I first saw XTC on daytime TV somewhere close to 1980.
I think this clip below would be a good contender.
Look how modern 1978 looks and feels in the TV dreamspace.
One always sensed a tension watching these guys. They look genuinely edgy – many bands at the time had this vibe – before punk – a kindof pilled-up speedfreak look – Dr. Feelgood come to mind, and the Stranglers, many more of course – but this, in retrospect, may also have been because all was not going well for Andy Partridge – quite a tragic story of Valium and stress and performing and feeling the pressure that is really moving.
It was, and is a long running scandal with the benzos.
They had been performing as a band since the early 1970s (check out the Helium Kids!), so by the time they became well know, they must have been exhausted – this often happens even without enthusiastic substance use/abuse.
However, they were able to carry on and make some quite incredible studio music down the years.
What I sense happened is that XTC motored along like many other bands did with a kind of punk ska engine – they were exposed to dub, as everyone in music was in the 70s & 80s, and this is probably why they released a complimentary 12″ called GO+ with their album GO – effectively remixes – what we would now call dub versions – extended, trippy, altered, deconstructed, re-modelled.
This was groundbreaking as an idea at the time – super common these days.
I will keep coming back to this dub undertow – it’s in many surprising places once you know what you’re listing to.
Produced by John Leckie.
And so it came to be that, in a vinyl store somewhere in the early 1980s, this unlistenable piece of madness (as it was, and still is, perceived) languished, unloved, in the 10p vinyl bargain bucket bin, and I bought it with my pocket money. Down the years I would listen to it. It’s like being abducted by aliens.
It’s only now, all these years later, that I play it regularly.
Only now do I really feel I can hear it properly.
I can’t get it out of my head. Maybe you will find the same.
As for Andy – he did kill that beast.
Discogs files XTC’s GO+ under New Wave, Dub, Minimal, Experimental.