X is for XTC

I always associate XTC's Senses Working Overtime with the smell of chips and the English seaside. Not what Americans call chips but what they call French Fries. Except British chips taste better than American fries as they are cooked in lard and wrapped in newspaper and drenched in vinegar and served with a heart attack on a plate.

The place was Charmouth, Dorset. The year was 1982 and we were on a geology trip. Senses Working Overtime sounded from the cafe as we headed to the fossil encrusted cliffs.

A light rain fell from a heavy gray sky. The Golden Cap, England's highest cliffs drifted in and out of sight. Someone suggested going in the sea, which was crazy because it was probably about 50 degrees and the sea was much colder. Heavy brown waves with white heads sloughed into the shingle beach.

Gingerly we went into the sea, tasting the brine in the air, shivering in the wind. But after a few freezing minutes an exhilaration took over. After a while the sea didn't seem so cold. We were buffered around, at one with the elements, the swirling rain and the frowning sky. It was spontaneous fun. Not something you often associate with geology field trips.

I think that was the last time I went in the sea. In England, at any rate.

All of which puts off the duty to described XTC. I don't know a lot about the band. Apart from the fact they begin with X.

Wikipedia, states the band is "even better known for their long-standing critical (rather than commercial) success." I'm not sure I know what this means.

The band came together in the early 1970s, the creation of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding.

Andy Partridge should not be confused with Alan Partridge but, as I am a big fan of Alan, this is surely the chance to post a video that's totally irrelevant to this post. Here Alan talks about Wings "the band the Beatles could have been."

Many bands appears to have been formed in unlikely places and XTC were no exception coming from Swindon, England, a city best known for an unusual traffic roundabout.

They performed a lot live in the late 1970 and early 1980s until Andy Partridge's breakdown, which led to chronic stage fright, reportedly precipitated by his wife throwing away his supply of Valium. The band's biography said the drug was prescribed to him as a teenager when his parents divorced but he was never withdrawn from the drug and became dependent on it. Concerned about her husband's dependence Partridge's wife threw his tablets away—without seeking medical advice.

The result was the band only performed in studios from then on.

The band's biggest hit was the 1979 song Making Plans for Nigel which was apparently big in Canada. Quite what plans were being made, it's not clear but the single has a distinctive sound of the so-called New Wave bands.

XTC's 1984 album The Big Express was one of their lowest selling but Partridge rates tracks such as Smalltown and Train Running Low on Soul Coal as his best. I'm not totally convinced by the later but at least it showcases Swindon in all its ugliness.

Later in 1984, the members of XTC created their alter-ego, "The Dukes of Stratosphear" (a suggested band name that the group had considered when they first formed). I'm not really clear why.

Although XTC were active until they broke up in 2005, their heyday was clearly the late 1970s and early 1980s when songs like Senses Working Overtime threatened to make them big.I still question what constitutes 'biscuit shape' as biscuits can be many different shapes.

Curious fact about XTC - one of their singles Statue of Liberty was banned by the BBC because of its supposedly "lewd" reference to the famous statue ("in my fantasy I sail beneath your skirt").


  1. Your choices for the letter X were so limited that I will not hold this one against you.:) I'm sure that many people like them. For me though listening was a little painful. Just do not care for the guy's voice.

  2. Nicely done, David. Interesting about his wife throwing out the pills. Must have been difficult quitting cold turkey like that.

  3. 1. I've always really liked, "Senses Working Overtime." I included their "Earn Enough For Us" in my X post. I actually dig Partridge's vocal stylings (Andy's, not Alan's, though Coogan did a good job of singing in "Hamlet 2.")

    2. The wife throwing away the pills is pretty messed up. Are they still together?

    3. I'll have you know they're called "Freedom Fries" now, my good man. ;-)

    Some Dark Romantic

  4. Throwing the pills away was mean. What a bitch!

    I had to buy malt vinegar and bring it here, chips are so much nicer with. :)

  5. lol Tracy -kind of nerd rock, right. Well not sure it had the desired effect, Daisy

  6. Yes sorry Mina - had forgotten you ditched the French. OK great - must check out your post. Not sure if they are still together

  7. I know Sarah - chips are so bland over here. sob.

  8. I like XTC a lot, esp. the Drums & Wires and Black Sea albums. Senses Working OT reminds me of my senior year in high school.


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