Precedence: bulk
Subject: Chalkhills #99

                  Chalkhills, Number 99

                 Wednesday, 20 June 1990
Today's Topics:
                   XTC in Rock History
                    Re: Demo sources?
             _Oranges & Lemons_ + A Question
                     XTC and the LCD
            My "Best of XTC" Compilation Tape
                Re: The Great Album Debate

Date: Mon, 18 Jun 1990 17:23:13 PDT
From: John M. Relph <>
Subject: XTC in Rock History

This is an excerpt from _The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock,
Sixth Edition_, by Mike Clifford, Harmony Books, New York, 1988.
Reproduced without permission.

    UK group formed 1977.
    Original/Current [sic] line-up: Andy Partridge, guitar, vocals;
    Colin Moulding, bass, vocals; Barry Andrews, keyboards;
    Terry Chambers, drums.

    Career: Partridge organised XTC as punk band in Swindon,
    near London.  "This is Pop?" single attracted some attention
    and revealed XTC to be power-pop group in punk clothing.
    This became more apparent by time solid third album, "Drums
    and Wires", appeared in 1979.

      Next LP yielded minor hit, "Sergeant Rock" [sic], which
    earned some U.S. airplay and write-off as lightweight by UK
    press.  In 1982 "Senses Working Overtime" put band back in
    UK charts, and double LP "English Settlement" (cut to single
    LP for UK market) received critical approval.  End of 1982
    produced singles compilation (UK only) "Waxworks".  In
    promotional move, this album was issued for limited time
    with second LP, "Beeswax", comprising B-side.

      After illness hit leader Partridge, band gave up heavy
    touring schedule while continuing to record.  Subsequent
    albums were well received by critics (particularly Todd
    Rundgren-produced) 1986 offering "Skylarking"), but major
    commercial breakthrough continues to elude band.

    Hit Singles:                     US   UK
    Making Plans for Nigel, 1979     --   17
    Sergeant Rock, 1981              --   17
    Senses Working Overtime, 1982    --   10

    White Music (Virgin-Epic/Virgin), 1978 CD
    Go 2 (Virgin-Epic/Virgin), 1978
    Drums And Wires (Virgin-Epic/Virgin), 1979 CD
    Black Sea (Virgin), 1980 CD
    English Settlement (Virgin), 1982 CD
    Waxworks: Some Singles 1977-1982 (--/Virgin), 1982
    Beeswax: Some B-sides 1977-1982 (--/Virgin), 1982
    Mummer (Virgin), 1983 CD
    Go Too [sic] (Virgin), 1984 CD
    Big Express (Virgin), 1984 CD
    Compact XTC (Virgin), 1986 CD
    Skylarking (Virgin), 1986 CD


From: dhgpa!dhtpa!
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 90 13:59 MDT
Subject: Re: Demo sources?

John M. Relph <> answers:

>Stewart <> 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?
>>>    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.

I heard these 3 demo's on a dutch radio program way back in 1982.
The DJ had a guest in the studio who seemed to be a personal friend of Andy
and he brought along these and other recordings.
I always thought these were recordings of Andy playing his latest songs to
this friend, but it could be my imagination (and probably is).

Of course, the radio-program no longer exists (and I don't know any names or
more details).

Any more dutch readers who know? (If there are any).

-- Andre de Koning


Date: Tue, 19 Jun 90 13:07:29 CDT
From: oconnor!keaton! (Joe Lynn)
Subject: _Oranges & Lemons_ + A Question

Regarding why _O&L_ is different from the other XTC albums, I offer
this snippet from the Chalkhills archives (#29, 1 June 89):

	> From: (Alex Stein)
	> Subject: XTC in LA
	> ...
	> SOME QUOTES [of Andy's]:
	> ...
	> Why O&L is different: "This album was made in a positive state of
	> mind.  This album was made with verve, which was kind of down on
	> the last couple of albums...the verve control level was only
	> around 3."

I could see Andy and the guys with all this newfound energy saying, "Yeah!
Let's put THIS in!  And that, and that, and this, too!"

There was a discussion here last summer about how Paul Fox didn't hold
the reins in on the guys, which made _O&L_ sound overproduced and muddled
to some listeners' ears.

Karl MacRae's opinion:

	> 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.

Karl is being a little rough on the album:  Paul Fox, after all, is
known for producing _pop_ bands, and the band should have known this
when he was chosen.  Perhaps John Relph was right last year when he
said that Fox was suffering from the "you guys are great" syndrome,
and allowed far too much 'stuff' on the record.

I still think it has some great moments, and I'd still recommmend
_O&L_ as a good XTC album.

Given all this discussion about how lousy some of you Chalkhillians
think _O&L_ is, I'd like to open up the floor with this question:

If you were an exec at Virgin and you were assigned the task of
lining up a producer for the next XTC album, whom, if anyone,
would you hire?

			--Joe Lynn


From: telesci!
Subject: XTC and the LCD
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 90 9:57:24 EDT

>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.

You're wrong, you're wrong!  Although I was mildly disappointed by O&L, it's
not a "lowest common denominator" album.  Here are the things about it that
make it NOT in any way a "sell-out", in terms of how the record business
generally works.

1) As you pointed out, it's too long.  The equivalence of a double album is
not what you attempt when you play to the lowest common denominator.
Believe it or not, the LCD prefers single albums, no more than 50 minutes in

2) "President Kill".  That track is Not Allowed on LCD albums.  Period.
It's clearly allowed on XTC albums, though.

3) It's NOT in ANY way a follow-up to _Skylarking_.  Typical music business
logic says that you should duplicate your last success as closely as
possible.  If this is highly recommended on the album level, it's completely
required on the singles level, and "Simpleton" is NOT a viable follow-up to
"Dear God".

I think that _Skylarking_ was very much the "record that they're capable
of".  I also think that the band as a whole have a little difficulty being
selective/critical about their own music.  We the fans are much better at
divvying up what's great and what's just good.  Perhaps an executive
producer-type could have cut O&L down to 45 minutes and made it stronger...
but would we want THAT?


Date: Tue, 19 Jun 90 12:19:39 -0400
Subject: loads

   Time for a bit of whimsical rambling...
  As far as first records being favorites, I do believe that
  certain music can grab and contain, forever, an atmosphere
  that existed around a person as they discovered a particular
  album or song. There is little in this world more psychedelic
  than suddenly feeling the complete atmosphere of a time from
  the past; not really the emotions that may have existed along
  that time, but simply the, well, "atmosphere".
  An example... I discovered XTC through an older friend who had
  lived in NY and thus could actually find imports (try locating,
  in 1977, records by the Sex Pistols, Stranglers, Stiff Little
  Fingers, etc. while living in a town of 10,000 in the deep south!
  Sheesh, Bad Company was still big here. I can still remember being
  chastised in 7th grade by the coach/math teacher for wearing a
  Ziggy Stardust T-shirt; although I suppose the death-like surroundings
  of the place are somewhat responsible for pushing me to seek out
  interesting music) Good gosh, I've tripped far and away from my point.
  So anyway... through my friend, I heard a brief blurb of Go2 and thus
  got her to give it to me. I listened to it more fully and was left cold.
  Cold, except for one song called Beatown. I truly loved the end of it
  as it was quite dreamlike. Too this day, I find the album fairly dreadful
  (reminding me of checkerboard shirts and all the other cheesy gimmicks
   of "New Wave" music; herky-jerky rhythms, goofy "party" keyboards, etc.)
  however, I still listen to Beatown and am immediately swept into a
  time-traveling dream world. I can feel the complete atmosphere of my
  sunshine drenched bedroom from a time that's past. No memory of any emotions
  just the feel of the physical surroundings.
  However, this phantom time tripping can be evoked in me from other music
  (XTC included) as well. Thus, I think that for me, each record carries
  its own potent abilities, but just because its the first doesn't mean
  that it would be my favorite. ( actually, its the truly rare song that
  can evoke these things in me. XTC, to their credit, have a few that does
  this, I Remember The Sun being one that immediately comes to mind).

    As far as O&L goes, my fear is that XTC are heading out. Partridge
  is finding more and more success as a producer ( the new Lilac Time
  lp seems to be quite liked by fans and critics alike).
  Skylarking made me nervous, especially since the previous LP,
  Big Express, was incredible. Then, the second Dukes LP really dissappointed
  me (am I the only one that didn't care for it? I loved the first one)
  And, boom... Oranges and Lemons; what happened to Andy and Colin's
  amazing sense of melody? For me, XTC at their best recall the wonderful
  style of songwriting made famous by Ray Davies, Nick Drake, Revolver - era
  Beatles. Beautifully crafted and consummately English in nature.
  O&L reminded me of ... The Knack (of all things). Ah well, I doubt we'll
  ever see the sensitivity of side 2 of Mummer captured again on an
  XTC record. I'll be curious as to the what the newest offering will
  sound like. But I don't feel a great deal of hope.



Date: Tue, 19 Jun 90 19:18:14 EDT
From: (Mark Glickman)
Subject: My "Best of XTC" Compilation Tape

A couple of friends asked me to put together a compilation tape of
what I consider to be the best of XTC.  They've certainly heard
enough of my ranting and raving about the group to want to see
what the fuss is about!  Here's what I stuck onto a 100-minute tape:

Side A				Side B

This is Pop			Funk Pop a Roll
Are You Receiving Me		Toys
Life Begins at the Hop		Love on a Farmboy's Wages
When You're Near Me ...		Wake Up
Respectable Street		Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her ...
Generals and Majors		This World Over
Don't Lose Your Temper		Season Cycle
Burning with Optimism's Flames	Earn Enough for Us
Sgt. Rock			Dear God
Ball and Chain			Extrovert
Senses Working Overtime		Mayor of Simpleton
All of a Sudden			Scarecrow People
Fly on the Wall

Some explanations for my choice of songs should be given.  What's
most obviously striking is my almost complete disregard for
songs on _White Music_ and _Go 2_ (and for that matter, all of
the Dukes' material).  While I like both albums, I think the later
albums are more representative of XTC's more concretely formed
stylistic elements.  By the way, I like _Go 2_ more than _White
Music_.  I could have also considered putting more from _Drums and
Wires_ (Helicopter, Outside World, and Scissor Man were all to be
considered), but I wanted to leave a large enough reserve for my
favorites from _Black Sea_ and _English Settlement_.  I did not
think twice about throwing on "Making Plans for Nigel," a song
that I feel has more praise than it deserves.  Originally, I
did not intend to tape "Fly on the Wall," but it fit snugly at
the end of side A, and it's a fun song.  I think, overall, I was
pretty uncontroversial with my selections for side B.  I suppose
I could have put on "King for a Day," but what would I replace?
Not "Scarecrow People," which I think is a wonderful song.  Perhaps
"Earn Enough for Us" could have gone.

I'd be interested in hearing what others would do.

                    - Mark


Date: Wed, 20 Jun 1990 21:28:27 PDT
From: John M. Relph <>
Subject: Re: The Great Album Debate

Joe Lynn <oconnor!keaton!> says:

>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).

Oddly enough, "Great Fire" was not originally part of the _Mummer_
album.  Virgin Records did not think there was a single on the album,
so XTC went back and resequenced the album to include "Great Fire".
It still flopped.  Here's another excerpt from _X-plaining XTC Part 2_,
by Steve Kolanjian and David Dasch:

    The following finished songs have been recorded with Steve
    Nye as engineer.  All the songs, except "Jump (Love And
    Swimming Pools)", are to be included on the next XTC LP.
    Some of the working titles were to be FALLEN FROM THE
    GARDEN, later FRUIT.  Andy's hopes were that the band would
    be able to package the album in four different sleeves that
    smell of different fruits.  The latest LP title is MUMMER,
    and it was supposed to be released in the US 5-26-83 on
    Virgin/Epic BFE 38516, adding the UK 45 A-side, "Great
    Fire" to its roster.  As that date has already passed, one
    would have to assume that something has gone awry.  The (*)
    tracks have already been remixed by Alex Sadkin and Phil
    Thornalley with XTC.  One of these, "Wonderland", gets a
    July release (VS 606) backed with "Jump" (dropping the
    subtitle once again), the remaining song of the session.
    Whether the LP gets released as originally planned or
    becomes another GET BACK LP is anyone's guess, but you can
    be sure you'll find out about it here.  Let's hope you'll
    get to hear all of the following:

    Beating of Hearts (A)              Jump (Love And Swimming Pools) (A)
    Deliver Us From The Elements (C)   Ladybird (A)
    Funk Pop A Roll (A)*               Love On A Farmboy's Wages (A)
    Human Alchemy (A)*                 Me And The Wind (A)
    In Loving Memory Of A Name (C)     Wonderland (C)*


>  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?

Andy always complains that the quality of the recording was not up to
the standards they were used to.  Personally I can't really tell the
difference.  I think _Skylarking_ is a very consistent album (the
original "Mermaid Smiled" version, that is).

>  And exactly how much of this
>stuff was XTC's idea to begin with?

There are copies of the demos sent to Mr Rundgren floating around, and
a number of the songs are fairly different.  "Season Cycle" and
"Meeting Place" were originally mostly acoustic.  "Ballet for a Rainy
Day" was more strident and discordant.  "Mermaid Smiled" was not quite
as jazzy but did have the vibraphone.  "Supergirl" had harmonica and
was a little quieter, more like "Beating of Hearts" and "Wonderland"
>from _Mummer_.  "Sacrificial Bonfire" didn't have the strings.  The
"we'll take a tumble" section of "Grass" was played explicitly in
three-four time (and no insect/bird sounds).  "Big Day" sounded
half-baked.  "Dear God", "Summer's Cauldron", "Dying", "1000
Umbrellas", and "Extrovert" were all demoed fairly close to the
released versions.  (I haven't heard demo versions of the other songs.)
Of course, it's hard to say whose ideas the changes made were.  After
all, _The Big Express_ had some very interesting noises, and Todd was
not in the picture then.

The thing that Todd seems to have contributed more than anything else
vas a coherent vision.  And he was very confident and stubborn about
that vision.  So of course he and Andy butted heads.

>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?

    9.  Favourite album
            A. English Settlement
            B. Black Sea
            C. Skylarking
            D. The Big Express
            E. Mummer

        -- John


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