I’m a 2per. So is George Harrison, and so is John Entwistle, and so is Dave Davies. That’s the term I’m slapping on a person in a band with a dominant songwriter who typically gets two of his songs included on each album among the principal songwriter’s songs. When I brought up the concept to E. Pluribus Gergley of RTH discussing who the best 2per is, he responded in his typically open-minded way that there’s nothing to discuss. It’s George Harrison. So I sat on the topic until I thought of a different angle on it.
Andy Partridge himself brought this video to my attention today, via his Twitter account. (Yes, I agree; it’s a little confusing that the former frontman of XTC uses a Twitter account called “xtcfans.”) I actually remember watching this as a RealPlayer file when it came out around 1999. Anyway, it’s one of the more unique entries of the Apple Venus media blitz. See if you can detect any evidence of the looming Partridge and Moudling split. Enjoy!
I saw Tom Waits on Letterman last night. I know he doesn’t play live that often. Beside that concert film he did coming out of the Frank’s Wild Years period, I don’t recall seeing him play live on a screen since his early hobo piano balladeer days. He was pretty good last night, but I much preferred his sit down on Dave’s couch. I’ll take Waits the raconteur or actor any day over Waits the musician.
You can have your early Beatles concerts. I love the Beatles above all other bands. I know they made girls wet their pants and were probably the first band best known for not playing live, but I think their brief performance on the rooftop in Let It Be so far surpasses any live clips I’ve seen from their early days that the band is only the second-greatest live band best known for not playing live.
Give me XTC from their live days over any other audience-fearing band I can think of. It’s the weekend. I know Andy usually looks like a smacked ass. I know E. Pluribus Gergely‘s “Man or Machine” criticisms of the band. I’m down with their music and the band’s overall Man or Machine conflicts. Their music has a high degree of difficulty without being prog. They can play. Original drummer Terry Chambers IS a machine, and I mean that as a compliment.
Pop the following full XTC concert up on your Google or Apple TV and watch along with me.
(Am I missing a better live artist best known for not playing live?)
Listening to XTC (again). Mummer. It’s a really really good album.
I bought most of XTC’s catalogue when I worked at a local independent record store. Someone must have unloaded their collection and I got them used really cheap. My thought at the time was, “Hey, here is a band I’ve only heard good things about, so I should check them out.” Of course my OCD tendencies do not allow to buy one or two CDs, so I spent about 50 to 60 bucks and bought the whole batch. Looking at their discography, it’s most of their proper albums and all the major ones.
I listened to them then and have given them a spin a few times since. XTC is one of those bands that has just never made an emotional connection with me. I remember enjoying English Settlement, but by the end of it, I couldn’t tell you a damn thing on it. I know Skylarking is supposed to be a masterpiece. The early records have a punkish frantic quality that make for interesting listens. I know the hits and like those songs fine enough.
I know hardcore XTC fans will tell you that they were several bands: a punk group, a new wave band, a pop band. I’m sure they fit somewhere in the vein of Talking Heads and The Cars. I know Andy Partridge is good writer and their records feature some strong production.
So, I am listening to Mummer right now (at work) and thinking, Why I don’t love this band like everybody else in the world does? I am thinking that this a very very good album. And I’ll probably listen to more, hoping they’ll finally stick. Maybe I’ll finally connect with these records and feel compelled to listen to them more than once every 5 years or so.
Excluding self-produced albums, what established artists who have dabbled in producing records for other artists most interest you? And I put an emphasis on dabbled to rule out established artists who are also established producers, like Steve Albini and Brian Eno.
For instance, I wish I could hear a few more albums produced by Elvis Costello, who somehow made both clear and extremely simple the clutter of The Specials‘ debut. He also produced the only (in my opinion) fully enjoyable Squeeze album, East Side Story, which was engineered by Friend of the Hall Roger Bechirian.
Andy Partridge is another artist I’d like to hear produce a few more albums. I’m a big fan of his work on Peter Blegvad‘s The Naked Shakespeare and Martin Newell‘s The Greatest Living Englishman. I wish he’d have taken the reins on his own band’s albums beginning with Skylarking, but that may have eliminated him from this discussion.
As far as I know Ray Davies only produced one album for another artist, The Turtles‘ Soup album. That’s a winner, but considering Kinks albums are typically no great shakes in terms of conventional recording techniques I’m not sure Davies had that much else to offer.
David Bowie has proven himself a pretty lousy producer, or at least a less-than-satisfying one, in his work with others. I’m not saying the bass-heavy version of Raw Power rectified the shortcomings of the original mix, but it’s still hard for me to fully enjoy that album. His production work on the biggest-selling singles by both Mott the Hoople and Lou Reed is amazing, but I’m not a big fan of his work overall on their albums.
Which artists do you wish you could hear more—or less—of in the producer’s chair?
XTC Skylarking Better Than You’ve Ever Heard It Date:
In the course of world renowned mastering engineer John Dents [sic] work on preparing the new double vinyl set of XTC’s Skylarking for release, an interesting and wonderful thing has been discovered. John has informed us that that somewhere in the chain from Todd Rundgrens [sic] Utopia sound studio and Londons Master room studio, way back in 1986, a fault has occurred that means all of the versions of Skylarking you’ve ever heard, on CD or vinyl, have sounded…how shall we put this?… wrong. Read complete story here.
I usually cringe when I read about any significantly “restored-to-the-creators’-intent” reissue, but I’m a longtime XTC fan who’s always found Skylarking to sound a bit thin and cold. I always blamed it on a combination of Rundgren’s tight ass constricting Partridge’s increasingly tight ass, with an assist to Todd’s boy and former Tubes drummer, Prairie Prince. I’m curious whether any amount of added warmth and low tones will spark up some of the codified songwriting that has set in by that late date in the band’s career.