Jul 24, 2011

XTC Liner Notes for Andrew G

Hullo, Andrew.

This is Michael David Spitler.  Listen, Captain, I am making some cds for you.  Since you love The Police so much, I thought you might like another contemporary group, XTC, that actually toured with The Police.  Folks that saw those shows often remark that those shows were amongst their all-time favorites.  I was not old enough to ever see XTC.  By the time I got "in to" XTC in 1983 (and it was Edie Brickell who got me in to them, loaning me their third lp, Drums and Wires, with her drawings all over the lyric sheet) they had already quit touring.  The main guy in XTC, Andy Partridge, kind of had a nervous breakdown in the early 80s and from then on XTC were strictly a studio band.

For the most part these cds run in chronological order.  But I have tweaked things here and there to make for a more dramatic or pleasurable listening experience.  (Plus, I have not included any tracks from their last two cds when Dave Gregory had left and the "band", as it were, was down to two guys.)

So, here we go!

XTC cd One (Early)

Wake Up (A-side also on The Big Express, 10/1984)  This track is from The Big Express, pretty much regarded by all devotees as their worst record.  By this point XTC had sacked their drummer and Andy Partridge had fallen in love with the Linn drum machine.  This track, by the other songwriter in the group, bassist Colin Moulding, an amazing player who often times plays a fretless bass (like yor boie, Sting!), is perfect for starting off this box set despite it being from the group's middle period.
Spinning Top (a live recording, I'd guess circa 1978)  It was sad that XTC stopped touring, just about everybody that actually saw them swears they were truly wired and amazing to watch.  S'funny, after the group started doing radio sets across the US in the late 80s, early 90s, promoting Oranges and Lemons, there were rumors flying everywhere that Andy was finally ready to tour again.  I was sitting with my friend Stephanie and members of the Athens, GA band, Pylon, after one of their shows in Austin and their drummer, I think, mentioned to me he liked XTC, too, and that he had talked to some big-time record executives who claimed that XTC were going to tour again and that they were going to play stadiums.  Nothing came of it, of course.  XTC have never played real live shows after 1982.
This Is Pop (A-side single remix, different from the album track, White Music, 1/1978)  A fun, hysterical track that I used to turn up way too loud and dance to whene'er my parents were away.
Science Friction (A-side also on White Music, 1/1978)  One of XTC's first ever songs.
Are You Receiving Me? (A-side also on Go 2, 10/1978) At this point XTC's lineup consisted of a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboard player.  Andy Partridge (guitarist), Colin Moulding (bassist), and Barry Andrews (keyboards) wrote all the songs.  Andy Partridge who can be a right cunt a lot of the time (like yor boie, Sting!) got fed up with Andrews and kicked him out of the band. Andrews started his own group, Shriekback, and XTC actually considered enlisting Thomas Dolby (She Blinded Me with Science) to join the group.  Andy thought better of it and by 1979 XTC got Dave Gregory to join.  Gregory was from the same town as the rest of the members, Swindon, England, and was (is) a phenomenal guitar player.  Go 2, with one of the coolest album covers of all-time, was Andrews' last with the group.  Once Gregory joined, that is when XTC really began to take off.
Don't Lose Your Temper (b-side of Generals and Majors, 8/1980)  Despite being slightly out of chronological order I believe this song is more in spirit with XTC's earliest recordings and I have placed it here.
Life Begins at The Hop (Colin Moulding home demo circa 1979)  Both Moulding and Partridge built home studios in Swindon and made meticulous, ornate demos that sometimes sounded better than the studio versions.  That is the case here.  BTW, you hear the studio version of this song at work, often.
Making Plans for Nigel (A-side also on Drums and Wires, 8/1979)  This is where XTC finally took off.  Nigel was their first very modest hit in the US, it featured their new, massive, much copied drum sound, and Gregory had joined the band with his golden guitar licks instead of Andrews' "Bat Man" style keyboards.  Fantastic song by Colin Moulding.
Day In Day Out (album track, Drums and Wires, 8/1979)  Not the greatest song but my friend Josh in Austin, who used to work at a stereo store at that time, said this was the best song to play to get people to buy speakers and stereos.  Great bass and drums.
When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty (album track, Drums and Wires, 8/1979)
Ten Feet Tall (album track, Drums and Wires, 8/1979)
Respectable Street (A-side also on Black Sea, 3/1980)  A monster of a track that had questionable lyrics, making the group re-record a more sanitized version for radio, which, natch, the group hated doing.  Black Sea is arguably XTC's finest record, though all votes will be counted for Skylarking, as well.  This is a loud, smart, local politics minded masterpiece, one of Partridge's finest moments.
Generals and Majors (A-side also on Black Sea, 3/1980)  A very witty anti-war song by Colin Moulding with some great guitar work by Gregory.  This is played at work all the time, too.
Paper and Iron (Notes and Coins) (album track, Black Sea, 3/1980)
Towers of London (album track, Black Sea, 3/1980)
No Thugs in Our House (A-side also on English Settlement, 2/1982)  Another Partridge local politics materpiece, an indictment of English suburban culture.  English Settlement was released nearly two years after Black Sea and after Partridge's nervous breakdown and announcement that XTC would never play live again.  They were strictly a studio band from this point on.
Senses Working Overtime (A-side also on English Settlement, 2/1982)  XTC's biggest hit to date, enjoying heavy rotation on MTV at the time.  Great song, featuring some flawless fretless from Mr Moulding.
Leisure (album track, English Settlement, 2/1982)  A hilarious song about the dole in England.  One of my personal faves.
Melt the Guns (album track, English Settlement, 2/1982) Another big fave of mine, as well, this is Partridge's anti-gun sentiment put to music.

Well, those are the liner notes for the first cd.  You will get two more cds and two more editions of notes, too.

Good night, Captain!

PS:  Here is a little XTC live treat for you.

Michael D Spitler

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