making plans for a really huge xtc collection on disc

since i didn’t buy any xtc cd’s during the month of august, i decided to do a double-buy today. two for august; two for september.

sadly, ‘english settlement’ was “temporarily out of stock”. i hopehopehope it’s really just a temporary condition. ‘english settlement’ was the first xtc record i ever owned and i am quite attached to it.

purchased last month…

‘skylarking’. their most popular record, and many say their best or most successful. produced by todd rundgren whose battles with andy partridge during the recording are now legendary. it is a pastoral song cycle, staring with summer and moving through the seasons. apparently when it came out in 1986 i was already a rabid xtc fan, because i bought it quickly enough to get the first version, the version with “mermaid smiled” rather than “dear god” on it. it’s something of a collector’s item at this point. since i didn’t have a tv and didn’t listen to commercial radio at the time (my first semester of college), i wasn’t exposed to the “dear god” single for quite a while. when i was, i hated it. i’m still not all that fond of it. “mermaid smiled” is a much nicer song, as no bratty english schoolgirls sing on it, and i find the message in “dear god” a little heavy-handed.

‘go2’. this is that famous record that’s black with white typewriting all over it. the LP says “This is a RECORD COVER.” the cassette says, “This is a CASSETTE COVER”. when the cd version first came out, it said, “This is a CD COVER”. I was saddened/bemused to note that this reissue cd acutally says, “This is a RECORD COVER”. it’s their second record, released in 1978 (the same year as their first record, ‘white music’). this is the punk or post-punk herky-jerky xtc. it includes a wildly mysoginistic tune called “my weapon”, written by an early band member (barry andrews) who left the band shortly after. i imagine now that it’s probably meant to point up mysogyny rather than to promote it, but for a long time i didn’t like that barry andrews guy much and i was glad he left the band.

purchased for august/september:

‘black sea’. this is supercatchy early-eighties xtc. the political messages become quite heavy-handed and obvious (“living through another cuba”, “majors and generals”) but the songs are so utterly hook-laden that i forgive andy every time i start to get annoyed with him over the lyrics. i think this is also the first really fascinatingly photographed cover on an LP of theirs. the boys are dressed in great huge diving apparatus, you know the kind where the helmet is a cast iron ball and you’ve got to stay attached to a canvas hose for your air? it’s probably not a record cover that made it into any books about great record covers, because it’s not eyecatching in that way, but i’ve spent some time poring over it, looking at all the wonderful little details. it’s also possible to still find versions of this with a crisp green paper bag fitted over the sleeve. i have one or two of them, one having been shredded by a cat or rabbit somewhere along the line.

‘the big express’. andy’s love-affair with the england of the past starts to come to the fore, along with some deeply romantic songs that i just love, especially, “seagulls screaming kiss her kiss her”. if you were ever a girl who loved dorky shy glasses-wearing boys, this is the song for you, because it’s got to be what they’re thinking when they’re walking down a cold wintry beach in england next to you, talking about something mundane and/or geeky, but you can tell they really want to kiss you instead. which came first, my love of andy, or my love of glasses-wearing dorky boys? i could not tell you. oh, and apparently they actually used a _mellotron_ on this record. a mellotron!!

‘mummer’. their first pastoral. for some reason, i resisted this record for a long time, but when i finally broke down and bought it and really listened to it, i just loved it. “here you can read about english mummer plays.”: to go from being a punk band to being the band that could produce this record was a huge journey. by this point, i believe they’d stopped touring and that had a lot to do with their change of sound. this also saw the beginning of the “homo safari” series, a series of songs that were shoved onto EP’s and 7-inches wherever they’d fit, that were instrumental, slow, strange, and experimental– some of my favorites.

‘white music’. this was their first record, released in 1978 but recorded a little earlier. they’re pretty much just a punk band at this point and the music is of course insanely fast and brittle. i love to play songs like “set myself on fire” and “red” on the radio when i can, but they’re so damn fast that they’re impossible to mix. at the end of “red”, andy sounds like he’s about to have an aneurism. fortunately, he didn’t. anyone who dismisses xtc as a band that just sounds like the beatles really needs to listen to ‘white music’ because the beatles never made anyone want to pogo to the point of exhaustion.

and that, my friends, is it until october.