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


  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.

  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.

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

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

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

  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? ;)