40 Things I love about XTC

I saw XTC a few times, and met them a few times, too. Once, during an acoustic “Mummer” session at Eastern Avenue studios, I asked guitarist David Gregory if a riff on “Man Who Sailed Around His Soul” was played on a Gibson Les Paul, but he said, “No! A Strat!” and then proceeded to talk about gear to the point that all I was seeing was lines and numbers and words in Latin. Another time, during a “Skylarking” press junket, Andy Partridge pointed to the CN Tower and said it “looked like God’s great paper spike,” and another time, I thought bassist Colin Moulding might cry after I told him that I thought “Sacrificial Bonfire” was one of the great songs ever written. I have a handful of XTC 45s, mostly original. This one, though, I found at Value Village on Bloor Street in Toronto. To celebrate, I made a list: 40 Things I Love About XTC. 1. Their alias band, ‘Dukes of the Stratosphear, were as good as their parent band 2. How Colin Moulding sings words ending in the letter “R” 3. The metallic crickets’ guitar solo in “Making Plans for Nigel” 4. How Andy Partridge sometimes sounds like a cat who has stepped on a nail and the nail hurts but then it feels okay 5. Great choruses that simply go “Whooo-hooo” 6. The strings in “One Thousand Umbrellas” 7. The pubic hair alternate cover of “Skylarking 8. “Complicated Game,” one of the best last songs on an album ever 9. The electro-shock singing in their cover of “All Along the Watchtower” 10. The guitar cross-rhythm at the beginning of “Wake Up” 11. The pause before the final roar of “No Thugs in Our House” 12. The halfway point of the guitar solo in “Life Begins at the Hop,” where it speeds up and then frenzies 13. The terrifying whisper vocal in “Scissor Man” 14. “Snowman” as a Top Ten winter song 15. The “Ba-bye-oh!” in “Radios in Motion” 16. Go Plus 17. The guitar jack noise that begins “Peter Pumpkinhead” (and also “Peter Pumpkinhead”) 18. The bass line in “One of the Millions” 19. Terry Chambers’ hi-hat savagery 20. The bass line in “Ugly Underneath” 21. The friendly redone version of “Ten Feet Tall” 22. “This is Pop” as the perfect post-Anthony Burgess song 23. The tweeting samples in “My Bird Performs” 24. The sweetness of the bridge in “Meccanic Dancing” 25. The slo-mo wobbling bass string in the video for “Senses Working Overtime” 26. “Take This Town” 27. The end of the bridge in the remake of “Respectable Street” and how Andy Partridge “whooooops!” coming into the solo 28. The strings in “Sacrificial Bonfire” 29. The hammer-ons in “Towers of London” 30. “Knights in Shining Karma” 31. The girl singing at the beginning of “Dear God” (Todd Rundgren recorded her while the band was still sleeping that morning) 32. Barry Andrews 33. Peter Dix 34. The finger snaps and tablas in “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul” 35. B Sides as good as A Sides: “Homo Safari” and “The Somnambulist” and “Ella Guru” 36. The films that opened their “Drums and Wires” tour 37. Their performance in “Urgh: A Music War” 38. “Pulsing, Pulsing” 39. The horns– however synthetic–  in “Extrovert” and 40. This record: “General and Majors”. Uh-huh. Like never before.

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7 thoughts on “40 Things I love about XTC

  1. Nice work Dave – and an interesting perspective from someone who’s obviously (seemingly?) more into their early work. I could do a Top 40 that would differ completely from that, without it ever detracting from yours – I guess that’s what makes XTC so unique.

    Another Dave.

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    1. Another Dave replying,… I wonder what’s the pivot point between early and late XTC. My intro to the band was the Senses Working Overtime video, courtesy MTV, and though it’s early years-wise, it’s miles different from anything on White Music, and lyrically foreshadows the sophistication of much later songs.
      Btw, have you glommed onto the Mike Keneally/Andy Partridge sorta-collaboration Wing Beat Fantastic from a few years ago? A gem – I’m Raining Here, Inside will nail you, as the kids these days type, right in the feels.
      To bring this back to something approaching full-circle, I gave Keneally himself a copy of Whale Music years ago, and wonder if any of the Rheos have scarfed an earload of any of his jam-packed imaginative releases. Lots of attributes common to the catalogs – songs about friends and dogs and thoughtful things, and lots of CDs crammed full yet over sooner than you want.

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  2. The way Andy’s voice morphs into a flugelhorn on The Last Balloon. Makes me want to be there to see people cry at my funeral.

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