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From: chalkhills-request@presto.ig.com
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Subject: Chalkhills #98


                  Chalkhills, Number 98

                   Monday, 18 June 1990
Today's Topics:
                    References to XTC
                  Re: Proving Liz wrong
           Re: But what about the Big Express?
                       XTC's best?
                         Touring?
                     Firsts and lasts
                  Faves and Not-So-Faves
                    Various and Sundry
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Date: Fri, 15 Jun 1990 13:38:52 PDT
From: John M. Relph <relph@presto.ig.com>
Subject: References to XTC

I was leafing through a new book, _U2: The Early Days_ by
Bill Graham (not the San Francisco impresario), and I
noticed that XTC is mentioned twice within its pages.
Here are two excerpts, transcribed without permission:

      But that dire, dreadfully unpunky name, the Hype, had
    to go -- especially since, in March '78, the band were
    planning their first step up the local ladder.  They
    entered a Limerick talent contest, co-sponsored by Harp
    Lager and CBS, for which the first prize would be 500
    pounds -- useful money to any band in '78 -- and a demo
    session funded by CBS.

      Adam favoured XTC as a model, since the Swindon band's
    name was both simple and versatile.  Steve [Averill]
    suggested U2, but though an early favourite it was by no
    means a foregone conclusion.  Because they were still in
    school, the Blazers, the joke name on Steve's list, might
    be equally apt.  But it was U2 who played and won at
    Limerick, their closest competition an older Dublin R & B
    band, the East Coast Angels.

                         -------

      ... other new Dublin bands emerging alongside U2 and
    the Prunes.

      The Blades, led by Paul Cleary, knit the influences of
    the Jam and Elvis Costello with stringing harmonies and
    the scene's most danceable rhythm section.  D.C. Nien
    were a raw relative of Ultravox whose bludgeoning
    rhythmic power wasn't always matched with compensating
    melodic grace.  Slightly older than the rest, the Atrix
    were a jerky keyboard group, sometimes derivative of XTC,
    yet capable of a stridently moody Continental circus
    atmosphere at their best.

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Date: Fri, 15 Jun 90 14:24:57 PDT
From: batman@ebay.sun.com (Life is a short warm romance, and Death is a long cold rest...)
Subject: Re: Proving Liz wrong

>From: stewarte@sco.com
>
>>From: eboneste@bbn.com
>>
>>I think Go 2 is worth the effort; but then, I think I'm the only
>>person on this list who likes White Music better than Go 2 (somebody
>>prove me wrong!), so you probably don't want to listen to me.
>
>Okay, I'm proving you wrong.  I like White Music better than Go 2.
>In fact, Go 2 is probably my least favorite album.  Despite that,
>I think Go 2 is worth the effort, too; but less worth the effort
>than their other albums.

	I also like White Music better... Though I thing Go2 is
	ALSO a work of genius. I just like the slightly rawer edge on
	White Music.

>>I, too, am puzzled by the apparent majority's dislike of O&L.  It's
>>probably because it followed a great album, Skylarking, and critics
>>have a difficult time admitting that a group did two great albums in
>>a row.  The usual complaint against O&L was that it was overproduced,
>>and critics cite the "reverb" in the lyric to Mayor of Simpleton:

	NAh, the real critics cite the fact that, though O&L *is*
	good record, O&L is **NOT** a good XTC record. The songwriting
	is banal, the production style is not just heavy handed, but
	totally wrong for XTC. It's like XTC doing a Dukes style
	satire of a stupid L.A. pop band.

	It's *way* too long; the few really decent songs are
	sandwiched between stuff that, a few years ago, wouldn't
	have made the record.

>I have to agree with Liz'
>comment that there's just too much stuff on it.  By the time it's over,
>I'm tired of it, instead of thinking "what a great album".

	Exactly right. A sad, sad thing to say about an XTC album.

	The years of making great records that never made any mony
	have finally gotten to these guys. They found that they could
	play to the lowest common denominator and make money. And
	they're doing it. I hold a faint hope that they can still
	make the record that they're capable of, but it happens, I
	will be surprised.

	At this point, I think of XTC as as an ex-band.

	God, I hope I'm wrong.

		-Karl
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
         Karl MacRae                        batman@batcave.Ebay.sun.com
         Sun Microsystems, Milpitas, Ca. (The armpit of Silicon Valley)
         1550 Buckeye, Milpitas, CA 95035 Mailstop M21-25 (408)922-4996
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
   "Funk Pop a Roll consumes you whole; gulping up your opium
     so copiously from a disco; everything you eat is waste-
      But swallowing is easy when it has no taste!"
	XTC, 'Funk Pop a Roll'
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

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Date: Fri, 15 Jun 90 18:27:26 -0400
From: How Gone Is Ron <jsd@gaffa.mit.edu>
Subject: Re: But what about the Big Express?

John White - you are not alone.  The Big Express is probably my all
time favorite XTC album.  I can just keep coming back to it again and
again and never find it dull.  The heavy rhythm that initially turned
you off is probably what makes it so appealing for me.

/j/

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Date:         Sat, 16 Jun 90 03:18:32 EDT
From: PRESTON@morekypr.bitnet
Subject:      XTC's best?

     Hello again,

     Just thought I'd add my 7 cents worth to the discussion about _O&L_, etc.

     I too discovered XTC from a couple of videos from _Drums and Wires_...
  "Making Plans for Nigel" and "Life Begins at the Hop".  Although this was
  my first exposure to XTC, that album is low on my list of favorites. I think
  _The Big Express_ , _English Settlement_ , and _Oranges and Lemons_ are
  much more coherent and unified works than most of the other things they've
  done, although _Mummer_ is pretty consistant.  It just isn't what I expected.
  _Skylarking_ I cannot understand the appeal of at all.  It sounds so unlike
  XTC that I can't even fathom why XTC fans even consider it.  It has Rundgren
  stepping all over the feel, in every nook and cranny.
     _Oranges and Lemons_ seems to me to be a very viable product (and I'm
  not necessarily talking brute marketability here) from a band that's been
  around as long as XTC have.  I enjoy it very much, although it does have
  its weak moments.
     Comments?

                              Jeff (a.k.a. "n.n.")

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Date:         Sat, 16 Jun 90 03:26:44 EDT
From: PRESTON@morekypr.bitnet
Subject:      Touring?

     From _Playboy_ , July 1990, p. 18, "Fast Tracks":

     Last summer, concert promoters had to contend with the Stones and the
  Who, which left concertgoers with little money to see any other outdoor acts.
  This year, Madonna's tour will end in June, leaving the summer free for
  a range of performers from David Bowie to Aerosmith to XTC to pick up some
  cash...

     XTC?  Could it really be true?

                                 Jeff (a.k.a. "n.n.")

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Date:     Sat, 16 Jun 90 16:12 MDT
From: <RLANTHIE@ducair.bitnet>
Subject:  Firsts and lasts

   Wow, seems to be a lot of stuff happening in Chalkhills land these
days.  The first album I bought by the band was _Black Sea_ and it is
not my favorite album.  I then bought _Waxworks/Beeswax_ and loved
that, so diverse and all encompassing.  I then got _Mummer_ and the
_Settlement_.  I think _Settlement_ is my favorite mainly as it brings
up memories of dancing to _No Thugs_ at a favorite bar with some long-
time friends.  I agree with the memory hypothesis, about how songs can
be elicitors of great memories.  What I don't necessarily agree with
is the first-is-the-best argument brought up by someone recently.  At
least it doesn't fit for me with XTC.  Other bands it does like
_Murmur_ by REM.  I think _O&L_ is a pretty interesting album in many
ways.  In a sense it represents a relatively unknown band (at least to
the masses no to "us") going a little commercial.  This reminds of
Gabriel did with _So_.  What I like about these it that it gets the
music out to more people.  That doesn't in and of itself make it bad,
I think it's good that the boys are able to make some dough after
years of obscurity AND still put out a good album!

   I also can empathize with John White's <white@serum.kodak.com>
experiences with _Big Express_.  It took me a long time as well to get
into this album but I now think it's right up there with _D&W_,
_Settlement_, and the rest.

   One disc I definitely need to purchase is _Skylarking_.  I can't
recall why I never bought this.  I think I read a review of it (or
heard one secondhand) that was less than favorable.  It also came out
at a time when I wasn't much into listening to XTC (yes, I'll admit
there was a time...).  So I never got it and was busy purchasing other
things.  It seems like there is little consensus about this album.
What's the issue with it?  Is it just the production issue?

        Enough for now.

Rich <RLANTHIE@DUCAIR.BITNET>

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Date: Mon, 18 Jun 90 10:07:55 CDT
From: oconnor!keaton!jtl@oddjob.uchicago.edu (Joe Lynn)
Subject: Faves and Not-So-Faves

lee@quincy.cs.umass.edu (Peter Lee) writes:
> Actually, I think English Settlement, Mummer, and The Big Express
> are probably their three best albums and they were released in sequence.

nobody@kodak.com (John White) writes:
> {writing about _The Big Express_):
> It's the lyrics that got m e to love the songs. Seagulls Screaming
> (Kiss Her, Kiss Her) has good word-play.

I felt that _Mummer_ was an inconsistent followup to _English Settlement_,
probably due to the strife surrounding the band at the time.  I really
didn't like this album, with the exception of "Wonderland" and "Farmboy's
Wages."  I agree with this comment from Stewart from last year
(Mon Jun  5 12:33:17 1989, to be exact, Chalkhills #30):

> "Great Fire" (which seemed to me like a bit too obvious attempt to
> replicate "Senses Working Overtime" -- quirky rhythms in the quiet verses,
> which are linked by a big stompy chorus).

I've tried a number of times to enjoy this album, but it just doesn't do
it for me.

As for _The Big Express_:  I wasn't crazy about this album, either.
I like "Wake Up", "All You Pretty Girls", and "This World Over."
Andy's voice on a lot of these songs (especially "Train Running Low")
is so horribly out of tune that it's actually painful to listen.

Now, John White said:
>If you still don't like that album, read the lyrics as yo u listen.

A famous musician (Ray Davies?  Joe Jackson?) was recently quoted as
saying that you can have a good song with good lyrics, or a good song with
bad lyrics;  but if you've got a bad song, it doesn't matter how good
the lyrics are:  it's still a bad song.  This is how I feel about
portions of _The Big Express_.  "Wake Up" is a great song with
great lyrics, "All You Pretty Girls" is a lot of fun, and "This World Over"
is poignant and listenable.  Maybe I have a mental block with this album.

lee@quincy.cs.umass.edu (Peter Lee) also writes:
> I still also have some qualms with "Skylarking", mostly because I
> hear the influence of Todd Rundgren overshadowing the band to a large extent

I think far too much blame is being placed on Todd for "ruining" this
album.  If _Mummer_ and _The Big Express_ were indicative of the
direction XTC were going in, there never would have been a _Skylarking_.
This was the first album since _English Settlement_ that, to my ears,
had any consistency to it.  It's become a popular thing for XTC
fans to say "Oh, man... _Skylarking_ would have been awesome had it
not been for Rundgren..."  I think it's a great album;  Rundgren's
production, however thick in spots, only acts to highlight the boys'
talent.  Could you imagine "Summer's Cauldron" without the 'nature'
noises?  "Grass" without the strings?  And exactly how much of this
stuff was XTC's idea to begin with?

In one of the many interviews Andy had given last year, he said that
one of the biggest problems he had with Todd was his method of working:
he said that Todd always had his head stuck in a computer manual with
a joint hanging from his lips, and that he had the entire _Skylarking_
album planned out (i.e., song order) from the demos he'd been sent,
even before they had recorded a note.

I always felt that the "problems" with Rundgren were much more personality-
and-work-ethic-related rather than actual production-related.  If
you complain about _Skylarking_ being over-produced, then _Oranges
& Lemons_ has to go with it.  (_Skylarking_ is still my favorite XTC
album, with _Black Sea_ and _English Settlement_ right behind it.)

I'd like to defer to John Relph right now:  in the first Chalkhills
survey, which albums showed the greatest influence in the "favourites"
categories?  Could you offer us a recap?

				--Joe Lynn

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Date: Mon, 18 Jun 1990 14:46:47 PDT
From: John M. Relph <relph@presto.ig.com>
Subject: Various and Sundry

Stewart <stewarte@sco.com> asks:

>John Relph lists a bunch of interesting things played on the recent
>XTC special on KFJC.  Can anyone tell me where these things come from?
>
>>    Agony Andy

Andy on the Janice Long show helping people with their problems.  Very
funny.

>>    Quicksilver

Pre-XTC demo track.

>>    Pearl
>>    Holding the Baby

I think these two (and the track "Monkeys in Humanskin Suits") are
>from a radio program, as Andy seems to be talking to a DJ.

>>    Train Running Low on Soul Coal (acoustic)

>From the UK TV special, _XTC Play at Home_.

>>    Fit of XTC: ``My Mother Called Me Andy Partridge''

A short promo for John Mav's Monday morning "Fit of XTC" on KFJC.

>>    Mayor of Simpleton (demo)
>>    Across This Antheap (demo)
>>    One of the Millions (demo)
>>    This is the End (demo)

These are all demo songs from _Oranges and Lemons_.  John Mav got the
original tape from Paul Fox.  "This is the End" was originally to be
the last track on _O&L_, but it got cut.  Too fucking bad, it's an
excellent song, should have been there.  They might use it on a future
album, according to John Mav.

>>    Gangway Electric Guitar (demo)

>From the _Skylarking_ demos.  What a great song.

>>    Drunken XTC does Led Zep

Recorded in studio during the recording of _English Settlement_.
Apparently there is hours of this ridiculous stuff.

                       -------

John White <white@serum.kodak.com> says, on the subject of _Big Express_:

> The songs are all so strong that they stand by themselves
>better than they mix together. It's the lyrics that got m e to love
>the songs...
> If you still don't
>like that album, read the lyrics as yo u listen.

I think that _The Big Express_ is a very good piece of work from start
to finish.  It moves through a variety of places and sentiments, from
anger and city confusion, simple love and lust, sexism, one on one
bashfulness, fear of world holocaust, to smalltown concerns, fame and
fortune, tyranny, love at first sight, and growing old.  Excellent
wordplay, melodic twists, and instrumentation.  I really like the
combination of Linn Drum and acoustic drums, the attack of "Wake Up"
and "Reign of Blows", the swirling fogginess of "Seagulls", the
distorted intro to an otherwise wonderfully singable pop "You're the
Wish You Are I Had", the train noises (and Andy's out-of-tune singing)
of "Train Running Low", and the jazzy "Wizard of Oz" feel of "I
Remember the Sun".

In fact, I will take this time to disagree with the "first is best"
theory put forth a few digests back.  I first bought _Black Sea_
because I heard "Respectable Street" and "Generals and Majors" on the
radio, and was pleasantly astounded at the diversity and quality of
XTC's music.  But when _English Settlement_ came out, I couldn't stop
listening to it, and in fact I still prefer it over _Black Sea_.  But
_The Big Express_ is still my favorite.  By far.  I listened to it
non-stop for over six months, I'd say.  And it's still the first thing
I play when I set up my stereo after moving to a new residence.  (John
Mav also opens his 6am Monday morning radio show on KFJC FM with "Wake
Up".)

By the way, one of the working titles for _The Big Express_ was "Hard
Blue Rayhead", and on the UK vinyl you can find the following
scratched into the runout groove: "Bastard son of Hard Blue Rayhead".
Also, look for the little green grasshopper on the train wheel.

	-- John

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