Jun 232020

Hits-a-Go-Go, as you deem fit!


  15 Responses to “All-Star Jam”

  1. 2000 Man

    I heard XTC’s Making Plans for Nigel the other day. Is that supposed to be one of their good songs? Because it’s awful.

  2. 2000 Man, as one of the biggest XTC lovers around here – and one of three or four people here with the best taste among XTC albums, if I may be such a pompous ass – “Making Plans for Nigel” is one of their breakout songs from their first three albums. The first two albums, before Dave Gregory joined as a second guitarist and Barry Andrews noodled on organ, are almost a different band. That “man vs machine” tendency in Andy Partridge’s vocal affectations were out of control. The first album, in fact, is practically terrible – and I wouldn’t say that about another XTC album again until Nonsuch, which was the beginning of their too-long end.

    So, “Making Plans for Nigel”…Dave Gregory joins the band, they get to tap into their more melodic ’60s influences, Partridge starts to calm down, and bassist Colin Moulding, who I long ago characterized as the George Harrison-like third-best songwriter in a two-songwriter band, writes a catchy, super-New Wave ditty that bridges the band’s uber-quirky start and their new, evolving reboot. A classic white-background video was made to publicize it. Along with the superior single from that album, “Life Begins at the Hop,” XTC makes its first significant blip on the radar of teens like me. Taken in context of the rest of the Drums & Wires album, I think “Making Plans for Nigel” is in the middle of the pack. Taken in the context of the next few albums, I think “Making Plans for Nigel” is no better than a tolerable breakout ditty. It’s like comparing “Love Me Do” to the Beatles singles that would follow.

  3. That video! The dog! WTF!

  4. Mr. Mod, While not taking exception to your general characterization of Nigel, do you think it likely that any piece of XTC music could appeal to 2000 Man, who is totally immune to the appeals of that particular song. The song always seemed slight to me, as well as lyrically a little pat, (Generals and Majors, anybody?), but I think what is off putting 2000 Man is the off-kilter rhythm coupled with its unapologetic pop sensibility. I’m not certain either of those elements, probably the essence of their whole catalog, would be something that he might appreciate.

    Do you think there is anything that might appeal? Senses Working Overtime?

    One other question. How do you feel about “Are You Receiving Me?” I’m guessing it’s in the man vs. machine slot for you, but I love the nasty Ibanez guitar sound.

  5. Geo, it’s likely that 2K has no chance of liking XTC, and I’m fine with that. That guy is A-1 Steak Sauce. Perhaps we could make a link to his surprising background as a Yes fan. English Settlement, as you suggest is the place to turn.

    I wonder if 2K and EPG, the true EPG, the one who can occasionally express himself without undercutting others or taking the noble stand that rock ‘n roll is a young man’s game, have the same underlying issue with XTC that one of my friends has. She’s also a huge Stones fan. She said to me and a fellow friend, one day, something along the lines of “But they have no blues! They sound like they’re repressing the blues!”

    “Yeah,” we replied, “that’s what’s great about them. They repress the blues and it comes out something new!”

    “Are You Receiving Me” is OK. It’s justified by the chorus. “Radios in Motion” probably has my favorite chorus on that album. I do like, however, Go2. It’s got a great Eno vibe for long stretches. I even like the songs Barry Andrews wrote. The Go+ EP is cool, as well, but thank God for Dave Gregory joining and opening up their sound.

  6. “Are You Receiving Me?” was actually a Go2 era single. Another early single that I like is the very different version of “This is Pop.” Way better than the White Music version. Oh look, they put that problem you identified right in the album title.

    I really liked the Colin songs on white Music, mostly for their Beefheart edge. On Go2, I felt like Andy really blew him out of the water. He did make a strong comeback on D&W, but after that he just never competed in my book. I appreciate his songs because I like folks to mix things up, but they never take center stage for me.

  7. Happiness Stan

    I always liked the idea of XTC rather than the execution, I discovered them when they were on telly doing Science Friction on some Saturday evening down with the kids show and bought the 3D EP the next week. There was a great radio show, also on Saturday evening, called, imaginatively enough, Radio One in Concert and they played that with the first line up. I taped it and listened to it quite a lot at the time, I might still have it somewhere.

    For a while, XTC, Devo, Lene Lovich et al held my attention until Beefheart beckoned as the real thing. Meanwhile, XTC were turning into a pop band and having hits, which were quite easy to be snobby about at that age. I know I’ve been unfair on them, along with all the other sell outs as I viewed them at the time. I didn’t like Making Plans for Nigel, or Generals and Majors because they didn’t sound like mad people falling downstairs fronted by a Steve Harley at his most arch impersonator.

    I think if I hadn’t heard them in their mad people falling downstairs phase, I probably would like them more.

    Statue of Liberty, however, what a bloody great song, the point where they hit the perfect spot between the arty pissing about and hit records with irritating vocal mannerisms. That’s where I’d start, and move forward or back depending on which of the two bands you prefer.

  8. Happiness Stan

    I just watched the video, good heavens, there’s a lot to knock there. Mrs H has spent the last couple of years watching all 1400 or however many they made episodes of Dark Shadows. That video could have been dropped into any of them without anybody noticing.

    It would be so cool if it turned out that clip was filmed before the release of Paranoid and it turned out heavy metal had been invented by a couple of German Addams Family impersonators.

  9. Happiness Stan

    There’s a lot to unpick, that was meant to say

  10. 2000 Man

    Well, if English Settlement is the way in to XTC, I guess I just don’t like them. I found it a while back and bought it because I had Apples and Lemons (or whatever it was) and hated it and someone here put English Settlement in my head. I got it cheap and I think when I traded it in I didn’t end up losing anything but the time I spent listening to it. I completely don’t get it. I dislike everything I’ve heard by them so much, that I don’t even want to give them any credit for that good song I heard by Dukes of Stratosphear. I guess I’ll just file them away on my Jazz shelf. The one that is completely empty because I completely don’t get it and just gave up.

  11. Happiness Stan

    2000 Man, completely jazz free zone here too, apart from the tracks on the first couple of Bonzos albums. I remember going to see the Chuck Berry movie the Stones made with him in the eighties and have never forgotten the bit where he exclaims “I hate jazz – with a passion!”

    If ever I’m tempted to have a crack at Kind of Blue, Chuck’s wise words put me straight.

    Some roads seem like they aren’t meant to be explored, regardless of how often others recommend the scenery once you get there.

  12. In researching a potential (yet fruitless, I think) entry for the ongoing LMS, I stumbled across this 1998 performance of S.F. Sorrow, by a fat and old Pretty Things. So far, so good!


    Speaking of rock fetishes, the dual guitars in this song so deeply resonate for me. My old guitar partner and I call this hook a “debate.”


  13. I’m looking forward to this! As some of you know, Big Dipper was one of my favorite American underground bands of the 1980s. Singer-guitarist Bill Goffrier first came on my radar when I saw this previous band, The Embarrassment, as the first of three bands on a 1982 (?) Public Image Ltd bill in Chicago. I believe my close personal friend sammymaudlin was in attendance with me. Anyhow, The Embarrassment, a band from Witchita, KS I’d never heard of before, were a revelation. I liked their set as much as I liked PiL’s, a set composed primarily of Second Edition material with a couple of songs from The Flowers of Romance. Flash forward 4 or 5 years, to the first time I saw Big Dipper, I realized the guitarist from the Embarrassment was front and center singing for them! I confirmed with Bill after the show that he was, indeed, the guy I’d first stumbled on in Chicago. Enjoy an embarrassment of Embarrassment clips!


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