I was born in one of Reading’s first suburbs, built on the remains of a derelict country estate. I had a semi-rural, reclusive upbringing, the fields and wood’s of beautific Berkshire just a short bike ride away. XTC were four slightly older lads from Swindon, just up the M4. In many ways both towns shared a remarkable similarity, what with their run down town centres surrounded by a creeping suburbia built on the ghosts of old England.
In 1977, living in Swindon immediately set XTC apart from the holier than thou Kings Road hipsters. Consequently they were ridiculed mercilessly as country bumpkins. Knowing exactly where they came from, all that mocking just made me love them more, so much so that these days when I hear one of their handful of hits floating over the anodyne airwaves, I’m immediately 17 again.
Starting out as just one in a long line of frantic, punky pop groups playing in my local pub, XTC meant so much more because their suburban teen life vignettes spoke directly to me. As they developed almost beyond recognition with brilliant records like Drums And Wires, Black Sea and English Settlement, they gradually carved out their own niche as one of our most under appreciated treasures. When Andy Partridge finally submitted to his terror of playing live, they retreated even further into idyllic fantasies of farm life, steam trains, rainy days, chalkhill’s and children.
I must admit I did lose them for a while, pre-occupied as I was with my own foray into the music industry they so loved to hate. Then, when I reconnected in the early 90’s just before their long hiatus, I remembered well what they had meant once upon a time.
1. Science Friction / 3D EP October 1977
2. Radios In Motion / White Music LP February 1978
3. New Town Animal / White Music LP February 1978
4. Meccanik Dancing / Go 2 LP October 1978
5. Scissor Man / Drums And Wires LP August 1979
6. Complicated Game / Drums And Wires LP August 1979
7. Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down / Single A Side November 1979
8. No Language In Our Lungs / Black Sea LP September 1980
9. Down In The Cockpit / English Settlement LP February 1982
10. Love On A Farmboys Wages / Mummer LP August 1983
11. All You Pretty Girls / Single A Side September 1984
12. Red Brick Dream / Single B Side September 1984
13. The Everyday Story Of Smalltown / The Big Express LP October 1984
14. Ballet For A Rainy Day / Skylarking LP October 1986
15. The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul / Skylarking LP October 1986
16. Scarecrow People / Oranges And Lemons LP February 1989
17. Chalkhills And Children / Oranges And Lemons LP February 1989
18. Dear Madam Barnum / Nonsuch LP May 1992
19. Wrapped In Grey / Nonsuch LP May 1992
20. Easter Theatre / Apple Venus Vol One February 1999
21. Stupidly Happy / Wasp Star LP May 2000