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Members include ColinMoulding, bass player, vocalist; AndyPartridge, vocalist, guitar player; BarryAndrews, keyboard player (1977-78); Terry Chambers, drummer (1976-82); Dave Gregory, guitar player, keyboard player, vocalist (1978-98); JohnPerkins, keyboard player (1977). Addresses: Record company--TVT Records, 23 East Fourth St., New York, NY 10003.

British group XTC garnered a cult following that some music scribes contend rivals only the devotion of Grateful Dead's "deadheads." The group was centered around the songwriting team of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. Before the group was known as XTC, it was Star Park and Helium Kidz. Partridge was at the helm during those early incarnations in the early 1970s. Moulding joined the Swindon, England based group in 1973 when they became Helium Kidz, as did Terry Chambers. In 1975 there was a move afoot to abandon glitter rock and change the group's name. Keyboardist John Perkins was added to the group, and was replaced by Barry Andrews in 1977 before XTC began recording.

The following year XTC signed with Virgin Records and released their debut album. White Music reached number 38 on the English album charts. Andrews stayed with the group long enough to record their first American album, Drums and Wires. While most of XTC's recorded output would be considered pop/rock they were originally associated with both punk and new wave. "The best thing about punk,'' Partridge said in a 1999 Boston Globe interview, ''was it had a timeless quality all music should have--which is anyone can do it.'' Partridge's band was only nominally a punk group, but he was there when it was first gestating, and he, too, was learning how to play music on the job. ''It's not about musical ability; it's about doing it. It's about the fire in your belly and saying, "I could do that."

In its early years XTC toured almost endlessly. That all changed in 1982 when Partridge fell ill from a combination of fatigue and stage fright. He reportedly suffered from stomach ulcers, as well. The band bailed out of their United States' tour after a San Diego show, and all remaining tour dates were cancelled. He announced that the band would continue to record and shoot promotional videos, but would no longer perform live. Partridge spent the next year in seclusion. "I don't like it," Partridge said of touring in a 1999 interview. "I don't feel the need to do it. I got that out of my system in my 20s."

In 1986, XTC entered the studio with producer Todd Rundgren to record Skylarking. Despite widely reported tension between Rundgren and Partridge, the album proved to be the group's breakthrough recording. Skylarking saw XTC take the plunge into pool of psychedelic pop that they had merely dipped their toes into on their previous two releases, Mummer in 1983 and The Big Express in 1984. Ironically the song that pushed Skylarking and XTC into the limelight, "Dear God," was initially left off the album. Originally released as the flipside of the single "Grass," subsequent pressings of Skylarking included the track after it was discovered by a college disc jockey and received more airplay than its A-side. Their next album, 1989s Oranges & Lemons, was also heartily embraced by American college radio stations. Bolstered by the strength of its first single, "The Mayor of Simpleton," Oranges & Lemons was hailed as the top college album that year. The infectious, melodic "The Mayor of Simpleton" reached number 72 on Billboard's Hot 100 and number one on its Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Riding the crest of their two biggest recordings to date, XTC then hit a series of setbacks. According to Kyle Swenson writing inGuitar Player, "After releasing the acclaimed Nonsuch in 1992, which when to the top of college charts, the band became embroiled in legal difficulties with Virgin Records, and refused to enter the studio to track any music. During their self-imposed studio exile, bandmates Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding wrote enough songs to spill into the next decade. 'By the time we got out of our legal mess and were able to record what we wanted,' says Partridge, 'we had 42 songs.' This project became Apple Venus, Volumes I and II. Splitting their material into two releases had one advantage: Partridge and Moulding were able to indulge their cravings for acoustic/orchestral sounds on the first album, and then resume traveling their longtime electro-pop path on the second.

Because the pair chose to record the orchestral songs first, Dave Gregory left during recording Apple Venus, Volume I. "The annoying thing for Dave," Partridge told Guitar Player, "is that he left before we made the album he wanted to make. He was much miffed that we always asked him to play keyboards. We'd always say, 'This needs a piano,' and then we'd look around the room and our eyes would slowly land on Dave. He got sick of being the piano player by default."

Partridge said the songwriting during the band's legal problems and absence from recording was cathartic. "In the past six years," he told Billboard's Dylan Siegler in early 1999, "I got divorced; I was prevented from legally doing my art; an infection burst my ear drum; I felt betrayed, rejected, and useless. And I found all of it vastly inspirational."

The string of tribulations seemed to have only strengthened Partridge's resolve, "The older and more ornery we got about the music we wanted to do, the more entrenched we got in the craftsmanship side of it," he explained to Siegler. "It was like this: We wanted to make our chair the best chair that ever was, and our former label [Virgin] wanted us to knock out cheap plastic chairs and 'Have you got a few tables and a settee as well.'

Although XTC never became the massively successful band that many critics and fans believed they should have, it wasn't for a lack of strong pop songs. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote in the All Music Guide, "XTC's lack of commercial success isn't because their music isn't accessible--their bright occasionally melancholic, melodies flow with more grace than most--it has more to do with the group constantly being out of step with the times. However, the band has left behind a remarkably rich and varied series of albums that make a convincing argument that XTC is the great lost pop band."

by Linda Dailey Paulson

XTC's Career

Signed recording contract with Geffen and released debut album, White Noise, 1978; band quit all future live performances after Partridge broke down at U.S. show, 1982; released the first of three records as their psychedelic alter-egos The Dukes of Stratosphear; 25 O'Clock, released 1985; recorded Skylarking with producer Todd Rundgren, and the single "Dear God" emerged as a breakthrough hit for the group, 1986; Oranges & Lemons gained massive airplay from U.S. college radio, and "The Mayor of Simpleton" hit number 72 on Billboard's Hot 100 and number one on Modern Rock Tracks chart, 1989; due to legal problems the band stopped recording after 1992's acclaimed Nonsuch; released Apple Venus, Volumes I and II, 1999.

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