Legacy 7″ Box – 9

XTC – Senses Working Overtime
Virgin VS 462
1982 UK

I happen to think that this is one of the greatest 45’s ever pressed to wax, a truly brilliant pop song that has intelligent lyrics but a rather simple hook. XTC had a lot of great songs but this one, as far as singles go, is right up there at the very top in a collection that is already in another league.

Well I Never – Graph

So I have come to the end of my look back at the albums of XTC, there are others that weren’t  included but I don’t have anything after 1992 and am yet to get anything by side project ‘The Dukes of Stratosphere’, so these are the main albums with the rating for the 10 albums included in graph and table form. Here for your enjoyment and, possibly, disagreement is the bar chart:

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There are probably some controversial ratings in there, certainly Big Express is always rated as the worst XTC album a  lot of the time, but not by me. I think, with any body of work, how an individual rates them, if they are stupid enough to do such a thing, often depends on what you heard first or how old you were at the time and so on. I know a lot of people really rate Go 2, and I like it but not as much as I like the other releases. It’s all opinion and many people will consider mine wrong, but that’s ok, I think the same of theirs.

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Let’s finish with a gig, this one is Rockpalast from 1982:

Tracklist:

Respectable Street –  Towers of London  – Runaways  – Jason and the Argonauts  – Burning With Optimism’s Flames – -Snowman  – Ball And Chain – -Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me) – No Thugs In Our House – Senses Working Overtime – Making Plans For Nigel – Living Through Another Cuba – Generals and Majors – Real By Reel  – Life Begins At The Hop

XTC – Well I Never (Part 10)

Nonsuch is the final album I will be looking at for now, although there are some further releases they aren’t readily available, unless you are prepared to pay £200 for a copy, and I’m not. This album sells for around £120, a decent copy does at least. I’ve seen one for sale listed as ATTENTION!!! ONLY RECORD 1 OF THE SET WITH IT’S ORIGINAL INNER SLEEVE, IS FOR SALE…….RECORD 2 WITH IT’S ORIGINAL INNER SLEEVE AND THE ORIGINAL COVER, ARE MISSING!!! that was £50, madness really.

This was the album that caused XTC to enter into a dispute with Virgin Records that resulted in a gap of several years before anything else was released. On its its initial release in 1992 it did pretty well, reaching number 28 in the UK charts and Lead single The Disappointed, was nominated for an Ivor Novello award. The album was nominated for the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album (won by Tom Waits with Bone Machine) and reached number 97 on the US Billboard 200, as well as number one on Rolling Stone’s College album chart. Not too shabby.

The album cover is an image of Nonsuch Palace,  a Tudor royal palace, built by Henry VIII in Surrey, England; it stood from 1538 to 1682–3.

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Having written around 32 songs for Nonsuch by 1991, it was a while before anything else happened as the musical director of Virgin Records felt that the band “could do better” and asked them to write other songs. Andy Partridge reflected: “We were ready [to record the album in 1990], but our English record company refused all our songs.” In Partridge’s recollection, the director threatened that Virgin would drop the band if the band don’t write an albumof twelve Top Ten guaranteed singles,” and noted that this attitude held the band up in recording Nonsuch, which they refused to rewrite, believing its songs to be among the greatest they had written. With the band sitting on the material, the director left the label a year later, and his replacement liked the band’s content, hurrying the band to record the album.

I think the band were pretty much right, it’s not an album of top ten singles though, I think that was never going to happen, and to be frank, it is an entirely unreasonable demand to make of any band/artist.

There were only two singles released, The Disappointed and The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, although Wrapped In Grey was to be released and copies were pressed, but the record label changed their minds at the last minute, another reason why the band parted company with them after this album.

 

Tracklist

A1 The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead
A2 My Bird Performs
A3 Dear Madam Barnum
A4 Humble Daisy
A5 The Smartest Monkeys

B1 The Disappointed
B2 Holly Up On Poppy
B3 Crocodile
B4 Rook

C1 Omnibus
C2 That Wave
C3 Then She Appeared
C4 War Dance

D1 Wrapped In Grey
D2 The Ugly Underneath
D3 Bungalow
D4 Books Are Burning

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Like all the XTC albums I’ve looked at so far, it’s bloody good. They are one of the most, if not the most, consistently good songwriters I’ve ever heard. I do wish this would get a re-release though, doesn’t have to be a deluxe box set or anything like that, just a re-press as it was when originally released.

Also, I had no idea this existed, I don’t know how I feel about it:

Rating: 9.0

Next, the graph, everybody loves a bloody graph!

Well I Never (Part 9)

 

XTC – Well I Never (Part 9)

Oranges & Lemons 1989

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The name of the album came from the old English nursery rhyme and was also referenced in the song “Ballet for a Rainy Day” on Skylarking. This was their second double album, after 1982’s English Settlement and was recorded in Los Angeles. I have a copy on the way that was priced pretty reasonably online.

The album produced three singles, Mayor of Simpleton, King for a Day, and The Loving. None found any major success, which was a trend for the band by now. This was not due to the quality of the songs but was more likely the lack of promotion through touring, marketing and a change in public tastes. I’ve read that the single King for a Day was Steely Dan-influenced, which I can hear to a degree but it sounds like XTC to me,  and it it did reach No. 10 on the US alternative / modern rock charts, although I’ve no idea how that is measured.  Same for the album which reached No. 1 on the US college / alternative album chart. Reaching No. 44 on the US Billboard Top 200 chart and No. 28 on the UK album chart is certainly worthy of counting as decent though.

The band did promote the album with a two-week acoustic radio-station tour of the US on which they performed a few songs from the album and a few medleys of earlier hits, as well as album reject “Blue Beret”. The tour commenced on 15 May 1989 in Boston and ended on 31 May 1989 at Eastern Sound Studios in Toronto before a live studio audience of two hundred people.

Tracklist

A1. Garden of Earthly Delights 5:02
A2. Mayor of Simpleton 3:58
A3. King for a Day 3:35
A4. Here Comes President Kill Again 3:33

B1. The Loving 4:11
B2. Poor Skeleton Steps Out 3:27
B3. One of the Millions 4:42
B4. Scarecrow People 4:12

C1. Merely a Man 3:26
C2. Cynical Days 3:17
C3. Across This Antheap 4:49

D1. Hold Me My Daddy 3:47
D2. Pink Thing 3:48
D3. Miniature Sun 3:49
D4. Chalkhills and Children 4:59

Rating: 9.0

Part 8

Part 10

XTC-Well I Never (Part 8)

Skylarking 1986

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I know only three tracks well from Skylarking which were all, at some point, singles and appeared on the Fossil Fuel compilation I had, half of which now belongs to Dave and the other half will as well, next time I see him as it wasn’t in the case but I found it the other day.

To be fair I need to give this album way more listening time than I have been able to, actually, I’ve been writing these posts for about a month as I listen to everything, repeatedly.

The album was released on 27 October 1986 and was produced by American musician Todd Rundgren. It is loosely a concept album centred around various cycles in life, such as the seasons, days, and years. The title is a bit of a double entendre, referring to a type of bird (skylark), as well as the Royal Navy term “skylarking”, which means “fooling around”.

Most of the album was recorded at Rundgren’s Utopia Sound Studio in Woodstock, New York where the sessions were fraught with tension, particularly between Rundgren and Andy Partridge, and numerous disagreements arose over drum patterns, song selections, and other minutia. Rundgren was blamed with accidentally mastering the album with a reversed sound polarity, resulting in a thin mix. The problem was was addressed when, in 2010, Partridge independently issued a remastered version of the album with corrected polarity.

The album was pretty much ignored on release, reaching only 90 in the UK album charts but it did a bit better in the US having been popular on college radio, pushing it up to 70.  For some reason the track Dear God was omitted from the original release and appeared only on later pressings, but its existence as the B-Side of the first single Grass,  resulted in hate mail and death threats in the US, which is a shame as it is an amazing track.

There were 4 singles taken from the album, although one was only released in Canada (Earn enough for us).

All three of the singles were on Fossil Fuel so I’m pretty familiar with them, and rather liked a version of Dear God by Tricky that I also have. It is a lovely pastoral album that has elements of the side project released before it, called The Dukes of Stratosphear, XTC released a sort of psychedelic album under this pseudonym that was half joke half serious and it drips into the songs on Skylarking.

The Tube, which was an exceptional UK music show on British TV, produced two videos at Port Meirion, where The Prisoner was filmed, These are included in the little collection below.

Q & A From Uncut magazine, which is pretty interesting:



Q&A

ANDY PARTRIDGE

How did you link up with Todd Rundgren for Skylarking?

Virgin were desperate for something to happen in the States so they gave me a list of American producers and asked me to pick someone on that list. And I hadn’t heard of any of them – it was all like Randy Dinkleferber III: the sort of names that Groucho Marx would have made up. They sent me another list and Todd Rundgren was at the bottom of it. I mentioned it to Dave Gregory and he was an ultra-fan so he said: ‘We should do this, it’ll be great.’ Ironically, he made us sound more English than we ever sounded.

You really didn’t get on well?


No we didn’t. It was very difficult for me because Virgin basically told me to shut up and be produced, “because you’ll only ruin it and make it weird”. Todd wanted to process us through as quickly as possible, and we’d be fighting about the quality of takes. I hate sarcasm and he’s extremely sarcastic.
He produced the New York Dolls – I think they were the only people who have ever worked with him twice. His ego matches the size of the man.  It was like one Brian Clough stood on the shoulder s of another – with a wig. It obviously got everyone down cause we were fighting and we never usually did, and then we got barred from mixing so it took quite a few years to realise he did a fantastic job. His people skills are like Hermann Goering’s.

Was the morning until night concept his idea?

Me and Colin sent him the demos and he called me one night just to introduce himself and he said: “I’ve got the running order.” I was a bit surprised because you don’t usually have that until you’ve recorded everything. He had this idea that it was all happening morning to night, like a summer’s day, or like the order of someone’s life. At one point during the recording, he leaned over the mixing desk and said: “I’ve drawn your cover for you,” and I thought “God, this man’s arrogance has no end”. He’d drawn two railway tickets, and he said these are two railway tickets and the album should be called Day Passes.



You have reverted to the rejected ‘cock and fanny’ cover.

I thought the record had a kind of pagan outdoorsiness, and I wanted a Lady Chatterley’s Lover thing of like meadow flowers woven through male and female pubic hair. Virgin had a mock-up sleeve made and all the big chains and they all said they wouldn’t stock it. As a last minute panic I did a parody of a poster by a fellow called Hans Erni – it was something to do with the Swiss tourist board. The original title was Down and Butter Sun Field Magic ‘cause that was all the things I thought it sounded like. Plateful of Paradise was another title it had for a while. Skylarking was a phrase my father used all the time – he was a navy man and it literally meant messing around in the rigging.

You and Colin Moulding are on a par for who has the best songs on Skylarking.


This is the most songs that Colin ever had on an album, and the reason is that it’s probably his best batch of songs. He doesn’t write that many. The two singles [“Grass” and “The Meeting Place”] were his but Virgin were still in the ìeverything that Colin does is magic cause of the hitsî mindset. I was the weird one with the glasses who just made weird music. I thought Colin had a great sense of melody – a little more refined than mine – but his lyrics weren’t as good.

“Dear God” has been incorporated into the record; is that still a song you are uncomfortable with?


It’s a great subject and I really wanted to write a song about it, and I thought to myself I might have failed; you could do a boxed set of it and not scratch the surface. Our A&R man at Virgin, Jeremy Lascelles asked for it to be taken off the album ìbecause it’ll upset the Americansî. It was a B-side then an American DJ started playing it and the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree. It pleased and upset equal amounts of people. I got hate mail for it – a lot of hate mail and a couple of nice books trying to save my soul.

The albums XTC made before and after you quit touring are completely different. Why was that?


We never intended to be like that – we just kind of became like that. When we started it was all very noisy and futuristic, but that soon wears off and you start to sing with your voice, and you stop worrying about whether things have been done before. It doesn’t matter. Human beings have been done before in every possible way – I don’t feel like I was copying anyone, I was just being me, finally. There’s huge dollops of psychedelia in my make-up cause of the things I listened to when I was growing up.

How do you feel about it the new mix of Skylarking?


It’s like 40% or more better. I got it to a masterer called John Dent – his ears are fantastic – and he said the polarity is wrong on this record. It’s a very common problem. He said at some point in the mix – probably from the multitrack down to the stereo – there’s been some mis-wiring in the studio, and we were like ‘whoah – that would explain it’, because when the album first came over to us in the 80s we all said ‘oh no this is horrible – mix it again’. So Todd Rundgren did it again and then refused to do it a third time. We thought it sounds thin with no bass and it’s distant. Now it sounds like it did in Todd’s studio. At the time I said it was like one bunker with two Hitlers – we were like rams butting our heads together. It was unpleasant but the bastard did a great job. Except he should have done his soldering properly.

Tracklist

A1. Summer’s Cauldron 3:19
A2. Grass  3:05
A3. The Meeting Place 3:14
A4. That’s Really Super, Supergirl 3:21
A5. Ballet for a Rainy Day 2:50
A6. 1000 Umbrellas 3:44
A7. Season Cycle 3:21

B1. Earn Enough for Us 2:54
B2. Big Day 3:32
B3. Another Satellite 4:15
B4. Mermaid Smiled (removed after the album was reissued with “Dear God”; restored on post-2001 reissues) 2:26
B5. The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul 3:24
B6. Dear God” (not included on initial pressings) 3:34
B7. Dying  2:31
B8. Sacrificial Bonfire 3:49

Rating: 9.3

Part 7

Part 9

XTC- Well I Never (Part 7)

The Big Express 1984

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I should have bought this when I saw it in the used bin, but I didn’t and I regret that. As I dais earlier, I ordered a copy from an  online store who contacted me later to tell me they couldn’t find it, so I ended up getting the first ‘Innocence Mission’ album and a Joni Mitchell as replacements. Which is fine but I was still disappointed.

Big Express is one of the albums from which I had heard very little, just All You Pretty Girls as far as I can recall although a few tracks feel familiar and there is, at times, a very mid-eighties sound about it to the point that the opening music of This World Over sounds like something The Police might have been putting out at the time,  which is an observation rather than a criticism. The song itself is great.

Oh well, that’s this world over 
Oh well, next one begins
Will you smile like any mother 
As you bathe your brand new twins? 
Will you sing about the missiles 
As you dry off numbered limbs?

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It really is extraordinary how XTC continued to release albums that had such incredibly good tracks on them but sales actually dropped off rather than increased.

Wake Up sounds to me like something that could have sat quite comfortably on Pink Floyd’s The Wall if they had greater pop sensibilities as it speaks of the hum drum day and rallies to wake up from the coma of modern life.

You put your cleanest dirty shirt on
Then you stagger down to meet the dawn
You take a ride upon a bus, it’s just a fuss
You know it keeps you born
You get to know a morning face
You get to join the human race
You get to know the world has passed you by
Who cares? You might be dead
Who cares? You stayed in bed
Who cares? You wrote the note
Who cares? You might have spoke

The whole album is seemingly centred around a failing future but is not overtly preachy and is tied into great hooks, which is something XTC seem to be able to manage quite effortlessly. The exception is All You Pretty Girls, which appears to have been the required single from the album.

I will definitely have to seek out another copy, hopefully this time it will be third time lucky.

Tracklist

A1 Wake Up 4:40
A2 All You Pretty Girls 3:40
A3 Shake You Donkey Up 4:19
A4 Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her 3:50
A5 This World Over 5:37

B1 The Everyday Story of Smalltown 3:53
B2 I Bought Myself a Liarbird 2:49
B3 Reign of Blows 3:27
B4 You’re the Wish You Are I Had 3:17
B5 I Remember the Sun 3:10
B6 Train Running Low on Soul Coal 5:19

Rating: 8.9

Part 6

Part 8

XTC – Well I Never (Part 6)

Mummer 1983

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I picked up a copy of Mummer at a record fair a couple of weeks ago, never owned it before and never heard it before. It is typically British in its title with Mummer being derived from Mummers’ Plays which are folk plays performed by troupes of amateur actors, traditionally all male, known as mummers or guisers (also by local names such as rhymers, pace-eggers,  soulers,  tipteerers,  wrenboys, and galoshins) which all seems quite apt for XTC.

I bought this particular album for one track, Love on a Farmboy’s Wages, which I adore, and everything else on it is a bonus, and what a bonus. I don’t see that much talk about Mummer compared to many of the other albums and I really do think it deserves to be up there with the rest. More great song writing, more great melodies, cutting lyrics, superb arrangements, well engineered/produced and bears up to repeated listening.  THere were three singles released, Great Fire, Wonderland and Love on a Farmboy’s Wages, the last being the only one to touch the charts at number 50.

Shilling for the fellow who brings the sheep in 
Shilling for the fellow who milks the herd 
Shilling for the fellow with a wife for keeping 
How can we feed love on a farmboy’s wages?

This was the final album that drummer Terry Chambers appeared on with XTC, as he quit the group during the recording sessions. He was replaced by Peter Phipps. Andy Partridge later said “Until early 1982, our work was like black-and-white TV. Mummer was the first in full colour — bright sky blue.”

This was the first album post Andy Partridge breakdown, which resulted in no more live performances. Freed from the possibility of performing the songs live allowed for more studio experimentation with backwards guitars, inventively creepy synth parts, and effect-laden harmony vocals.

Tracklist

A1 Beating of Hearts 3:56
A2 Wonderland 4:50
A3 Love on a Farmboy’s Wages 3:58
A4 Great Fire 3:47
A5 Deliver Us from the Elements 4:36

B1 Human Alchemy 5:11
B2 Ladybird 4:32
B3 In Loving Memory of a Name 3:16
B4 Me and the Wind 4:17
B5 Funk Pop a Roll 3:14

Rating: 9.2

Part 5

Part 7

XTC – Well I Never (Part 5)

English Settlement 1982

r-4086632-1382552911-4035-jpegThe album that upon which sat one of the best pop singles ever written. Really, I mean it, it is that good. First though, I had this album and have no idea what the hell I did with it, it was lost, stolen or sold, probably the latter as I did sell off a chunk of vinyl at one point (and yes, I have regrets).

Side A of this double LP is worth buying it for even if you consider the rest of the tracks a bonus. Runaway wasn’t a single but could easily have been even though it is a slower song, it still has hooks and a message that is worth saying around domestic violence and it’s effects on the family unit. Ball & Chain was a single of course which I was convinced did better than 58 in the UK charts, but it didn’t, it should have. It is super catchy track about urban re-development of all things:

Motorways and office blocks,
They’re standing on the spot
Where stood a home,
Crushing on the memories of people,
Who have since turned to stone

Then there is the track I mentioned earlier, one of the best pop singles ever released, Senses Working Overtime. Apparently Andy Partridge was told by the record company that the album had no singles, so he sat down to write one and accidentally stumbled on a chord that was the basis for the opening refrain. Partridge thought is sounded sort of medieval and this is where the lyrics began to take shape.

The video below is just the song, press play and sing along!

Hey, hey, the clouds are whey
There’s straw for the donkeys
And the innocents can all sleep safely
All sleep safely

My, my, sun is pie
There’s fodder for the cannons
And the guilty ones can all sleep safely
All sleep safely

And all the world is football-shaped
It’s just for me to kick in space
And I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste

And I’ve got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in
I’ve got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to taste the difference ‘tween a lemon and a lime
Pain and pleasure, and the church bells softly chime

Hey, hey, night fights day
There’s food for the thinkers
And the innocents can all live slowly
All live slowly

My, my, the sky will cry
Jewels for the thirsty
And the guilty ones can all die slowly
All die slowly

And all the world is biscuit-shaped
It’s just for me to feed my face
And I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste

And I’ve got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in
I’ve got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to taste the difference ‘tween a lemon and a lime
Pain and pleasure, and the church bells softly chime

And birds might fall from black skies (Whoo-whoo)
And bullies might give you black eyes (Whoo-whoo)
And buses might skid on black ice (Whoo-whoo)
But to me they’re very, very beautiful (England’s glory)
Beautiful (A striking beauty)

And then there is Jason and the Argonauts, which is just so damn good. No singles my arse, I’d have bought a 45 of this without a second thought.

One would think that would be it for great pop songs, but then, side b of the first record opens with No Thugs In Our House, further social commentary on the Great Britain of 1982.

The insect-headed worker-wife will hang her waspies on the line; 
The husband burns his paper, sucks his pipe while studying their cushion-floor; 
His viscous poly-paste breath comes out, 
Their wall-paper world is shattered by his shout, 
A boy in blue is busy banging out a headache on the kitchen door

And all the while Graham slept on, 
Dreaming of a world where he could do just what he wanted to

No thugs in our house, are there dear? 
We made that clear, 
We made little Graham promise us he’d be a good boy

Hardly empty headed pop lyrics but they released it as a single. The album goes on being excellent, although there are some more experimental tracks thrown in there but it is one of the great albums of the decade, so much so that I decided to replace my missing copy with the recently re-pressed version below.

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It arrived today, I played it, it is still brilliant.

Tracklist

A1 Runaways 4:51
A2 Ball And Chain 4:28
A3 Senses Working Overtime 4:45
A4 Jason And The Argonauts 6:03

B1 No Thugs In Our House 5:16
B2 Yacht Dance 3:52
B3 All Of A Sudden (It’s Too Late) 5:18

C1 Melt The Guns 6:31
C2 Leisure 5:01
C3 It’s Nearly Africa 3:54
C4 Knuckle Down 4:26

D1 Fly On The Wall 3:11
D2 Down In The Cockpit 5:35
D3 English Roundabout 3:50
D4 Snowman 4:26

Rating: 9.6

Part 4

Part 6

XTC – Well I Never (Part 4)

Black Sea – 1980

r-2251082-1283817293-jpegI picked up my copy of this at a record fair this year and it was probably why I started listening to the band again and why I watched the documentary again. Released in September 1980 it spawned 5 singles the highest charting of which reached number 16 in the UK.  Produced again by Steve Lillywhite, the sound was complex but clear. Andy Partridge had insisted on recording only arrangements that could be replicated live which meant that if they included a keyboard, that would be at the expense of a guitar and so on.  I had often wondered about the cover shot for the album and recently discovered that the album was originally to be called ‘Work Under Pressure’, which makes sense with the diving suits, more so than Black Sea.

The first single taken from the album was ‘Generals & Majors’, written by bassist Colin Moulding and dealing with militarism and warfare and is one of the better known XTC tracks, but album opener ‘Respectable Street’, which was a also a single but didn’t chart, is probably a better track, although the 45 had different lyrics from the album version and was poorer for it. The original lyrics are exceptional as they tell of suburban neighbourhoods and their respectable facade:

Now they talk about abortions
In cosmopolitan proportions to their daughters
As they speak of contraception
And immaculate receptions on their portable
Sony Entertainment Centres

You can hear the rather disappointing replacement lyrics in the first video below, it is still good though:

What is clear from this album is what an intelligent pop force XTC were and, while they did have a number of singles that charted, they were never really recognised as being as good as they were, which I’ll talk about a little more when we get to the next album, but Sgt Rock (is going to help me) was their second highest placing UK single at number 16, which is catchy but it isn’t the greatest of their tracks. That isn’t just my opinion, it’s Andy Partridge’s opinion as well, and he wrote it:

Right, I’m standing up here and now, and saying this song embarrasses the shit out of me. Of all the tunes that I’ve written, that made it to tape, this makes me cringe the worse. It’s not the music, that’s solid enough. All the instruments in the track mesh nicely enough, but the lyrical sentiment, oh dear. It was supposed to be ironic, you know, nerdy comic fan imagines two dimensional hero can help him with his unsuccessful chat up technique. It did not work. It just came out limply crap. Virgin insisted it be included in this set, otherwise I’d gladly erase it from our history. We all make mistakes.

Tracklist

A1 Respectable Street – 3:37
A2 Generals And Majors – 4:04
A3 Living Through Another Cuba – 4:45
A4 Love At First Sight – 3:06
A5 Rocket From A Bottle – 3:30
A6 No Language In Our Lungs – 4:52

B1 Towers Of London -5:24
B2 – Paper And Iron (Notes And Coins) – 4:14
B3 Burning With Optimism’s Flame – 4:15
B4 Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me) – 3:56
B5 Travels In Nihilon – 6:56

Rating: 9.2

It was around this time that an often repeated quote suggested that XTC were like the Beatles if there was only McCartney writing the songs. I’ve thought about this a lot and having given it some consideration I believe it to be bollocks. I don’t mind comparisons, but not when they suggest that everything is owed to the band being compared against, The Beatles aren’t entirely original either, everybody has influences. Also, McCartney couldn’t write XTC tracks but XTC could write Beatles tracks (Controversial?).

XTC Part 3

Part 5

XTC – Well I Never (Part 3)

Drums and Wires – 1979

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Released in August 1979, only 10 months on from ‘Go 2’, and where I come into the story with the first track I heard, and loved, the single ‘We’re only making plans for Nigel’. The whole sound of the band seems, to me, to have focused and so has the song writing. The album marked the debut of Dave Gregory, who joined the band as lead guitarist following keyboardist Barry Andrews’ departure in early 1979, which would have affected the sound, as would the Steve Lillywhite production.

There was only the one single released from the album in the UK although there was a re-recorded version of ‘Ten Feet Tall’ released in the US but it didn’t trouble the charts over there, which doesn’t surprise me really as I find XTC to have a very British view on things which may not travel all that well, but it works for me. Ten Feet Tall is a damn fine single and it’s a shame it wasn’t released over here as I think it would probably have done quite well.

The album peaked at 32 in the UK and 174 in the US, although I think a lot of people may have picked up on it later as it is a very well thought of album, and with good reason. Thinking back on the musical landscape back in 1978, I genuinely believe that there are 5, possibly 6 hit singles on this album, however, albums didn’t tend to be milked in quite the way they were in the next few decades, well, not as many were at least.

Side A

1. Making Plans for Nigel – 4:13
2. Helicopter – 3:54
3. Day In Day Out – 3:08
4. When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty – 3:20
5. Ten Feet Tall – 3:12
6. Roads Girdle the Globe – 4:51

Side B

7. Real by Reel – 3:46
8. Millions – 5:57
9. That Is the Way – 2:56
10. Outside World – 2:40
11. Scissor Man – 3:59
12. Complicated Game – 4:53

Rating: 9.0

XTC – Part 2

XTC – Well I Never (Part 2)

Go 2 – 1978

xtc_go_2The second album release of 1978 was ‘Go 2’ in October with a Hipgnosis designed cover which deliberately rather underplays everything. Sound wise the tracks are coming from the same place as ‘White Music’, but the songs, while still full of energy, don’t quite match up to the debut and it was possibly rushed, being released only 10 months later having been recorded at Abbey Road Studios between August and September and released in October.

Stand out tracks for me are the single, ‘Are you receiving me?’ and probably ‘Red’. I think it is fair to say that this is an album that is part of the journey to what comes next but is not really their best work. I do like the lyrics to ‘Are you receiving me?’ though, of which there aren’t actually very many but in the 3 minute context of the song it doesn’t seem that way at all.

Are you receiving me?
You are deceiving me I know, see, I know
When we’re out walking
Your mouth ain’t where it’s supposed to do the talking
When we’re in kissing
Your lips are missing, are they out on loan to someone else?
Are you listening?
I put it in a letter, what could be better?
I put it in a note, one night, I wrote
I put it in a telegram, just like the son of Sam
Babe, there’s something missing
Your TV’s just hissing

Side A
1. Meccanik Dancing (Oh We Go!) – 2:36
2. Battery Brides (Andy Paints Brian) – 4:37
3. Buzzcity Talking – 2:41
4. Crowded Room – 2:53
5. The Rhythm – 3:00
6. Are You Receiving Me? –  3:03
7. Red – 3:02

Side B
1. Beatown – 4:37
2. Life Is Good in the Greenhouse – 4:41
3. Jumping In Gomorrah – 2:04
4. My Weapon – 2:20
5. Super-Tuff –  4:27
6. I Am the Audience – 3:48

Rating: 6.8

XTC Part 1

XTC – Well I never (Part 1)

Music is such an odd thing. Sometimes it doesn’t connect and years can go by until, quite suddenly, it does. I was watching the XTC documentary ‘This is Pop” (which is excellent and recommended) for the second time and, quite unexpectedly, I found myself absolutely loving the track ‘Love on a Farmboy’s Wages’, which I’d never heard before, or if  I had I erased it from my memory. Then, over the last couple of weeks, I started listening to the back catalogue and am struggling to understand why I never paid enough attention before as almost everything I had already heard I really liked, which was mostly the singles of course.

I did have the ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ single around the time it came out I think, which would have been 1979, but nothing else until around ’84 when I bought a used copy of ‘English Settlement’, which has subsequently disappeared, a cd copy of Waxworks/Beeswax and another CD which was ‘Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977–92’, also a copy of ‘Black Sea’ from a record fair a couple of months ago. Now that I’ve written that down it is more than I thought.

In the last couple of weeks I have gone a bit XTC mad as I am in the odd position of almost discovering a new band who have loads of songs I already know. Yes, that doesn’t make much sense but it’s how it feels. At the Rugby record fair a few weekends ago I bought the Waxworks/Beeswax records and a copy of Mummer, I’ve also got some 7″ singles and yesterday I ordered a used copy of The Big Express, the die cut version which I saw in a used record bin last year and didn’t buy, and have now paid twice what I could have got it for. Never mind, no point regretting record buying decisions, even though at some point before the end of this post I am definitely going to do that.

Just in case you don’t know much about XTC I will first make the following statement, the songwriting is brilliant, really it is. I will now try and write a very (very) brief history of the bands formation, you can skip a bit if you already know this stuff, and then a brief album by album write up.

Early History

A version of XTC were formed in Swindon, Wiltshire around 1972. Originally named Star Park, the group were Colin Moulding (Bass & Vocals) and Terry Chambers (Drums) who asked Andy Partridge (Guitar & Vocals) to join their new group. Andy Partridge describes the music of the Helium Kidz as rather turgid and that they wanted a change, to sing about new things and, with the addition of Barry Andrews on Keyboards in 1976, they settled on the name XTC for their new direction. There’s a rather good video from the John Peel Archive site (which you should haver visited by now as it is brilliant) where Andy Partridge talks about how having a couple of Peel Sessions and how being approved by John Peel really kick started their career with record labels fighting each other to sign them, here it is:

r-1368893-1213541064-jpegThe first track from XTC that saw release was in October 1978, a 7″ of ‘Science Friction’ that was subsequently withdrawn in the UK but was also part of 12″ EP titled 3D. I have no idea why it was withdrawn in the UK, although it never troubled the charts so perhaps that’s why. The second 7″ was released in January 78, ‘Statue of Liberty’ which also didn’t trouble the charts anywhere,  it was banned by the BBC though, for the lyrics, “In my fantasy I sail beneath your skirt”, seriously BBC get a grip would you? the next single, ‘This is Pop?’ from April 78 didn’t trouble the charts either. The fourth single, ‘Are you receiving me’ from September 78 managed number 86 in Australia. By this time the first album had been released, containing ‘Statue of Liberty’, and ‘This is Pop?’ reaching a rather decent 38 in the UK charts.

White Music – 1978

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‘White Music’  was released in January 1978 and there are fairly clear influences, from Talking Heads to New York Dolls and there is an argument that could be made for it to be considered the first of the New Wave albums by a UK band. The choice of ‘All Along the Watchtower’, a Dylan song famously covered by Hendrix, was an interesting one and their take on it does work in the context of the album. If I had to guess, I’d suggest that it was a live regular for Helium Kids. Back in the late seventies, early eighties, it was a regular track for garage bands that I was in, so I can see why they would throw it in, the chord progression is repetitive and easy so why not.

I think it is one of those albums that would be great if you first heard it in 1978 in the context of everything else that was around at the time. It’s still good though and the singles taken from it are a clear indication of where the band were heading, both really good tracks.

Here are the tracks on the album, a couple of proper videos, some live and some just the tracks, varying quality:

Side A

1. Radios in Motion – 2:54
2. Cross Wires – 2:06
3. This Is Pop? – 2:41
4. Do What You Do – 1:16
5. Statue of Liberty – 2:55
6. All Along the Watchtower – 5:43

Side B

1. Into the Atom Age – 2:32
2. I’ll Set Myself on Fire – 3:04
3. I’m Bugged -3:59
4. New Town Animal – 1:53
5. Spinning Top – 2:40
6. Neon Shuffle – 4:37

Rating: 7.3

XTC – Part 2

 

Rugby Record Fair

I took a very quick trip to Rugby Record Fair at the town hall today in-between washing the car and doing some food shopping. It’s a small fair so that was OK. I did manage to find some things that I wanted so it was a quick but successful trip.

The first thing I bought was a Catatonia 7″ – Strange Glue which is a nice red vinyl complete with poster that I will never use.

I have entered a Catatonia 7″ collecting phase, this only makes 3 but they are quite cheap and I like them, so that’s good.

I picked up a couple of Stanley Clarke albums, which were also cheap at £4 each. I do like a bit of Stanley Clarke and they are generally not expensive so whenever I see one, or two in this case, I’ll get them.

There was a stall with new, sealed albums all at £10 but there were only a couple I was interested in, and I only got one, which was Odelay by Beck. I’ve been meaning to get a copy for ages so this was fortuitous.

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Finally, a bit of XTC. I used to have 3 or 4 XTC records but I sold them at some point and now, like many other people, I find myself looking to replace what I sold. The only one I had before today was Black Sea. The ones I got today I only had on CD though so this is a first time having the actual LP’s. I watched, for the 2nd time, an XTC documentary the other week and it got me all enthused again. I bought Beeswax – the B Sides just so that I could have both as, even when I had it on CD I only actually listened to the Singles album. They were great songwriters though so I will give it some time.

Loads of tracks I could have chosen for these, but this one is just brilliant writing from the Murmur album, So this one it is.

This way lay madness – the 7″ Single

I had a sudden impulse to but some 7” singles. I’m not entirely sure what brought this on other than a few items on an ebay search filter for ‘LP’ sneaking through and capturing my attention. I have had little or no interest in 7” singles since I was about 16, when they were the only affordable way of buying music. I had no means of income so what little I was able to scrounge up would rarely be enough for an album so it was only singles that were really in my price range. I did manage to obtain a few albums, but not that many really, I think around that time I had about 20 or 30 at most which probably took me years to accumulate.

So I saw this bundle of 80 singles which worked out at £0.375 each and thought I’d pop a bid on them, expecting to be outbid, but you never know, perhaps nobody else wanted them. Which is exactly what happened, my opening bid was the only one. So what did I buy for the princely sum of, near enough, 3 for a £1?

Well, obviously there were some items that I wasn’t that interested in but these were outweighed by those that were of interest, and some of those that weren’t of interest might very well be, once I’ve had a listen to them.

Here is a list of what is on its way to me next week with a few comments:

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1) Siouxsie And The Banshees – 1980 – “Christine” – pic sleeve
– I had this one when it came out and really liked the lyric in particular – “Christine, the strawberry girl,Christine, banana split lady, Now she’s in purple, Now she’s the turtle, Disintegrating, Christine, Christine” – I’m not saying they make any sense, but I do like them.
2) Siouxsie And The Banshees – 1985 – “Cities In Dust” – pic sleeve
3) Transvision Vamp – 1989 – “Baby I Don’t Care” – pic sleeve
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4) The Toy Dolls – 1984 – “Nellie The Elephant” – pic sleeve
– This was played all the time at a place I used to work, I would hear it every single day. I’m not sure if I hate it or not.
5) Captain Sensible – 1983 – “Glad It’s All Over” – pic sleeve
6) Atomic Rooster – 1970 – “Tomorrow Night” – plain sleeve
7) Various – 1994 – “Nasty Vinyl Sucks” EP (Germany) – pic sleeve
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8) Kenny Everett – 1983 – “Snot Rap” (Sid Snot) – pic sleeve
– I definitely hate this
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9) The Vapors – 1980 – “Turning Japanese” – pic sleeve
– I never had this single but it’s a great little song and reminds me very much of 1980 when it was released.

10) The Stranglers – 1985 – “Let Me Down Easy” – pic sleeve
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11) The Stranglers – 1981 – “Golden Brown” – pic sleeve
– Well I love the Stranglers and have several of their albums so this is a bonus really
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12) Bow Wow Wow – 1982 – “I Want Candy” – pic sleeve
– Not my favourite of theirs, that would be either ‘Wild in the country’ or ‘C30,C60,C90” but in the early eighties I very much had a thing for Annabella Lwin, which is reason enough to have it.
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13) The Ramones – 1980 – “Baby I Love You” – pic sleeve
– Speaks for itself, it’s the Ramones, how could I not want it?
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14) Ian Dury and The Blockheads – 1979 – “Reasons To Be Cheerful part 3” – pic sleeve
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15) Ian Dury and The Blockheads – 1978 – “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” – Pic sleeve
– I had both of these at the time, although the former I had on 12” rather than 7”, no idea what happened to it but I’m glad to have it again. The Barney Bubbles covers are brilliant as well.
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16) XTC – 1979 – “Making Plans For Nigel” – plain sleeve
– Had this as well, and I’m getting more and more into XTC of late, more than I was back in the 70’s and 80’s, I don’t think I appreciated what they were about at the time.
17) The Jam – 1982 – “Beat Surrender” – pic sleeve
18) The Jam – 1977 – “All Around The World” – plain sleeve
– Nice to have
19) Tubeway Army – 1979 – “Are Friends Electric?” – pic sleeve
20) Gary Numan – 1987 – “Cars (‘E’ Reg Model)” – pic sleeve
21) Gary Numan – 1980 – “We Are Glass” – plain sleeve
– Also Nice to have
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22) Nick Lowe – 1978 – “Little Hitler” – pic sleeve
23) Nick Lowe – 1978 – “Cruel To Be Kind” – plain sleeve
24) Nick Lowe – 1978 – “I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass” – plain sleeve
– I always rather liked Nick Lowe, I think because he was on Stiff Records, and so was Ian Dury. The only one of these I didn’t know was ‘Little Hitler’, which I just listened to and I think it’s the weaker of the three, but it was an expression one doesn’t hear so much anymore, so that’s interesting. There can’t be many singles that reference Hitler in the title.
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25) Squeeze – 1978 – “Goodbye Girl” – pic sleeve
26) Squeeze – 1979 – “Cool For Cats” – pic sleeve
27) Squeeze – 1981 – “Labelled With Love” – plain sleeve
28) Squeeze – 1981 – “Is That Love” – pic sleeve
– I liked Squeeze and had a pink 7” version of ‘Cool For Cats’, I may have had ‘Up the Junction’ as well, but, much like XTC, I didn’t really appreciate how good they were as songwriters.
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29) Elvis Costello & The Attractions – 1981 – “Good Year For The Roses” – plain sleeve
30) Elvis Costello & The Attractions – 1978 – “Radio Radio” – plain sleeve
31) Elvis Costello & The Attractions – 1979 – “Oliver’s Army” – pic sleeve
32) Elvis Costello – 1980 – 4 track EP “New Amsterdam” – pic sleeve
33) Elvis Costello – 1989 – “Veronica” – pic sleeve
34) Elvis Costello & George Jones – 1979 – “Stranger In The House” – pic sleeve
– Happy to have these Elvis Costello singles, his early period is what I favour most.
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35) Toyah – 1983 – “Rebel Run” – pic sleeve
36) Toyah – 1981 – “I Want To Be Free” – pic sleeve
37) Toyah – 1981 – “Thunder In The Mountains” – pic sleeve
38) Toyah – 1981 – 4 track EP – “Four From Toyah” – pic sleeve
39) Toyah – 1981 – 4 track EP – “Four More From Toyah” – pic sleeve (with free flexi disc)
40) Toyah – 1982 – “Brave New World” – pic sleeve
– I had a single by Toyah titled ‘IEYA’, which I thought was great, and still do, but it’s not in this lot, which is a shame. I did see her performing on a Top Of The Pops repeat the other week, I think it was ‘ I Wanna Be Free’, it was awful.
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41) Adam And The Ants – 1980 – “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” – pic sleeve
42) Adam And The Ants – 1978 – “Deutscher Girls” – pic sleeve
43) Adam And The Ants – 1980 – “Car Trouble” – pic sleeve
44) Adam And The Ants – 1980 – “Ant Music” – pic sleeve
45) Adam And The Ants – 1978 – “Young Parisians” – pic sleeve
46) Adam And The Ants – 1980 – “Dog Eat Dog” – pic sleeve
47) Adam And The Ants – 1981 – “Stand & Deliver” – pic sleeve
48) Adam And The Ants – 1981 – “Prince Charming” – gatefold pic sleeve
49) Adam And The Ants – 1982 – “Goody Two Shoes” – fold out poster sleeve
50) Adam Ant – 1982 – “Friend Or Foe” – pic sleeve
– I’ve written before about Adam and The Ants, in particular ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier”, which you can read about here: https://wordpress.com/stats/day/verian.wordpress.com if you’d like to. I think their/his early work in particular is rather underrated.
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51) The Boomtown Rats – 1977 – “Mary Of The 4th Form” – pic sleeve
52) The Boomtown Rats – 1977 – “Looking After No.1” – plain sleeve
53) The Boomtown Rats – 1980 – “Banana Republic” – pic sleeve
54) The Boomtown Rats – 1978 – “Like Clockwork” – company sleeve
55) The Boomtown Rats – 1978 – “Rat Trap” – pic sleeve
56) The Boomtown Rats – 1979 – “I Don’t Like Mondays” – company sleeve
– There was a point where I really liked the Boomtown Rats, probably shortly before ‘I don’t like Mondays’ became a mega hit but I remember being disappointed at some point and thinking that their song quality control was somewhat lacking. Maybe I expected hit after hit and, when that didn’t happen, became disillusioned with them, but these singles are probably the best of them, so that’s good.
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57) The Police – 1981 – “Spirits In The Material World” – (Italy) pic sleeve
58) The Police – 1978 – “So Lonely” – pic sleeve
59) The Police – 1986 – “Don’t Stand So Close To Me ’86” – pic sleeve
60) The Police – 1979 – “Walking On The Moon” – company sleeve
61) The Police – 1980 – “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” – company sleeve
62) The Police – 1980 – “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” – pic sleeve
63) The Police – 1981 – “Invisible Sun” – pic sleeve
64) The Police – 1981 – “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” – company sleeve
65) The Police – 1980 – “The Beds Too Big Without You” – pic sleeve (blue vinyl)
66) The Police – 1983 – “King Of Pain” – pic sleeve
67) Sting – 1991 – “Mad About You” – pic sleeve
68) Sting – 1993 – “Seven Days” – pic sleeve
– I loved The Police and had all the singles that were released from the first two albums, and ‘Fall Out’, which was their first single (although I may have had the 1979 re-issue rather than the 1977 original). I didn’t dislike their next albums, I just wasn’t as keen on them as the first two and I’m still not. If they had any kind of edge, I think it was lost  on ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ and everything that followed it.
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69) Blondie – 1978 – “Heart Of Glass” – company sleeve
70) Blondie – 1978 – “Sunday Girl” – pic sleeve
71) Blondie – 1979 – “Dreaming” – pic sleeve
72) Blondie – 1979 – “Union City Blue” – pic sleeve
73) Blondie – 1980 – “Atomic” – company sleeve
74) Blondie – 1980 – “Call Me” – pic sleeve
75) Blondie – 1980 – “The Tide Is High” – pic sleeve
– Love, love, love Blondie. From the first moment I heard ‘Denis’ I’ve loved them, which would have been 1978 I guess. I still rate ‘Parallel Lines’ as one of the very best albums ever made.
76) Kraftwerk – 1974 – “Autobahn” – company sleeve
– Good to have
77) Viva Youth – 1985 – “Fight Back (anti heroin song)” – pic sleeve (France)
78) Sting with Eric Clapton – 1992 – “It’s Probably Me” – pic sleeve
79) Fluffy – 1996 – “Nothing” – pic sleeve
80) The Baby’s – 1977 – “Isn’t It Time” – plain sleeve
– These last 4, no idea, other than that I will probably hate the Sting & Eric Clapton single.

As you can see from the following pictures, they aren’t perfect copies, but I don’t mind at all, it’s more about finding something I’d lost than anything else, and for not a lot of money, which is great. I’m really looking forward to them arriving so that I can have a 7” Single session, should be fun.

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Leamington Record Fair

I visited Leamington Spa’s Town Hall on Saturday to dig my way through heaps of vinyl at the record fair. There is plenty there if you are prepared to pay for it, but I’m generally not. I’m there to pick up bits and pieces as cheaply as possible. There are albums that I most certainly would like, but paying £25 or more for something that I may, not will, but may find cheaper elsewhere is not something I like to do. It will nag away at me and I will eventually find the same thing for half the price and then be annoyed at myself were I to have bought it, so the most I have ever payed for anything at a record fair is £8, and that was this Saturday. Here is what I bought (with the exception of Roots Manuva which was an RSD purchase), can you guess the £8 album?

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Isaac Hayes – Shaft is an original 1974 release, a double, and it plays very nicely, the cover is in good condition as well. I haven’t played either of the Art of Noise albums as yet but they look to be fine. The Cult – Electric is in very good condition and I have played it and it sounds really good. Soul II Soul I haven’t played yet, it appears to have the wrong inner sleeve though. Ooh Las Vegas by Deacon Blue looks like it has been well kept, it’s a double made up of B-Sides and suchlike. Black Sea by XTC is in good condition as is Slave to the Rhythm byu Grace Jones, which plays very well indeed. The only one that is not as good as I might hope is ‘My Kingdom’ by The Future Sound of London. It has a mark about the size of a thumbprint on side one and it really affects the playing quite badly. It is a 33 1/3, 12” single with an 11 minute track on side 1, which samples Ennio Moricone so it’s obviously good, Moricone makes everything better, but that mark really bothers me so I did a little research and ordered a record cleaning kit, to see if that can sort it out, it’s this one:

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It’s not expensive at £8.87 (an odd price) but hopefully it will go some way to reviving not just this 12” single, but several others I have that are showing their age. Here is the blurb on it:

“Vinyl Revival is the world’s safest and best vinyl record cleaning solution. Our alcohol free liquid has been designed by leading scientists to exact laboratory standards. Using lab grade ingredients and equipment, Vinyl Revival has been packaged in a dust free environment, ensuring the cleanest and safest solution for cleaning your vinyl record collection. Vinyl revival is the only 2 step product in the market – a necessity which none of the other ‘garage chemist’ suppliers of competing products are even aware of. Shockingly, other suppliers are openly admitting to using both distilled water AND alcohol in their products! Please avoid putting distilled water anywhere near your vinyl! Ask us, if you’d like to know why. There has been much debate over the years about which products are safe to use on vinyl records with many claiming that alcohol (or isopropyl alcohol) is perfectly safe to smear over your beloved vinyl record collection. We, and our research partners do not believe this to be the case. This is why Vinyl Revival is completely alcohol (or any alcohol substitute) FREE and is, ultimately, the only safe product to use on vinyl records. Also, many other products we’ve tried in the market will contain detergents or other soaping agents. These, again, should be avoided because they will leave behind microscopic deposits on your vinyl surface, which will affect sound quality, increase static and also, potentially, damage your stylus. Vinyl Revival is the product of choice for audio archiving specialists and DJs around the globe.”

I’ll post about the results after I’ve used it.

So which is the £8 album?

MIX TAPE: VOLUME 1 – SIDE 1 – TRACK 4

Side 1, Track 4:

Total Run Time: 17:00

XTC: Senses Working Overtime: 4 Minutes 50 Seconds: 1982

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Audio:

Back in the days when I used to buy 7″ vinyl, I had this, along with a couple of their other singles. I also had the album ‘English Settlement’, which I think was a double. I’ve never been a massive XTC fan as I found that I couldn’t get along with a lot of their tracks, but when they were on it, they were really on it and this was a great single.

Video:

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