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edit The First Two 1/2 Albums (1977-1978)
The band's first attempt at recording was with producer John Leckie, (who figured he had some time to kill while waiting to produce the Stone Roses). The result was the '3ADD EP' (1977) but reviewers were understandably confused by what they described as ‘unfinished songs’ and ‘the sound of Partridge deciding to play drums instead of guitar in the middle of a song’.
Still, the song ‘Science Friction, Double Freature’ was moderately popular enough to allow the band to record a debut album. However, the band decided it would be more modern and futuristic to skip the debut altogether and jump straight to the sophomore slump. The Label was having none of that, and locked them in a recording studio until they relented and recorded ‘Meet The Beatles’. The label called them pedantic bastards, and said "although it technically is a debut album, it isn’t yours".
‘Black And White and Red All Over Music’ (1978) was the compromised result. It included such early live favorites as ‘Statue Of Freedom Fries’, (banned by the BBC because it discussed eating, and anything being inserted into a mouth is inherently dirty); ‘Shit Si Pop’, (which the label insisted on the band re-recording for the single to make it more accessible to a non-dyslexic audience); and an extended ‘jumpy’ version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Country Pie’. Moulding’s excellent ‘Crossed Wires’, would have been another highlight, but due to a communication error ended up pressed on a Laura Nyro album instead, (which led to her retreat from the music business due to the mistaken belief that she wrote it).
Since none of the singles charted, the band was sent back into the studio before the end of the year to record a quick follow up. Initially Brian Eno was chosen as producer for the following album, but it was decided it would be a lot cheaper to just rip him off instead, so the band stuck with Leckie.
Due to Partridge’s growing obsession with Asian Culture, the album was going to be named after a popular Japanese pastime, but ‘Hello Kitty Hentai Tentacle Rape’ and ‘Soiled Schoolgirl Underwear Sniffing’ were both deemed too cumbersome. Last minute desperation lead to the name ‘Cluedo 2’ (1978) being used, which initially lead to a large increase in sales due to fans hoping to find out once and for all just who really did kill Mr. Boddy. (Unfortunately that information was released on the contemporaneous non-LP single ‘Professor Plum, in the Study, with the Revolver’, produced by Mutt ‘n’ Jeff, so sales remained weak).
The album was more noteworthy for its creative cover made up of a large block of text, describing how an album cover is a tool used to sell the product, starting with the line: ‘This Is A Compact Disc Cover’. Unfortunately no-one knew what ‘compact discs’ were and copies sat unsold in record stores for years until someone finally grew so curiously obsessed to hear it that they invented the compact disc player for the simple sake of being able to do so. Equally unfortunately, he got the scale wrong and the record didn’t fit. It was only when his wife took another look at the album, slapped him upside the head, scribbled out ‘Compact Disc’ and scrawled ‘Record’ in biro, that the light dawned and he was able to play the record. She then, understandably, went on to build a better vibrator, and the world beat a path to her door.
Meanwhile tensions had arisen between Partridge and Andrews, due to Andrews joining the Clash without telling anybody and mistakenly putting their songs at the end of the album, though Freudian Analysts had a field day with his tracks ‘I’ll Club Her With My Giant Dong’ and ‘I’m A Hard Bastard, Really I Am… Honest’, (though typically they missed the point and decided the problem was he was really in love with his mother). Andrews left the band to form another group ‘Barry Andrew’s New Band’, which was renamed for the second album as ‘Barry Who?’, and for the third as ‘And Why Was He Famous Again?’
XTC’s first stage was over.
edit The Next One
Andrews was replaced by guitarist Dave Gregory, because it was either him or Thomas Dolby would be twatting around on keyboards, and the band didn’t want to get beaten up any more than they had to. Unfortunately this enabled Dolby to have a solo career and inflict painfully unfunny and musicially uninteresting albums like ‘Aliens Ate My Buick’ upon the world, the primary audience of which comprised of elitist nerds who found Weird Al Yankovic too ‘lowbrow’.
With producer Steve Lillywhite and engineer Hugh Padgham, the band went into the studio to record a single as a ‘trial’. Lillywhite’s one big idea for success was the band might be better off changing its name to U2. Padgham sat silently through the sessions, waiting with bitter patience, knowing eventually he could dump the dead weight and glory would be his. (He was later hanged, along with David Bowie, in the ‘Tonight’-related ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ trial).
The song, Moulding’s ‘Life Begins On Top Of The Pops Jungen und Madchen’ harkened a change of direction: a German Music Hall version of Motown. Even with Sting drafted in to provide Tantric Knee Slapping, the single didn’t break the Top 10, due in part to to being banned by the BBC due to almost mentioning Coca Cola, (or possibly a transvestite called L-L-L-L-Lola), and the fact that it was one of the most expensive singles of all time, containing a pattern to cut out and build your own pair of cardboard Lederhosen.
The band decided to keep the producers and just do another album, since producers are for life, not just for Christmas, even though Chambers suggested that if they just drove out into the countryside and let them out in the woods they’d be quite happy. However, Partridge had bitter memories of the day he came home from school as a child to find his Joe Meek had died and his parents had bought him a Replacement Joe Meek, thinking he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. (Until this day, he still cries at the end of the movie ‘Old Spector’ when Tommy Kirk takes the rabid producer out behind the barn with a rifle).
The resulting album, ‘Drunk and Wired’ (1979) was well-received, featuring the bands first real hit, the homo-erotic new wave classic ‘(Johnny, Are You) Making Out With Nigel?’ b/w ‘Homo Shooting Gallery’, which reached Number 17 on the charts, chiefly due to the BBC Censor being too busy making out with Mary Whitehouse that week to notice the lyrical content.
In desperation for another hit, the label asked for another single, for they hardly thought they could put the 12” album into jukeboxes, could they? Partridge knocked out an ‘answer’ record ‘(Judy’s Turn To) Wait Until Your Nigel Goes Down’, that turned out to be so uncommercial it failed to chart everywhere in the world, (except for Germany, where Nena Hagen covered it, threw in some yodeling interludes and took it to Number One). At the time, Partridge was confused by it’s failure: “I thought the melody was fantastic, and the use of fellatio for percussion was ahead of it’s time”. Time has proven him right - the Backstreet Boys based their entire career around that sound.