27.8.15

XTC : Live at The Old Waldrof, San Francisco - 25th February 1980 (Radio broadcast).

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One of the first & best British new wave bands, XTC scraped into the U.K. charts a handful of times during their long & turbulent "career in rock" but never quite captured the greater listening public's imagination or gained the support of the (then) all-important serious music press, earning themselves the undeserved (& peculiarly English) epithet of "irreverent underachievers". Hailing from nethermost Swindon - "a gritty little concrete industrial blob" as their agreeably eccentric frontman Andy Partridge once painted it - this unabashedly provincial ensemble formed in the early 1970s & stumbled along under a succession of ill-considered handles (Zip Code & The Helium Kidz, Star Park, Skyscraper, The Snakes), before settling on "XTC", around the same time that they discovered punk & began mailing demos to John Peel. Stylistically scattershot - much to their record company's chagrin &, ultimately, to their own fiscal detriment - their first two Virgin albums came & went in a squabbling maelstrom of Farfisa-infested, adrenalin-chraged post-punk power-pop. Merely frenetic on vinyl, their new wave-era live shows could be heart-stoppingly ferocious, wildly accelerated affairs, as this cudgelling FM radio broadcast affirms.

Recorded (yet again) at San Francisco's Old Waldorf Music Hall on 25th February 1980, the first show of a 2-night residency, XTC's set herein is an unusual selection of classic early singles ("Making Plans For Nigel" had recently scrambled into the top 20 in the U.K. & Canada), superior LP tracks (Real By Reel", "Battery Brides", "Complicated Game", the little-heard "Crowded Room"), & a few rarely-performed B-sides (I don't think I've ever heard them play "Heatwave" or "Instant Tunes" before). It's split fairly evenly between Partridge & his prudent songwriting foil Colin Moudling, & the disparities between the duo's compositional styles couldn't be more pronounced: inserting Colin's measured "Ten Feet Fall" (incidentally their debut U.S. 45) between the spasmodic double-whammy of Andy's "Scissor Man" & "Heliopter" here illustrates how melodically divergent the two of them were. At their finest - & particularly during Go2 or Drums & Wires' most inventive moments - early XTC sounded like a breakneck hybrid of Devo & The Kinks, minus the former's absurdist mechanised theatrics of course, but steeped in the unassuming parochial essence of Ray Davies' pebble-dashed lyrical Everywheresville.

Following XTC's dissolution in the early 2000s, Colin retreated into wilful non-musical obscurity & hasn't seemed to be in much of a hurry to talk to anybody since, but there are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of Andy Partridge interviews online. I recommend you do yourself a massive favour & read all of them, beginning with this relatively recent & particularly candid one. Then go & check out his inimitably unorthodox boutique record label. He may be a certified garden shed looney & a walking disaster area but I can't help liking him.

Set-list: (Intro tape) / Beatown / Real By Reel / When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty / Life Begins at the Hop / The Rhythm / Meccanik Dancing (Oh We Go!) / Heatwave / Scissor Man / Ten Feet Tall / Helicopter / This is Pop / Battery Brides (Andy Paints Brian) / Statue of Liberty / Instant Tunes / Crowded Room / Are You Receiving Me? / Complicated Game / Making Plans For Nigel.

n.b. Eternal gratitude (once again) to Mr. Hammer.

● Instant Tunes

6 comments:

  1. One of my early teenage TV epiphanies, alongside Gary Glitter,and later, the Pistols on TOTP's,was Marc Bolan's tea-time pop show, called, candidly 'Marc'. We had Generation X (crap), Eddie and the Hot Rods,The Radio Stars,and Hawkwind!....Then we had XTC on Magpie,doing Science Friction.Any XTC from 1977-1980 is gold for me.Superb....never quite the same after Andrews left.Nothing lasts forever.
    heres a 1978 set from Erics,a matinee performance for the kids.
    http://www.mediafire.com/download/49q2at6pz06zylb/Erics%2CLiverpool_03_06_1978.zip

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  2. Strange band. And I didn't realise quite HOW strange until I started revisiting my childhood XTC vinyl earlier this year - I hadn't heard most of that stuff in decades, took it all in my stride as a teenager, but the Andrews-era stuff sounds PERVERSE now. Mr. P's art-school honking gets a bit O.T.T. in places but then again, thinking about it, everything about early XTC was (intentionally) O.T.T. wasn't it? I'm fond of most (not all) of their stuff tbh - I've always had a soft spot for English Settlement as I won my copy (signed!) in a Smash Hits comp, but Mummer is a fave too, very underrated record that one. Listened to Black Sea in the car recently & it sounded FUCKING ENORMOUS. Terry Chambers ist gott.

    I don't remember XTC being on Magpie but I'm sure I saw The Who on there? And that Hawkwind performance on Marc blew my tiny mind as a nipper, I was so pleased to find it on Youtube a few years ago! :)

    p.s. Glad to see you're posting again.

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  3. http://missingepisodes.proboards.com/thread/8725/pop-acts-on-magpie

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  4. "A breakneck hybrid of Devo & The Kinks" - love it! Great setlist too...

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  5. I liked very few tracks of theirs but it was "All Along The Watchtower" that blew me away all those years ago.

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  6. It always surprises me how many people say that as, for a long time, it was the song of theirs that I struggled to like most - something to do with Andy P's peak-spaz performance when they played it live on the telly back in the late '70s I expect? ;)

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