know, opinions are opinions, and I'm not writing this to
"argue" about whether Another Satellite's any good or not.
But, since, someone asked, YES, I think Another Satellite
is a fantastic song, definitely among my favorites on Skylarking.
Far from bringing the album to a screeching halt, I think the
song is positively sublime.

In fact, it's one of the two songs I chose to cover for that
Chalkhills XTC cover tape, whatever happened to that. :)

I was already in love with Satellite, and really all the other
tracks on Skylarking, but then I heard the pseudo-live version
of it on Rag&Bone and just flipped.  I actually prefer the
studio one, but somehow the beauty of the live one called my
attention more closely to the song.

Just me.
peace
edward
--
treefrog@netcom.COM
"Bungalow, bungalow, by the sea." - C. Moulding, XTC

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From: Jon Allen <jon@unx.sas.com>
Subject: no no no no no
Date: Sun, 14 Mar 1993 13:18:30 -0500 (EST)

> From: jrcampbe@mines.utah.edu (James Robert Campbell)
> Subject: Skylarking Controversy cont...
>
>         --Replace 'Earn Enough For Us' with 'Extrovert'.  If Andy really felt
>           that 'Sgt. Rock' was the most disposable song he had ever written,
>           he must have forgotten he had ever written this one.
>
Hmmm, just a guess, but I'll bet you're not a husband or father. Or maybe you
are, and independently wealthy too. Or maybe you're the Spirit of Christmas
Past. I may be completely off the mark, and shouldn't speculate about others,
but I can definitely get something out of this song. And the music's not bad,
either.

>         --Replace 'Another Satellite' with 'Mermaid Smiled'.  After reading
>           Chris Twomey's book and hearing that both Andy and the Virgin A&R
>           guy made a big push for this song, I was really puzzled.  Does
>           anybody really see much in this song?  I really think it brings the
>           proceedings to a screeching halt!

If Micheal J. Fox is the anti-Elvis, then I must be the anti-James Robert
Campbell! I _love_ 'Another Satellite'! But then, I have a fondness for most of
the "weird" AP songs - Millions, That Wave, and I even like Travels in Nihilon!
So there.

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Date:    Sun, 14 Mar 1993 21:19:17 -0600 (CST)
From: VOORHEES@nsula.edu
Subject: Be Rundgren-for-a-Day!

Hi Chalkies!
        Thanks for all the great response on my tedious
Skylarking question.  I've now decided that the lucky
Canadians have the real authentic version of the album
(and the song cycle) with both "Mermaid Smiled" AND "Dear
God". Byoo-tiful!
        Now I would like to propose an informal competition
(that's really the wrong word, since I won't choose
favorites and I have no prizes) for the real know all XTC
fans.  Here's the scenario:
        Andy (yes, THE Andy) walks up to you on the street
one amazing day and says, "Gee whiz,(your name here), I've
been looking everywhere for you.  Those annoying Virgin
people have been getting up my nose for a new best-of
collection.  I told them we'd done greatest hits out the
arse (a little Brit-lingo there for the purists), and they
said they didn't care, they just wanted to release another
record without having to pay for more studio time.  Then
Colin (yes, THE Colin) had a brilliant idea of compiling
another song-cycle and calling it "Skylarking II" or
"Son of Skylarking" or perhaps even "Skylarkings".  I thought
it was a great concept, but said "Col, we need our precious
time to hole up in Swindon and be brilliant!  We can't
waste it assembling another song-cycle.  And who else knows
our repertoire well enough to do it?"  And Colin said,
"Well, what about good old (your name here)?" Isn't that
great?  I mean we can't PAY you or anything, but I'll
let you ride our horse, and write a song called "(Your
Name Here) High On Poppy".  Good enough?
        Well, fanboy, do you accept the challenge to
become Rundgren for a day?  The entire XTC songlist is
available for pilfering (Yes, even "Travels in Nihilon.").
Just concoct, if you dare, a coherent set of songs, maybe
an album title, whatever.  Come on, everybody! Let's waste
valuable disk space! Yeehah!
                                John Voorhees
"She has six swans singing in her sau-na!"

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From: schrey@vfl.paramax.com
Subject: Help with some chords
Date: Mon, 15 Mar 93 11:57:10 EST

  Help!

  The band I work sound for has just added an acoustic version
  of themselves.  Once fine piece targetted for the acoustic
  project is "Dear God".  The guitarist is doing his mightiest
  to work it all out by ear but suspects that a different tuning
  is being used.  If anyone knows if this is true, what the tuning
  is, or anything else (helpful or not!), please let me know.
  E-mail might be quicker.

  I've got the band (name of Modern Day Pharaohs) playing a bunch
  of XTC nowadays including:
     Mayor of Simpleton, Senses Working Overtime,
     Are You Receiving Me?, Optimism's Flames (rarely),
     Respectable Street (of course)
  and now they are adding:
     Earn Enough For Us and Dear God
  I'm loving every minute of it.  (I usually get a dedication for them
  too being the XTC activist that I am!:-)

       Tim

  P.S. Whatever happened to _This_Is_Not!_, the Chalkhills tribute
       tape?  Is it still in production?
--
 Timothy M. Schreyer                         schrey@vfl.paramax.com
 Software Technology R&D                     (215) 648-2475
 Paramax Systems Corporation                 FAX: (215) 648-2288
 PO Box 517, Paoli, PA 19301

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Date: Tue, 16 Mar 93 11:32:22 PST
From: "John M. Relph" <relph@presto.ig.com>
Subject: Re: The Great Skylarking Controversy

jrcampbe@mines.utah.edu (James Robert Campbell), Skylarking again:
>
>        --Replace 'Earn Enough For Us' with 'Extrovert'.  If Andy really felt
>          that 'Sgt. Rock' was the most disposable song he had ever written,
>          he must have forgotten he had ever written this one.  'Extrovert',
>          however, is truly unique.  And, really deserved a place on this
>          album.

Oh!  Say it isn't so!

"Extrovert" is a great song, but it belongs on _Skylarking_ like I
need another hole in me 'ead.

"Earn Enough For Us" is a great! song.  It fits in perfectly with "Big
Day" and "The Meeting Place".  In "The Meeting Place", the couple are
getting together in the woods for a little frolic.  They get married
in "Big Day".  And now, the reality of life as an adult hits in "Earn
Enough For Us" as she gets pregnant, he's working multiple jobs, and
they're just trying to be happy, fed, clothed, and sheltered.  And the
ending is pure Beatles.

>        --Replace 'Another Satellite' with 'Mermaid Smiled'.  After reading
>          Chris Twomey's book and hearing that both Andy and the Virgin A&R
>          guy made a big push for this song, I was really puzzled.  Does
>          anybody really see much in this song?  I really think it brings the
>          proceedings to a screeching halt!  As previously stated, 'Mermaid
>          Smiled' is a great addition.

Well, I can see arguments for all three choices:

1. "Another Satellite", "Mermaid Smiled", no "Dear God".  "Another
   Satellite" fits in with the growing up and staying married theme,
   as the hubby has a little fling.  Well, perhaps it is not carried
   out, but there is someone else who is vying for his attentions.  He
   denies her affections, but still has to deal with the temptation.
   "Mermaid Smiled", as one reader points out, concerns the loss (and
   regaining?) of childhood innocence.  "Dear God" interrupts the
   flow, being too much of a diatribe.

2. "Another Satellite", no "Mermaid Smiled", add "Dear God".  Well,
   actually, my argument for this consists only of the fact that the
   record company thought they could make more money this way.

   Other readers have other opinions.  For example, "Dear God" fits in
   with "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" as another song
   concerning the protagonist's struggle with morality, their own
   soul-searching and coming to grips with faith and soul.  "Mermaid
   Smiled" is a strange throw-away tune that doesn't necessarily fit
   in with the theme.

3. "Mermaid Smiled", "Dear God", no "Another Satellite".  "Another
   Satellite" is too electronic, and doesn't fit in with the more
   pastoral bent of the album.  "Dear God" fits in with "The Man Who
   Sailed Around His Soul".  "Mermaid Smiled" also fits in with "The
   Man Who Sailed Around His Soul", in that they both discuss
   ramifications of growing up.

Personally, I prefer the original lineup, that is to say, choice (1)
above.  I think "Dear God" is terribly out of place.  It's a great
song, as is "Extrovert", but it just doesn't quite fit.  And I
especially despise the segue between "Dear God" and "Dying".  The
clock ticks over the fadeout of "Dear God" annoy me no end.

>        --Dump 'Sacrificial Bonfire'.  If the wonderful Todd Rundgren had
>          wanted a cyclical record, why didn't he just end with a "death"
>          song?  Anyways, its tough on the ears listening to Colin grovel
>          through two depressing songs in a row.

Quite the opposite!  "Sacrificial Bonfire" captures the true nature of
the cycle of death and rebirth, in describing an old pagan ritual.  I
think it is also very English, although sacrifice was carried out the
world over.  (No pun intended.)  If the album just ended with "Dying",
you probably wouldn't remember that in death is life, the decay of
death fertilises the soil (and the soul, as I accidentally typed
first), readying it for spring's rebirth.  "Sacrificial Bonfire"
brings the cycle back to the start, reminding you to put the needle
back on Side One.  Put the CD on repeat.  Although it might be fun to
stick "Garden of Earthly Delights" in between "Sacrificial Bonfire"
and "Summer's Cauldron".  I think it might work!

        -- John

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