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XTC

XTC was one of the smartest -- and catchiest -- British pop bands to emerge from the punk and new wave explosion of the late '70s. From the tense, jerky riffs of their early singles to the lushly arranged, meticulous pop of their later albums, XTC's music has always been driven by the hook-laden songwriting of guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding. While popular success has eluded them in both Britain and America, the group has developed a devoted cult following in both countries that remains loyal over two decades after their first records.

Partridge, Moulding, and drummer Terry Chambers formed the first version of the band around 1976, calling themselves Star Park. As punk rock took off in 1977, the group changed their name to Helium Kidz and added keyboardist Barry Andrews. After being turned down by CBS Records, the band changed their name to XTC and secured a record contract with Virgin; they released their first EP, 3-D, in October of 1977. White Music, the band's first full-length album, was recorded in a week and released by the end of the year. Critics praised the angular yet melodic pop, and the album reached number 38 in the U.K. charts. However, none of the singles released from the album charted (including "This Is Pop"), nor did "Are You Receiving Me?," the teaser single for their second album, Go 2 (1978).

After returning from a brief U.S. tour, Andrews quit the band; he would eventually form the League of Gentlemen with Robert Fripp, as well as pursue a solo career. Guitarist David Gregory was added to the lineup after Andrews' departure and the group recorded their first charting single, "Life Begins at the Hop." XTC released their third album, the calmer, more pop-oriented Drums and Wires, that summer; the record climbed to number 37 on the charts, thanks to the hit single "Making Plans for Nigel." While Drums and Wires began to climb the U.S. charts, Partridge released his first solo album early in 1980; outside of the band's devoted fans, the record appeared without much fanfare.

XTC continued to smooth out their edges on 1980's Black Sea, bringing in elements of mid-'60s Beatles and Kinks to their guitar-driven pop; thanks to the singles "Generals and Majors" and "Towers of London," it was the group's most successful American album, peaking at number 41 while reaching number 16 on the British charts. Released the following year, English Settlement featured more complex arrangements, as well as more intellectual lyrics, particularly from Andy Partridge. Nevertheless, the album was XTC's biggest success in the U.K., reaching number five on the album charts and launching the Top Ten single, "Senses Working Overtime."

While on tour in March of 1982, Partridge collapsed while on-stage, suffering from exhaustion. Less than a month later, he collapsed again with a stomach ulcer. The band canceled the tour shortly after his second collapse, prompting Chambers to leave the group. In November, Partridge announced that XTC would never play live again, concentrating on recording instead; he also blamed his collapses on intense stage fright. As the band completed their new album, a compilation called Waxworks -- Some Singles (1977-1982) was released at the end of the year.

Mummer, the first album the studio-bound XTC recorded, appeared in the summer of 1983; former Glitter Band member Pete Phipps recorded the drum tracks for the record. XTC refused to tour for the record, which caused some tension between the band and Virgin, and was presumably the reason why "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" didn't make it past number 50 on the charts. Recording under the name the Three Wise Men, the group released the holiday single "Thanks for Christmas" at the end of the year.

Released in the fall of 1984, The Big Express essentially followed the same pattern as Mummer, yet it charted higher in the U.K. XTC released a psychedelic parody album, 25 O'Clock, under the name the Dukes of Stratosphear in 1985. After a difficult recording session with producer Todd Rundgren, the pastoral Skylarking appeared in the fall of 1986. Upon its release the album was hailed as a masterwork by critics, even though the band were claiming they were unsatisfied with the production. Skylarking was a bigger hit in the U.S. than it was in the U.K., spending over six months on the charts and peaking at number 70.

XTC recorded another Dukes of Stratosphear album, Psonic Psunspot, in 1987; the two Stratosphear albums were collected on one disc the following year. Oranges and Lemons (1989) reworked the psychedelia of the Stratosphear side-project, leaving out much of the loopy humor and replacing it with a Ray Davies-inspired nostalgia. The album was a minor hit in both Britain and America, reaching number 28 and number 44, respectively; "Mayor of Simpleton" became XTC's only charting U.S. single, reaching number 72 while peaking at number 46 on the British charts. Three years later, the group released Nonsuch, an album that recalled both Pet Sounds and Revolver. Like every XTC record, its critical acclaim was greater than its sales -- the album dropped out of the British charts after two weeks. In America, Nonsuch was more successful, reaching number 97 and staying on the charts for 11 weeks. Years of internal difficulties and label battles kept the group from releasing any new material for much of the decade, however, and not until 1999 did the next XTC album, Apple Venus, Pt. 1, finally appear. Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Pt. 2) followed in mid-2000.

XTC's lack of commercial success isn't because their music isn't accessible -- their bright, occasionally melancholy, melodies flow with more grace than most bands -- it has more to do with the group constantly being out of step with the times. However, the band has left behind a remarkably rich and varied series of albums that make a convincing argument that XTC is the great lost pop band. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Apple Box

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Track List: Coat Of Many Cupboards

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Track List: Transistor Blast: The Best Of The BBC Sessions

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Comments

Love when that intro comes back as the middle 8. Ingenious!
If there were any justice in the world, XTC would be famous and Duran duran and their ilk would toil in obscurity. XTC were a truly creative band, as a listen to their studio albums shows. If you buy an XTC album, make sure you get one of the studio albums, not the greatest hits type cd, as you need to hear the songs in the context of the album as the band intended to fully appreciate this band' genius.
hzenzie
XTC's Oranges and Lemons is one of my favorite albums of all time. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen...
jengirlm
Love me some XTC, always good, way way way underrated.
Great band.One of their best records of the early years.So underrated!W O R L D WAR III
krj972
Oh get bent emiller2051! It's sad enough only a few hundred people still appreciate such a talented band as XTC, and then you spam the comment section. Argh!
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However If you don't post this you will die in two days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it works
Great song, period!
Speistam and Michelle S, my XTC tattoo is of the Chalkhills (Uffington) horse, the ONLY band tattoo this body will ever see. No one really knows what it is but since I do, that is all that matters.
Put your hand over your mouth
Make a wish
Make a fist
Put your hand over your heart for 5 sec
Post this on 3 other songs
Tomorrow will be the best day of your life
claricentp91 7
This is how you can make $50 - $100 per day by answering surveys. 1st. Go to BLUDOS.COM 2nd. Click on Start Today 3rd. Create Account (It's free) 4th. Thank me = >
shawnnavuz71 1
This is how you can make $50 - $100 per day by answering surveys. 1st. Go to BLUDOS.COM 2nd. Click on Start Today 3rd. Create Account (It's free) 4th. Thank me = >
Do not like the song Dear God, but all the rest is great!
I never liked XTC in the 80s. Fast forward 30 years and now I can't get enough of them!!
That whole band history, and no mention of Dear God - the B side that got more airplay than the song it was released with (the Grass 12)
I agree, with sadness, they are THE great lost pop band. Relic_Gamer, I live in NOLA and I only know maybe 3 people who have heard of XTC but all 4 of us are loyal fans!
*...XTC is the great lost pop band.*
relic_gamer
I would love to meet another person who likes XTC. It seems nobody has heard of them around my area...
And when I found out about them I had heard from a record store guy on record store day, best recommendati o n ever!
Totally wish they were held in a better esteem here on the west coast states with people my age
Both are bold statements that I totally agree with
Andy Partridge is an absolute genius and Colin the most underrated bass player ever.
Grew up With this band, Love it so much!
speistam, what is the tattoo you got? I was going to get an XTC tatto as well...
speistam
The only band celebrated in tattoo form on my body. 'Nuff said!
AMAZING
strangely pleasing, and pleasingly strange!
I can thank my older brother for introducing me to this band...ever since that first day lisening to Drums and Wires, I was hooked big time. I have all of their stuff; from studio albums to some live stuff and it never gets old, even after some forty years! XTC is hands down my favorite band of all time. Thank you, Andy and Colin for a lifetime of amazing music.
That's because they were underrated Jordan, so they didn't get as much airplay as they should have....
These guys have a lot more history than I am directly familiar with...
sandradmaui
A different kind of tinsel decorates my tree too.
the memories this brings back....
I ran into a fellow fan at the bar last night! I've found it very hard to meet people who listen to them. We both had the same reaction to each other: Who else is playing XTC on the jukebox?!
best kept secret in the music industry...
Listening as a musician I am amazed, humbled and inspired all at once!
partridge is the most creative, unique songwriter ever! genius status! anyone remember shreikback?, andrews & allen from, gang of four. ahhhhh, memory lane!
zellerware
There is only one XTC
zellerware
XTC is another unique and brilliant band for the post punk era..
XTC... bloody fckin' brilliant!!!
skylarking.. m y favorite album of all time
benjaminboot h
... and I'm a pretty Big Deal.
benjaminboot h
I must confess something: XTC made me who I am today. And I'
bcaster
How have I never even heard of this band before? Thanks Pandora!
XTC is simply one of my favorite bands. I wish I had seen them in one of their very rare performances , but alas. I hear a lot of bands trying to sound like Andy Partridge and the boys, but they never will. XTC is the gold standard.
It always amazes me how much publicity the later Talking Heads got while XTC was out there at the same time (and longer). XTC way more innovative interesting band. Records companies (as today) brainwashing the public that something is better than another.
I only have 3 XTC records ('86-'89). Really dig them. Need to acquire more!
barkenn
One of my all-time favorite bands. The fact they weren't more popular is criminal. Had tickets for a show on their last tour 1 month after they stopped touring (dammit). I still listen to their entire catalog regularly (including Fuzzy Warbles). Surprised the bio didn't mention "Dear God".
ckhyoung
LOVE Them....in my top 5 and have been for 25 years. Oranges & Lemons is my FAV.
Wheeeeee!
What a rush to hear this from the really old days. I love this crap. And it sounds so much better on my Bose™ than I've ever heard it.
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