Thursday, January 21, 2010

Worth Another Listen - XTC




Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding came together as bandmates in 1972, but it wasn't until 1976 or '77 they settled on the name X-T-C, along with fellow musicians Terry Chambers and Barry Andrews. The British had seen their way through glam, rock and punk before settling into the comfort zone of New Wave/Alternative music, a sound that suited them so well. In truth, they rarely appeared on the US Billboard charts, with a few albums making it into the late 40s, and only one single breaking into the Top 100. They were a fixture on the turntables of most campuses, their sound evolving and keeping up with that demographic.



In 1979, they released their third album, Drums And Wires. The first single was Making Plans for Nigel. It was just shy of a ska beat, instead sticking with the post-Punk New Wave sound, and certainly the theme of disenfranchising youth. This was the first album to make a blip on the US charts, hitting #176.



In 1989, with the release of Oranges & Lemons, and the first single, The Mayor of Simpleton. The song made it to #76 on the Top 100 Billboard chart, and made it's way to #1 on the Modern Rock chart. This was the only single to achieve that distinction. It combined the mentality of the New Wave music with the 60s pop sound.



Some would say the success of Mayor was set up by the single Dear God. It was part of the 1986 album Skylarking, although not part of the original US release. It was, however, picked up by DJs and played on college and rock radio, and eventually released as a single b-side. The video because a staple of MTV and other outlets. Sales, however, proved tricky, for many organizations of faith were offended by the theme of the song, and proposed boycotts had several outlets pulling the single from the shelves. But all this could not stop this iconic tunes from being heard.



MTV ranked Dear God as #62 on their list of One Hit Wonders of the 80s, despite it never reaching the top of any chart, certainly more of a testament to the popularity of the song among the video generation. The band certainly went through some rough times. In 1982, Partridge took time off to deal with addiction issues, and soon after drummer Chambers left, moving to Australia with his soon to be wife. They went through many drummers in the ensuing years. In 1992, they had a falling out with Virgin Records, who, after pressing and shipping a single, recalled and destroyed them after deciding it wouldn't be successful. This led to the band asking to be released from the contract, and a period lost with lawyers. Finally, in 2005, after a few years of inactivity of the band, they officially called it quits with the release of a box set of their music. An official website is still maintained here, perhaps to support plans for re-issues of some of their early material.

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