Monday, 27 April 2015

X is for XTC

It's time for a look back at the British invasion with XTC, a "new wave" rock band from Swindon, England.  Originally formed in 1972 by Colin Moulding, Terry Chambers, and Andy Partridge the band went through several name changes before they were joined by Barry Andrews in 1976 and settled on XTC.  In the early days they played glam rock with homemade costumes and slowly built up a following.

They signed a recording contract with Virgin Records in 1977 and began to tour following the release of their debut album "White Music" in 1978.  The album had favourable reviews but its lead single "Statue of Liberty" was banned by the BBC for supposedly having lewd lyrics.  1979 saw some major changes: Barry Andrews left the band and was replaced by Dave Gregory and the band steered themselves toward a more traditional rock sound.  The song "Life Begins at the Hop" was their first charting single, and soon after this they were fortunate enough to secure recording time at the prestigious Townhouse Studio in London.

Hoping to crack the American market, XTC embarked on an ambitious tour in the U.S. and Canada, often performing with fellow UK-based band, The Police.  The accompanying album "Black Sea" had two singles that made the UK Top 40 and the album itself reached Number One in Australia.  However, at their peak of popularity, Andy Partridge suffered a mental breakdown while on stage during a concert in 1982.  His wife, concerned about his dependency on medication, had thrown away his pills without seeking medical advice, which caused him to have anxiety attacks so severe that he was unable to perform.  The situation forced the band to cancel the remaining shows of their tour.

Thereafter, the band worked only in the studio.  Their subsequent album "Mummer" had a more pastoral vibe to it.  Dissatisfied with doing only studio work, founding member Terry Chambers left in 1983, requiring the band to use session drummers for later albums.  The band modified their sound and continued to produce music, but not touring was a disappointment to both their record label as well as their fans and the band's popularity began to wane.

In 1986 in an attempt to reinvigorate the band's success, songwriter and producer Todd Rungren was hired.  Despite personality clashes with band members, his direction got results: their next four albums were very well received.  A contractual dispute with Virgin Records in 1992 prompted the band to go "on strike" for six years, and finally they were able to get out of their contract and begin to work independently, forming their own label.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the band struggled with financial issues and the departure of Dave Gregory due to differences of opinion on the band's musical style.  The albums "Apple Venus Volumes 1 and 2" and a four-CD compilation "Coat of Many Cupboards" would be some of the last works that XTC would record.  In 2006 it was announced that Colin Moulding no longer had any interest in songwriting, and since the other members felt they couldn't continue without him, the band broke up.

Here's a remastered video of one of XTC's early hit singles.
Making Plans for Nigel

1 comment:

  1. I am unfamiliar with this band, but the history and struggles are definitely an interesting read. It is amazing how much conflict and chaos exists with these bands.