XTC Reel by Real: XTC: Mummer
Last update: 13 March 2022
Mummer Mummer
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  “In comes I,” explains Andy Partridge, principal songwriter / singer and outspoken wit of XTC, is a line frequently used in the mummer plays that take place around Christmas time in rural England. The ancient tradition has the players -- the townsfolk -- dress in suits of rags and tatters [and newspapers] and follow a basic script having to do with cycles of death and rebirth. Just an ordinary folks' entertainment in the days before telly, which is why traditions like mummers are now rapidly dying out.

  Disguise is important to the mummers, says Partridge, and recognition would “spoil the magic. If somebody said, ‘Ere!’” (Partridge's Wiltshire accent, full of “errs” and an unpronounceable way of saying “ou,” broadens, flattens and widens to become a perfect Monty Pythonesque yokel.) “‘You're Fred the Baker!’ he'd have to go home in tears 'cause he'd been recognized. It's an ordinary people's show business. They don't go on stages to do it; they do it in the street or they knock on your door and come in your house and do it.”

  Disguise is also important to Mummer, the album. This is a band in a business devoted to pushing yourself in front of other people and demanding attention, but XTC has no enthusiasm whatever for the task. They try to keep their sense of normalcy and reality by planting themselves in their surroundings to keep the sentiments true, but disguising the facts with metaphors to keep people from getting too close. “None of us are really into hey-notice-me,” says Partridge. “We'd all like to be rich and obscure.”

Musician, June 1984


Says Partridge, "Until early 1982, our work was like black-and-white TV. Mummer was the first in full color -- bright sky blue." Mummer was the band's first album on Geffen Records in the U.S. and its sixth album overall, following the release of the similarly acoustic-based English Settlement, a double album, in 1982 which included the U.K. hit "Senses Working Overtime".

Geffen CD Release 1991 includes six tracks not on original album: "Frost Circus", the fear-of-love-and-swimming-pools "Jump", Toyland-gone-berserk "Toys", the hopeful "Gold", "Procession Towards Learning Land" and "Desert Island", a paean to Great Britain (all written by Partridge).

[Geffen promotional literature, 1991]

Andy: “Five years of solid touring ‘wigs out’ yours truly and the band comes off the road. The result was a record built in troubled times. Is he dead? Will they split? Have they lost it? The answer was no, no and no. Try a spoonful, out of the sour came forth the sweet.”
Andy: “I feel like a 30-year old musical vandal. I can do what the hell I want and I don't have to answer for anything.”

Freed from the constraints of ‘the road’ Mummer presented XTC in widescreen - experimenting with songs, arrangements and the expanded sonic palette that studios can provide when there is no afterthought as to how to reproduce the material in a variety of theatres, university halls and other venues few, if any, of which were built with rock groups in mind. And, just as the Mummers’ plays involve people travelling from place to place in a village enacting tales of the cycle of life (albeit in disguise), XTC travelled the best of the UK’s studios recording, mixing and re-mixing their songs cycle to exacting standards.

Released as the follow-up to their most successful UK album to date - English Settlement - and with a new record label in America, band and record company hopes were high - three of the album’s first four songs were issued as singles - but were to remain unfulfilled. Fans loved it, the press was positive but radio was changing, especially in the UK, and with no touring it failed, as sometimes happens with bands adopting a new approach, to cross over to that wider audience.

As also happens with such records, its reputation (and sales) have, over the years, grown far greater than its initial reception indicated and it can now be seen, in retrospect, to have been an important first step towards the sort of expansive approach to writing and recording that would yield much greater commercial results later in the same decade with Skylarking and the albums that followed.

[Burning Shed, 2022]

Lyrics, Charts and More

  1. Beating of Hearts (pics) (lyrics) (chords) (interview)
  2. Wonderland * (pics) (lyrics) (chords)
  3. Love on a Farmboy's Wages (pics) (lyrics) (chords) (interview)
  4. Great Fire + (pics) (lyrics) (chords) (interview)
  5. Deliver Us From the Elements * (lyrics) (chords)
  6. Human Alchemy * (pics) (lyrics) (chords) (interview)
  7. Ladybird (lyrics) (chords) (interview)
  8. In Loving Memory of a Name (pics) (lyrics) (chords)
  9. Me and the Wind (lyrics) (chords) (interview)
  10. Funk Pop a Roll * (pics) (lyrics) (chords) (interview)

CD reissues also include bonus tracks:

  1. Frost Circus (No. 5 in the Homo Safari series)
  2. Jump (pics) (lyrics) (chords)
  3. Toys (lyrics) (chords)
  4. Gold (lyrics) (chords)
  5. Procession Towards Learning Land (No. 6 in the Homo Safari series)
  6. Desert Island (lyrics) (chords)

Recording Information

Recorded at The Manor, Oxfordshire, England, and Genetic Studios, winter 1982.
Mixed at AIR Studios, London, England, January 1983.
Produced and mixed by Steve Nye/XTC.
* Re-mixed by Alex Sadkin and Phil Thornalley / XTC at RAK Studios, London.
+ Recorded and mixed at Odyssey Studios, London. Produced by Bob Sargeant. Engineered by Mark Dearnley.
Assistant engineers, tape-jockeys, tea makers, gophers, etc., Jim Russell, Howard Gray, Gavin Greenaway, Marcellus Frank, Mike Nocito.
Originally released on 30 August 1983 in the U.K.
Reached No. 51 on the U.K. album chart.
Reached No. 145 on the Billboard album chart in the U.S.A. on 10 March 1984.

Voices and instruments by Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory.
With Peter Phipps / drums
Terry Chambers / drums on “Beating of Hearts” and “Wonderland
Steve Nye / mini-korg on “Wonderland”, mellotron on “Elements
Gavin Wright and Nigel Warren-Green / strings on “Great Fire
Special thanks to Hans the wind for De Vente

Pete Phipps: “Really happy days...memorably filled with sweat, tears and huge amounts of laughter!”

Some of the working titles were Fallen from The Garden and Fruit.


#\#i#/#Great Fire#\#/i#/#

Great Fire



#\#i#/#Love On a Farmboy's Wages#\#/i#/#

Love On a Farmboy's Wages

#\#i#/#Selections From Mummer#\#/i#/#

Selections From Mummer

(U.S.A. promo sampler)


back cover of the #\#i#/#Mummer#\#/i#/# LP

back cover of the Mummer LP

back cover of the Virgin UK #\#i#/#Mummer#\#/i#/# CD

back cover of the Virgin UK Mummer CD

the Japanese #\#i#/#Mummer#\#/i#/# LP

the Japanese Mummer LP

cover of the Geffen USA cassette of #\#i#/#Mummer#\#/i#/#

cover of the Geffen USA cassette of Mummer

back cover of the Geffen USA cassette of #\#i#/#Mummer#\#/i#/#

back cover of the Geffen USA cassette of Mummer

photo from #\#i#/#Mummer#\#/i#/# inner sleeve

photo from Mummer inner sleeve

#\#i#/#Mummer#\#/i#/# promo photo

Mummer promo photo

Colin Moulding, #\#i#/#Mummer#\#/i#/# promo photo

Colin Moulding, Mummer promo photo

1983 promotional band photo

1983 promotional band photo

XTC out of their Mummer suits, #\#i#/#Musician#\#/i#/#, June 1984

XTC out of their Mummer suits, Musician, June 1984

Happy Mummer Day!

Happy Mummer Day!


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