Precedence: bulk
Subject: Chalkhills #67

                  Chalkhills, Number 67

                 Friday, 17 November 1989
Today's Topics:
                 Re: Songs about England
         Re:  The O&L Debate, One More Time =B^)
               The Arguers (re: O&L Debate)
                   Chalkhills Survey #1

Date: Thu, 16 Nov 1989 9:52:45 PST
From: John M. Relph <>
Subject: Re: Songs about England

Ben Zimmer <ZIMBENG@yalevm.bitnet> sez:
>I was just thinking... Andy and Colin write quite a few songs mentioning
>England and the like.  Those that I can think of:
>Living Through Another Cuba ("the bulldog"), Towers of London, Paper and Iron
>("the unicorn and lion"), Senses Working Overtime, English Roundabout, Desert
>Island, In Loving Memory of A Name, This World Over (London), Red Brick Dream
>(Swindon), I Bought Myself A Liarbird ("an average English summer/winter's
>afternoon"), When We Get to England...
>Any others?

The most British song I can think of has got to be "Desert Island".
"Find the Fox" is also very British, which is one reason (Colin and/or
Andy said somewhere, I'll have to look it up) that it didn't make it
onto _Skylarking_.

_The Big Express_: "Smalltown", although it could be any blue collar
industrial city.

_Black Sea_: "No Language in Our Lungs" uses imagery from The

_Psonic Psunspot_: "You're a Good Man Albert Brown" can't be fully
understood (in my opinion) without a working knowledge of the British
attitude towards their own fallen empire and their glory days in World
War II (not to mention drinking).  "Shiny Cage" is full of English
imagery and language.  "The Affiliated" is all about English
members-only clubs, darts, reading the "Evening Standard" (a tabloid
also mentioned in the Pink Floyd song "Apples and Oranges" I believe).

_Drums and Wires_: "Making Plans for Nigel" is very British
(considering that it's all about Colin's childhood).  "Real by Reel"
seems to refer to George Orwell's _1984_ (Big Brother is watching
you), as does "Mole from the Ministry".

And of course most of _English Settlement_.

The list goes on.  Yes, many (if not most) of XTC's songs are very
English.  Sometimes it's outlook and attitude, sometimes it's the
situation.  What keeps them interesting is that the songs aren't
always so narrow in scope that they have no relevance to other
situations.  They can apply to many peoples' situations all over the

>  Plus, America is always portrayed negatively (Another Cuba,
>Reign of Blows, Pres. Kill Again, etc.).

I don't think these songs necessarily protray America negatively in
particular, and in fact they tend to draw parallels between the U.S.,
the U.K., and the U.S.S.R.

"Here Comes President Kill Again":

    Here comes President Kill again.  Broadcasting from his killing den.
    Dressed in pounds and dollars and yen, President Kill wants killing

I would think that, yes, "Broadcasting from his killing den" makes
direct reference to the Fireside Chat broadcasts, but could also refer
to Churchill's broadcasts.  And of course, "pounds and dollars and
yen" does not refer only to the U.S.

    Here comes President Kill again, from pure White House to Number 10.

Britain and the U.S. (actually, British and Americans alike) are
protrayed as equals in this regard.  No country is immune from the
illusion of democracy:

    I'll bet you can't wait, to vote for President Kill instead...

"Reign of Blows":

    Decked out in blue, white, and red

Notice Andy didn't say "red, white and blue" -- the colours are the
same on the U.S. flag, the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, etc.

    And by the half light of burning republics
    Joe Stalin looks just like Uncle Sam

In the shadowed world created by the torturers, without the
illumination of freedom, it becomes impossible to tell the difference
between the oppressors (ostensibly Stalin in this case) and the
apparent saviours (Uncle Sam).  (Not to say that I believe that Good
Ol' Uncle Sam is actually helping the underdogs.)

In general, I think the U.S., the U.K., and other countries are
portrayed equally negatively, but there is also the acknowledgement
that no matter how bad they might be, one still has some love for
one's country (for example, "Desert Island").

However, the U.S. is definitely portrayed negatively in "Melt the

    I'm speaking to the Justice League of America, the U.S. of
    A., hey you yes you in particular!  When it comes to the
    judgement day and you're stood at the gates with your
    weaponry you dare clasp your hands in prayer and start
    quoting me 'cos we say....  Our Father we've managed to
    contain the epidemic in one place now.  Let's hope they
    shoot themselves instead of others help to sterilize the
    race now.  We've trapped the cause of the plague in the
    land of the free and the home of the brave.  If we listen
    quietly we can hear them shooting from grave to grave.

	-- John


Date: Thu, 16 Nov 89 11:36:15 PST
From: (Duane Day, I.R. - Applications Development)
Subject: Re:  The O&L Debate, One More Time =B^)

>From: (Karl MacRae - Like a New Town Animal in a
>      Furnished Cage)
>Geez, I thought I was done with this arguement in this forum!
>I took it up on usenet, but John had to bring it back here....
>Ok, here we go; Duane, you listenin'?


>>> [Karl:] This is the Andy that said goodbye with 'Funk Pop A Roll';
>>> He's sold out; he'd made his artistic contribution to the world,
>>> and now just wants to get paid.

Might well be the way he was feeling at that point in time, but I think
most of _Big Express_, some of _Skylarking_ and much of _O&L_ shows that
he changed his mind.  "Summer's Cauldron", for instance, doesn't sound
to me like an attempt to grab big bucks.  The same can be said for
"Scarecrow People" or "Across This Antheap" or "Poor Skeleton Steps Out".

> [still Karl:] I don't mean 'Funk Pop a Roll' is selling out;


> It's one of Andy's single greatest lyrics; all the bile and bitterness,
> and all the the lyrical cleverness that are his signature. What I mean is
> that it's Andy's goodbye to those of us who've been his fans. It's right
> there in the end of the song:
>	"But please don't listen to me; I've already been poisoned
>	by this industry"
>Then, as the song fades out:
>		"...Bye Bye!"

I kind of like this theory, but again, it regards his state of mind at the
time "Funk Pop a Roll" was written and/or recorded.  (It is not inconceivable
that the "Bye Bye" was one of those great little spur-of-the-moment riffs
that good singers come up with while recording the vocals for fade-outs and
endings.  If there is a demo tape in existence, I'd be interested in hearing
if the "Bye Bye" was included.)

> Obviously, Big Express is the flaw in this theory; all I can come up with
> come up with is that Andy had a few more songs in him, or really just
> hadn't learned how to sell out yet [...]

I prefer to think that he decided not to "sell out" in general, at least
while making _Big Express_.  It's certainly established that he was under
pressure from Virgin to come up with "hits", but I don't hear on _Big
Express_ any sudden conformance to formula.  There are improvements (to my
ears, anyway) in the production values from _Mummer_ to _Big Express_, but
the _Big Express_ songs are a very uncompromising lot indeed.

>> [John Relph:] _Oranges and Lemons_?  Yeah.  I think it suffers from the
>> "you guys are great" syndrome.  The producer, Paul Fox, didn't have the
>> balls to tell XTC when they had gone too far and when their songs were
>> cheese.

> [Karl:] No, I think you got that backwards; Fox declawed the songs and
> prettied everything up; he gave it a big, LA sound. You can feel his
> hand all over the thing; it's just so fucking american.

Judging by the interviews I've read and heard, I'd say that *to the degree
_O&L_ is cheese*, John's explanation is the more likely of the two.  If Andy
thought to any degree that Fox had cheesed up the album, we'd have read
about it in print.  (Witness the flood of scathing Rundgren put-downs that
Andy has made publicly - although according to _Rolling Stone_, Andy is now
grudgingly acknowledging that Todd did some good work on _Skylarking_.)  The
impression that I've gotten from the _O&L_ interviews is that the band was
largely in control, or at least jointly involved in all of the important

As to the "it's so fucking american" - I don't get it.  The most American
elements I hear are the jazz influence (in "Miniature Sun" particularly,
and I suppose the trumpet part in "Across This Antheap") and the emergence
of David Gregory in a more traditional lead guitar role ("Merely a Man".)
And even the latter isn't particularly American, as it alludes as much to
British guitar heroes as to American ones.

> It's like an LA producer's vision of what a late 60's english pop group
> should sound; like he wanted to make another Dukes record.

I think it's a fact that what's left of the Dukes will be intermingled
with the work released as XTC.  I don't know that this is necessarily a
bad thing; probably the most Dukes-ish track on _O&L_ is "Chalkhills and
Children" and I find it to be a truly haunting song, and a fine choice
to close the album.

> The thing just makes me depressed and nauseous every time
> I listen to it. I try; I read people's positive
> reviews and look for all these clever, wonderfull things
> in the songs. But It's just not a very good record, from
> any angle you look at it. The only way I can even tolerate it
> is to edit it down to only the few decent songs and pretend
> it's a collection of leftovers that wern't good enough to
> make 'Dukes'...

Well, here's where we get into matters of opinion.  My opinion is that
although there's one song which makes me cringe a little ("The Loving"),
on the whole it's a great album.  As far as clever, wonderful things
are concerned, I hear them in the lyrics of practically every song, and
I find a lot of their new musical twists clever and wonderful.  I still
think that "Scarecrow People" is perhaps the best song of the year, both
musically and lyrically.

Rather than once again trot out a complete list of everything I like about
_O&L_, however, I'd like to present my theory of why so many long-term fans
are so bitterly disappointed in this album:  it's because Andy's no longer
miserable all of the time!  This album reflects a growing awareness that
there is hope and joy to be found, even in a world which one perceives is,
in general, going to the dogs.  Sometimes, amused sarcasm can be a healthier
response to the stupidity around us than bile and bitterness, and sometimes
life provides us with opportunities for transcendent happiness - even when
we find ourselves surrounded by the laughable and the insane.  Obviously,
parenthood has had a profound impact on Andy's outlook.  I think the relative
success of _Skylarking_ might have also eased his frustrations somewhat.
In this respect, I find the changes between the earlier albums and _O&L_ to
be reflective of positive personal growth, and as such I tend not to resent
the increased optimism as much as some other long-term fans - especially
when there are songs such as "Scarecrow People" and "Across This Antheap"
to remind us that Andy hasn't suddenly decided that all is wonderful with
the world.

************************ |UUCP: {hplabs,decwrl,<others>}!sun!thismoment!duane
  but one of the choices | COM:
turns existence into art |ARPA:
************************ |USPS: 2550 Garcia Ave. M/S M3-76, Mtn. View CA 94042


From: sco!
Subject: The Arguers (re: O&L Debate)
Date: Thu Nov 16 12:50:30 1989

First (well, not first, exactly) John Relph said:

>>_Oranges and Lemons_?  Yeah.  I think it suffers from the "you guys
>>are great" syndrome.  The producer, Paul Fox, didn't have the balls to
>>tell XTC when they had gone too far and when their songs were cheese.

To which Karl (batman) MacRae replied:

>        No, I think you got that backwards; Fox declawed the songs and
>prettied everything up; he gave it a big, LA sound. You can feel his
>hand all over the thing; it's just so fucking american.

If that were the case, though, you'd expect the demos to be tougher than
the stuff on the album, right?  They were never declawed.  However, that
isn't the case (at least not with the only ones I've heard:  "Living in
a Haunted Heart" and "The Good Things" from the "Mayor of Simpleton"
single).  In fact, aside from obviously vast differences in the _amount_
of production, I think these songs would fit pretty well on O&L.

Any comments from lucky devils who've heard any of the other demos?

-- Stewart


Date: Fri, 17 Nov 1989 16:42:55 PST
From: John M. Relph <>
Subject: Chalkhills Survey #1

It's halfway through the month of November, and the end of the survey
period is coming up soon!  Remember, all survey responses must be sent
to <> BEFORE 1 December 1989.  Only 12
people have sent in their responses and there are at least 126 people
receiving Chalkhills.  I suppose a ten percent response rate is pretty
good, but I think we can do better!  C'mon, get your responses in the
mail today!

If you wish to get another copy of the Survey questions (or if you
missed them the first time out) please send a message to
chalkhills-request and we'll send them to you by return mail.

Now back to our regularly scheduled Chalkhills...

	-- John


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