Tag: XTC

Thursday 10/6/22 8:15pm ET: Feature LP: XTC – Skylarking (1986)

Skylarking is the ninth studio album by the English rock band XTC, released October 27, 1986 on Virgin Records. Produced by American musician Todd Rundgren, it is a loose concept album about a nonspecific cycle, such as a day, a year, the seasons, or a life. The title refers to a type of bird (skylark), as well as the Royal Navy term “skylarking”, which means “fooling around”. It became one of XTC’s best-known albums and is generally regarded as their finest work.

Like XTC’s previous Dukes of Stratosphear side project, Skylarking was heavily influenced by the music of the 1960s. Most of its recording was at Rundgren’s Utopia Sound Studio in Woodstock, New York. Rundgren played a large role in the album’s sound design and drum programming, providing the band with orchestral arrangements and an assortment of gear. However, the sessions were fraught with tension, especially between Rundgren and bandleader Andy Partridge, and numerous disagreements arose over drum patterns, song selections, and other details. In 2010, it was discovered that a wiring error made during the mastering process caused the album to have a “thin” sound. The problem was corrected on subsequent remasters.

Upon release, Skylarking was met with indifference in the UK, rising in the album charts to number 90, while both of its lead singles “Grass” (backed with “Dear God”) and “The Meeting Place” peaked at number 100. Early sales of the album were hampered by the omission of “Dear God” from the album’s original pressings. In the US, the song became a college radio hit, causing US distributor Geffen Records to recall and repress Skylarking with the track included, and propelling the album to number 70. Following the song’s growth in popularity, it was the subject of controversy in the US, inspiring many angry phone calls to radio stations and at least one bomb threat. Skylarking was later listed on “100 greatest albums of the 1980s” lists by Rolling Stone in 1989 and Pitchfork in 2002.

  1. “Summer’s Cauldron” 3:19
  2. “Grass” 3:05
  3. “The Meeting Place” 3:14
  4. “That’s Really Super, Supergirl” 3:21
  5. “Ballet for a Rainy Day” 2:50
  6. “1000 Umbrellas” 3:44
  7. “Season Cycle” 3:21
  8. “Earn Enough for Us” 2:54
  9. “Big Day” 3:32
  10. “Another Satellite” 4:15
  11. “Mermaid Smiled” 2:26
  12. “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul” 3:24
  13. “Dying” 2:31
  14. “Sacrificial Bonfire” 3:49
  15. “Dear God” 3:40

Andy Partridge – vocals, guitar
Colin Moulding – vocals, bass guitar (also credited with “bonfire”)
Dave Gregory – vocals, guitar, piano, synthesizers, Chamberlin, string arrangement on “1000 Umbrellas” and “Dear God”, tiple
Todd Rundgren – producer, engineer, melodica on “Summer’s Cauldron”, synthesizers on “Grass” and “That’s Really Super, Supergirl”, backing vocals, orchestral arrangements, computer programming (also credited with “continuity concept”)
Prairie Prince – drums (credited as “the part of the time bomb”)
Mingo Lewis – percussion
Jasmine Veillette – vocals on “Dear God”
John Tenney – violin
Emily Van Valkenburgh – violin
Rebecca Sebring – viola
Teresa Adams – cello
Charlie McCarthy – alto and tenor saxophones, flute
Bob Ferreira – tenor saxophone, piccolo flute, bass clarinet
Dave Bendigkeit – trumpet
Dean Hubbard – trombone

Thursday 3/31/22 10am ET: Feature LP: XTC – Drums and Wires (1979)

Drums and Wires is the third studio album by the English rock band XTC, released August 17, 1979 on Virgin Records. It is a more pop-oriented affair than the band’s previous, Go 2 (1978), and was named for its emphasis on guitars (“wires”) and expansive-sounding drums. The album was their first issued in the United States and their first recorded with guitarist Dave Gregory, who had replaced keyboardist Barry Andrews earlier in 1979. It features a mix of pop, art rock, new wave and punk styles with much rhythmic interplay between XTC’s two guitarists.

Bassist Colin Moulding’s dissatisfaction with XTC’s “quirky” reputation inspired the group to take a more accessible approach, starting with the non-album single “Life Begins at the Hop”. Drums and Wires was recorded in four weeks at the newly built Town House studio in London with producer Steve Lillywhite and engineer Hugh Padgham, who were beginning to develop their signature gated reverb production technique, as demonstrated on the album opener and lead single “Making Plans for Nigel”. Lyrically, the album focuses on the trappings or titillations of the modern world, with several songs about submitting to external forces. Frontman and guitarist Andy Partridge designed the cover artwork, which depicts the band logo forming the outline of a face.

Drums and Wires reached number 34 on the UK Albums Chart and number 176 on the US Billboard 200. “Making Plans for Nigel” reached number 17 on the UK Singles Chart and marked the band’s commercial breakthrough. In 1980, Partridge recorded Take Away / The Lure of Salvage, an LP consisting mostly of dub remixes of Drums and Wires tracks. In later years, Drums and Wires became the best-known of XTC’s albums. In 2004 it was ranked number 38 on Pitchfork’s list of “The Top Albums of the 1970s”, and in 2019, it was ranked number 31 in a similar list by Paste.

  1. “Life Begins at the Hop” 3:49
  2. “Helicopter” 3:54
  3. “Making Plans for Nigel” 4:13
  4. “Ten Feet Tall” 3:12
  5. “When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty” 3:20
  6. “That Is the Way” 2:56
  7. “Real by Reel” 3:46
  8. “Millions” 5:57
  9. “Outside World” 2:40
  10. “Roads Girdle the Globe” 4:51
  11. “Scissor Man” 3:59
  12. “Complicated Game” 4:53
  13. “Limelight” 2:26
  14. “Day In Day Out” 3:05
  15. “Chain of Command” 2:33

Andy Partridge – vocals, guitar, synthesizer, percussion, sleeve design
Colin Moulding – vocals, bass
Dave Gregory – guitar, background vocals
Terry Chambers – drums
Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, Terry Chambers, Steve Warren, Hugh Padgham, Al Clark, Laurie Dunn – Vernon Yard Male Voice Choir on “Roads Girdle the Globe”
Dick Cuthell – flugelhorn on “That Is the Way”

Friday 3/12/21 1am ET: Feature LP: XTC – Orange & Lemons (1989)

Oranges & Lemons is the eleventh studio album and the second double album by the English band XTC, released February 27, 1989 on Virgin Records. It is the follow-up to 1986’s Skylarking. The title (derived from the nursery rhyme of the same name) was chosen in reference to the band’s poor financial standing at the time, while the music is characterized as a 1980s update of 1960s psychedelia. It received critical acclaim and became the band’s highest-charting album since 1982’s English Settlement, rising to number 28 in the UK and number 44 in the US.

The album is primarily pop and rock, although a variety of other styles are plundered throughout, such as jazz, reggae, hard rock, Middle Eastern music and Zairean soukous. All of the songs were written by guitarist Andy Partridge, except three by bassist Colin Moulding. The work projected brighter, more upbeat and aggressive moods than Skylarking, and the harsher effect returned the group closer to the sound of their earlier records. Lyrically, most of the songs focus on parent-child relationships and the state of world affairs. Partridge’s ornate vision for the psychedelic opening track “Garden of Earthly Delights” exemplified the album’s general aesthetic, which he described as songs that could be singles in a “bizarre perfect universe”.

XTC recorded the album in Los Angeles with American producer Paul Fox (his first major production job) and Mr. Mister drummer Pat Mastelotto. Recording lasted from June to September 1988, during which Virgin threatened to drop the project numerous times due to its growing expenses. Total production costs were estimated to be £180,000 (about a quarter million in US dollars). The cover art was intended to resemble the work of Heinz Edelmann, the art director for the 1968 film Yellow Submarine.

Lead single “Mayor of Simpleton”, a jangle pop song, reached number 46 on the UK Singles Chart and number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it their only US single to chart. It was followed with “King for a Day” (number 11 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks) and “The Loving” (no chart showing). The group embarked on a brief acoustic-guitar American radio tour and made their first live performances in front of an audience since 1982. One performance for MTV inspired the network to invite more artists to perform stripped-down sets, calling the series “unplugged”. Afterward, the band tried to coax Partridge back into regular touring but were unsuccessful.

1. “Garden of Earthly Delights” 5:02
2. “Mayor of Simpleton” 3:58
3. “King for a Day” 3:35
4. “Here Comes President Kill Again” 3:33

1. “The Loving” 4:11
2. “Poor Skeleton Steps Out” 3:27
3. “One of the Millions” 4:42
4. “Scarecrow People” 4:12

1. “Merely a Man” 3:26
2. “Cynical Days” 3:17
3. “Across This Antheap” 4:49

1. “Hold Me My Daddy” 3:47
2. “Pink Thing” 3:48
3. “Miniature Sun” 3:49
4. “Chalkhills and Children” 4:59

Colin Moulding – vocals, bass
Andy Partridge – vocals, guitar
Dave Gregory – guitars, backing vocals, keyboards

Pat Mastelotto – drums
Mark Isham – horns on “Here Comes President Kill Again”, “One of the Millions”, “Merely a Man”, “Cynical Days” and the intro to “Across This Antheap”
Paul Fox – keyboards
Franne Golde – backing vocals on “Poor Skeleton Steps Out”

Wednesday 12am ET: Feature LP: XTC – Upsy Daisy Assortment (1997)

Upsy Daisy Assortment is a U.S.-exclusive compilation by XTC, released after Geffen Records declined to distribute the 1996 double-disc Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992. Released June 17, 1997.

It is perhaps their first compilation to be considered a Best of as it includes album tracks “Funk Pop a Roll”, “Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her”, “Earn Enough for Us” and “Chalkhills and Children” in addition to their better-known singles.

The cover art is a reproduction of a vintage 1945 travel poster called “Holidays in Switzerland” by Donald Brun.

“Life Begins at the Hop” – 3:47
“Making Plans for Nigel” – 4:12
“Generals and Majors” – 3:41
“Respectable Street” – 3:07
“Senses Working Overtime” – 4:34
“Ball and Chain” – 4:29
“No Thugs in Our House” – 5:10
“Love on a Farmboy’s Wages” – 3:59
“Funk Pop a Roll” – 3:14
“This World Over” – 4:45
“Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her” – 3:50
“Grass” – 2:42
“Dear God” – 3:37
“Earn Enough for Us” – 2:54
“Mayor of Simpleton” – 3:57
“King for a Day” – 3:36
“Chalkhills and Children” – 4:56
“The Disappointed” – 3:38
“The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” – 5:03

Saturday 6pm ET: Feature Artist – XTC

XTC were an English rock band formed in Swindon in 1972. Led by songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, the band gained popularity during the rise of punk and new wave in the 1970s, later playing in a variety of styles that ranged from angular guitar riffs to elaborately arranged pop. Partly because the group did not fit into contemporary trends, they achieved only sporadic commercial success in the UK and US, but attracted a considerable cult following. They have since been recognised for their influence on Britpop and later power pop acts.

Partridge (guitar, vocals) and Moulding (bass, vocals) met at a bar in the early 1970s and subsequently formed a glam outfit with drummer Terry Chambers. The band’s name and line-up changed frequently, and it was not until 1975 that they were known as XTC. In 1977, the group debuted on Virgin Records and, for the next five years, were noted for their energetic live performances. They aspired to be “completely original” and refused to play conventional punk rock, instead synthesising influences from ska, 1960s pop, dub music and the avant-garde. Partridge, XTC’s frontman and primary songwriter, insisted that the band was “blatantly just pop music. We were a new pop group. That’s all.”

After 1982’s English Settlement, the band stopped concert touring and became a studio-based project centred on Partridge, Moulding, and guitarist Dave Gregory. They continued to produce more progressive recordings, including The Big Express (1984), Oranges & Lemons (1989), Nonsuch (1992) and Apple Venus Volume 1 (1999). A spin-off group, the Dukes of Stratosphear, was invented as a one-off excursion into 1960s-style psychedelia, but as XTC’s music evolved, the distinctions between the two bands lessened. Due to poor management, they never received a share of profits from record sales, of which there were millions, nor from touring revenue, forcing them into debt throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1993, they went on strike against Virgin, citing an unfair recording contract, and extricated themselves from the label sometime after.

XTC’s best-known albums are Drums and Wires (1979) and the Todd Rundgren-produced Skylarking (1986). They had a total of 10 albums and 6 singles that reached the UK top 40, including “Making Plans for Nigel” (1979), “Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)” (1980) and “Senses Working Overtime” (1982). In the US, “Mayor of Simpleton” (1989) was their highest-charting single, while “Dear God” (1986) was controversial for its anti-religious message. The group also inspired tribute bands, tribute albums, fan conventions, and fanzines across the UK, US and Japan. In 2006, Partridge announced that his creative partnership with Moulding had disintegrated, leaving XTC “in the past tense”. Moulding and Chambers briefly reunited as the duo TC&I in the late 2010s. Partridge and Gregory remain musically active.

Artist Countdown: XTC Top 35 Hits 6pm ET @xtcfans

XTCXTC were a new wave rock band from Swindon, England, led by songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding and active between 1976 and 2005. The band enjoyed some chart success, including the UK and Canadian hits “Making Plans for Nigel” (1979) and “Senses Working Overtime” (1982).

Despite their three-decade career, XTC were a performing and touring band for only six of those years: they retired from live performance in 1982. For the remaining twenty-three years of their existence XTC were a studio-based project involving session players around a nucleus of Partridge, Moulding and Dave Gregory. The band are perhaps better known for long-standing critical acclaim rather than commercial success. – Wikipedia