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mygif

AND I’VE GOT 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
SENSES WORKING OOOOOOVERRRRRRTIME!!

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Required Name Here said on December 22nd, 2009 at 12:28 am

so this band sounds good, and i could use some makeouts this holiday season, where do i start with XTC? what album? learn me some music so i can get what Hobbes once referred to as “muchas smooches”

and i meant the tiger, not the crappy philosopher.

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mygif

Meanwhile the only Joe Jackson fan in the room sits in the corner, alone.

:sigh:

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QuizzicalSphinx said on December 22nd, 2009 at 12:41 am

Case in point: oh my God! Someone else who has heard of XTC! Let’s be Facebook friends!

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bunnyofdoom said on December 22nd, 2009 at 1:03 am

Ah, but what if one name drops both, such as

“Well, I like Elvis Costello’s more recent colabs, but I find that overall, XTC has a really good sound too”

Bonus: By my count, at least 3 douchey buzzwords in that sentance too.

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Mary Warner said on December 22nd, 2009 at 1:11 am

Are you sure XTC is that obscure? I thought nearly everyone who was young in the ’80s had a heard a song or two. (I had one album on cassette, the one with ‘Generals And Majors’ and ‘Respectable Street’, but I don’t remember what the album title was. I also know one Dukes Of Stratosphear song, ‘Good Man Albert Brown’, so I guess that establishes some sort of major XTC-credibility for me.)

What happens if I name-drop Webb Wilder? Is there any possibility at all of ever encountering anyone else who has ever heard of him in any way?

Sometimes geography can make a huge difference. Try name-dropping Status Quo in the US or in Europe, and be stunned at the difference in reaction.

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mygif

The problem with XTC is that you than have the Ballad of Peter Pumpkin Head, and the accompanying “kennedyesque” video stuck in your head forever.

I’ll suggest my favorite “Name drop Crowded House/Neil Finn in America”.

Conversation 1:
Normal Person “Who is that”
CH Fan “They had a couple of hits in the 80s, but they are huge in the rest of the world”
Normal “Really? What”
CH Fan “They did this one ‘Hey, now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over…”
Normal: “OH! Sixpence None the Richer!”
CH Fan: Dies a little.

Conversation 2:

There is no conversation 2. In America, they played to rooms of 1000-2000 people. Maybe. And of those 2000, 1/2 were expats from other places, and at least another quarter worked for the AU/NZ embassies- they did a AU/NZ embassy call and response at one concert.

In short: 500.000 people at a farewell concert in Australia. Maybe? 300 people at a concert in Alexandria Virgina.

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mygif

Queen: As a vulgar and stupid American, I used to wonder at the world being “football shaped” until I realized much later than I should have that HE IS TALKING ABOUT A SOCCER BALL, which in fact *is* the shape of the Earth.

Required: Skylarking (1986) is the standard “introductory” XTC album, but if you prefer a nervy New Wave-y sound to a pastoral Beatles-y sound, I’d actually recommend Drums and Wires or Black Sea. Not to worry, all ought to guarantee smooches.

Vance: At least the Joe Jackson fan is *at* the party. The Moody Blues fan never gets invited! (My parents named me after Justin Hayward, leavemealoneyouguysIhateyouall.)

Sphinx: I am one of seven people not on Facebook. Is it cool not to be on Facebook, now? I could use that to counteract admitting to an affinity for the Moody Blues.

Bunny: The Elvis fan and the XTC fan would make you choose, and you’d have to break somebody’s heart. This is why it’s important to pick one or the other up front.

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Mary: I like to say that XTC is the most well-known obscure band ever.

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I really had no idea that XTC was an obscure band.

“I think English Settlement is aces with me, and as far as covers go, Plans for Nigel as performed by Nouvelle Vague gave the song another dimension.”

So what’s the verdict? Will that impress the chicks?

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mygif

Coincidentally, I’m listening to Imperial Bedroom right now! Spooky!

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mygif

I kinda grew up listening to Oranges and Lemons.

Then again, I also grew up listening to Oingo Boingo, and name-dropping them without bringing up symphonic work by Danny Elfman (specifically Nightmare Before Christmas) is next to impossible.

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mygif

Wow, this describes me exactly right. I’ve heard of Elvis Costello, and even liked him on 30 rock, but for the life of me, I couldn’t sing you a song of his.

While this XTC, I thought it was a Christian brand of t-shirts.

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mygif

I’ve sung “Senses Working Overtime” at my local karaoke bar, and fuck everyone else in there for not knowing it.

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mygif

An Elvis Costello composed opera?

Do you mean the ballet, “Il Songo”, which was in 2004, or the unfortunate collaboration with Anne Sophie Von Otter, “For The Stars”, from 2001?

Alas, I prefer his more mainstream collaborations, such as the album recorded with Burt Bacharach, and the album he wrote for Wendy James (the singer, not the porn star).

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mygif

Speaking for the youngsters:

Who the hell is XTC?

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I’m far more interested in Weird Al’s rendition of Peter and the Wolf

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My husband courted me with XTC songs, thus demonstrating that an XTC fan cannot only convert a non-XTC fan into an XTC fan, but can use XTC to get laid on a regular basis for the rest of his life.

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Speaking for the oldsters:

Who the hell is XTC? I grew up during the 80s and have never heard of them.

The spouse-to-be introduced me to Oingo Boingo during the 90s, though. And I *have* heard of Elvis Costello, I’ve just never heard anything *by* him. At least, not that I know of. Maybe I listened to all the wrong radio stations in the 1980s?

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mygif

My pick up strategy consists of name dropping a hundred very obscure bands and see what sticks. The number of people who heard of the music I listen to approaches 2 (me and one other) as crowd size tends towards infinity.

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Andre & Laridian – XTC’s biggest hit was Dear God. Ring any bell?

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mygif

*fires up MusicMatch*
*adds Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions*
*adds Oranges and Lemons*
*adds Laughter and Lust*
*adds Best of the Moody Blues*
*pouts upon not locating the Brodsky Quartet album*
*shuffles and plays*

I think the XTC songs that I remember most are “Mayor of Simpleton” and “Pink Thing.”

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mygif

I am amused that this was posted right before MGK’s Avatar review.

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@Wilfredo: Yeah, I was pretty sure that every man, woman, and child on earth had heard that song.

Also, I am sensing the “obscurity” of XTC here is really just an age barrier.

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This totally worked last weekend at a party but I used Shriekback.

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I know XTC! Sort of. I wouldn’t call myself a “fan”, since I only know one song (which I do love to bits): “Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me).”

And I only know this one because of Hot Fuzz.

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plastikgyrl said on December 22nd, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Of course, you can mention the abomination of Mandy Moore covering “Senses Working Overtime” and see how many people you alienate…

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@Mary: To add to the weird coincidences of what everybody’s listening to RIGHT NOW, my (autographed) copy of “Hybrid Vigor” is not only currently playing, but it’s doing so on – get this – a turntable. Really, and I’m not just using that word to confuse the kids. Now if only I could find my old cassette of “It Came From Nashville”…

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Gustopher: Dammit, you’re right, it *was* a ballet and not an opera. See what I mean, everybody? It really is hard to keep track of it all, even for a fan.

Rachel: That was my experience as well, except my wife was the fan and I hadn’t heard them. She really just sent me an mp3 of That’s Really Super, Supergirl because she knew I read comics.

For those who want to know who the hell XTC is: In lieu of a quick career summary (which Wikipedia would probably do better anyway) I will relate only this relevant bit of trivia: You know the guy who made those “Saturday Morning Watchmen” and “American Akira” animations? THAT DUDE’S DAD IS THE LEAD SINGER OF XTC.

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mygif

Also, with XTC it’s less about a flat rate of obscurity, and more about the ratio of INCREDIBLENESS to obscurity.

Let me try to explain what it is like to be an XTC fan, at least in America, with a little story I’ve just written:

One day a carnival comes to your town. Which is odd, because you don’t remember having heard about it coming, but you go anyway. You see a show, eat some cotton candy, go on the rides. The last thing you intend to do before you go is go on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

So you buy your tickets and get on and have a nice ride. But when it’s over and the safety bar releases you, you stand up and bump your head really hard on the top of the little cart and black out.

You come to in a parallel universe, but you don’t realize it for a couple days, because the *only* difference between this universe and your own is that THE BEATLES WERE NEVER POPULAR. Somehow their musical output and quality is exactly the same in this reality as in our own, but they just never found much success on the radio and their albums are not great sellers.

What’s going on here? Are you dreaming? Are you insane? You don’t want to believe that, so you start obsessing, perhaps, over the albums, trying to prove to yourself, no, these really *are* that good, it’s not *you* who’s crazy, it’s everyone else in this alternate reality. How is it no one on this world has noticed how good this band is when their catalog is the same as on your own?

Years pass and you meet another Beatles fan. It could happen any number of ways – maybe you name drop them, maybe the other person does, maybe you’re humming “I Feel Fine,” it doesn’t matter. So you two get to talking about the Beatles, and it’s a huge relief to find someone else who appreciates them. Very casually, but a little sadly, you say, “Yeah, it’s amazing to me that these guys aren’t better known.”

And the other person’s face goes dead white. He or she takes you aside and says, very gravely and very quietly, as though afraid to be heard:

“Did you bump your head getting off the Tilt-A-Whirl too??”

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mygif

Wow, not sure I can follow Justin there, but here goes: perhaps another reason why they’re not as known is that the lead singer, Andy Partridge, suffered from stage fright, it was a challenge for him to perform in concert. At least this is what I read in Rolling Stone magazine waaayyy back in the eighties!

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Remora: “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” is on A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!

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So what Zyduck’s telling us is that XTC are invaders from a parallel world, and all the people who’ve heard of them are their foot soldiers?

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mygif

You can also rewrite this post and substitute “Wire” for “XTC.”

I once had a complete stranger jump off his barstool and hug me when I said that my favorite band was Wire.

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mygif

I’m a big fan of Costello (the early, angry, good stuff) and a HUGE fan of XTC, and everything MGK says above is true.

Also, since I now know that MGK is a Pratchett fan and an XTC fan, I want to mate with him.

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Wire was a great band. That is all.

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Also, since I now know that MGK is a Pratchett fan and an XTC fan, I want to mate with him.

I’m touched, but that was Justin, not me. I know of XTC, and I love “Dear God,” but I’ve never listened to the band extensively.

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mygif

Whoops, missed that; sorry.

Why don’t you spend some time listening to a bunch of XTC, and then if you decide they are awesome, I can want to mate with you again.

English Settlement is probably their best achievement overall.

P.S. Is this “Justin” person a Pratchett fan by any chance?

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mygif

Andy Partridge’s stage fright probably is a factor, though I won’t speculate more than that, because while I’ve heard more XTC fans than the average American, my husband the original XTC fan in the family knows far more about the band’s history. So I tend to defer to him on such matters.

Justin, I think you and your wife now have a standing invite to visit if you’re ever in Texas, because my husband so rarely gets to show off his collection to people who appreciate it. Aside from XTC, he also listens to King Crimson, Split Enz/Crowded House/Neil Finn/Finn Brothers, and other musicians most people have never heard of.

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mygif

Sigh.

“While I’ve heard more XTC *music*.” That’s what I get for trying to talk about pop culture while fighting off a headache.

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MGK, Elrond is correct. English Settlement, in my opinion, is the best overall album. Just the other day I was listening to All Of A Sudden and it still holds up. When a friend opined that it has an eighties sound, I hit him… all of a sudden.

Speaking of hitting, I met Elvis Costello in the eighties, and he was a gentle soul, until a record rep disrespected him. I had no doubt the Costello was gonna do what he threatened the guy with.

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solid snake said on December 22nd, 2009 at 5:28 pm

ThankyouTHankyoyThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyoyThankyouThankyouThankyouthankyouThankyouThankyouTHankyoyThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyouThankyoyThankyouThankyouThankyouthankyouThankyou

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mygif

Great. Now I have to go listen to that They Might Be Giants song.

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@Justin – I neglected to mention that this was a funny post. Thanks.

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Elrond: I have never read any Terry Pratchett, but do not feel bad; this is not the first time I have been turned down for mating.

Steph: Content versus form.

Wilfredo: And thank you, sir, for the compliment. Also, cool story about meeting Elvis Costello. I actually don’t have any burning desire to meet my favorite writers/artists/musicians/heroes for the most part, but Elvis is an exception to that. Always seems like a genuinely rad fellow. I suppose I would have dinner with him and John Hodgman, with drinks of Hodgman’s choosing.

Rachel: Likewise, if you two are ever in Wisconsin, you are invited over for drinks (also of Hodgman’s choosing).

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Mary Warner said on December 23rd, 2009 at 2:00 am

Several people have mentioned XTC being obscure in the US, with the implication that they’re better known elsewhere, but I’m certain I’ve read on more than one occasion that they’re considered to be more successful in the US than in their native UK. Maybe they’re better known some other places, though. Or maybe I’m just confusing them with someone else.
Someone mentioned the Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead for XTC. I thought the Crash Test Dummies did that one. Or were they just covering XTC?

Justin– What’s wrong with being named after Justin Hayward? The Moody Blues are one of the greatest bands in history. And extremely well-known, as well. They had hits ranging all the way from 1964 until the late ’80s.

Mike– Were you really listening to Hybrid Vigor?!?!?!?! For real? I can’t believe there is actually somebody on here who has heard of Webb Wilder (the Last Of The Full-Grown Men). Do you have Doo-Dad? (I love ‘Meet Your New Landlord’.) What about Acres Of Suede or Town And Country? Is ‘Fall In Place’ one of the greatest country songs ever, or what?

Eat hard, play hard, work hard, sleep hard, grow big, wear glasses if you need them.

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mygif

BTW, Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-92 is a great introduction to the band’s career. Some people will be very happy owning just that, and some will start there and then ravenously devour further material.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_Fuel:_The_XTC_Singles_1977-92

Wilfredo: Wire is still a great band. Their 2008 album, Object 47, wasn’t necessarily their best work but was still better than many bands can aspire to, and they were great on tour as well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_47

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Mary: Yes, but you’re considerably kinder to the Moody Blues than most people are nowadays. I believe the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has actively decided to keep them out (ELO, too). But who cares about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, right? Bastards. Anyway, I’m not particularly fond of the Patrick Moraz-era stuff with a few exceptions, but I love those first seven albums.

As for XTC, I think their albums or singles might have been doing a little better in America at the time at the tail end of the ’80s, but nobody over here seems to know about them today. I think it was a college radio thing; name recognition for Americans under 40 is fairly low.

And yeah, Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead was a ’92 XTC original.

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mygif

xtwhat?

ok, i’ll have to google it. i hope i dont regret it.

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And now that I’ve just listened to the Crash Test Dummies’ version on YouTube … a remarkably faithful cover, actually, in the arrangement – similar guitar sound, the harmonica and everything. Basically XTC’s version but edited for time and with the vocals swapped out. And done only two years after the original.

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RE: XTC’s popularity in the US, and why they aren’t remembered.

Their earliest material (the stuff that made their name in the UK) was largely ignored in the US. However over the course of the eighties they built up a substantial college radio audience as their popularity dropped off in their homeland. By the end of the 1980s, they managed some commercial radio play in the US (“Mayor of Simpleton” was a number one modern rock radio hit in 1989–keep in mind that there were about a dozen modern rock radio stations in the US at the time, though–and scored another number one with “Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” in 1992). Even then, XTC never sold much; college radio was still largely a glass celling back then, and modern rock radioplay didn’t correlate well to actual sales at that point, not like it would after grunge became popular.

And when grunge hit, among the many affects it had was pretty much wiping out the Anglophilic tendencies that had dominated college and modern rock radio up to that point (the latter format in particular was wedded to a Cure/Depeche Mode/Morrissey axis by the time Nirvana came around). As such, by the mid 90s a number of previous stalwarts of the formats were consigned to the dustbin and as such aren’t mentioned much today–XTC included.

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Mary – Ah, the credo. I never thought I’d hear that again and here it is in a comment posted on the website of a Canadian comics geek. God bless the internet.

Yeah, I was actually playing Hybrid Vigor. I got a turntable as an early Christmas gift over the weekend and was listening to some stuff that I don’t have on CD anymore.

Doo-Dad is great but I still have a soft spot for “It Came From Nashville.” It took me forever to get used to Steve Earle’s version of “Devil’s Right Hand,” even though he wrote it. Webb’s version boogies.

Have you seen any of his film shorts? Night Flight used to run “Webb Wilder, Private Eye” all the time, and “Horror Hayride” is a hoot in all sorts of awesome ways.

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Mary Warner said on December 24th, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Mike–I haven’t seen any of his films, unless you count the video for ‘I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night’, which I stumbled across on Youtube.
All I know are the three albums my brother used to have on CD– DooDad, which he got from a friend, neither of us had heard of Webb Wilder until then; Acres Of Suede (I think)– was that the one with ‘No Great Shakes’, ‘Tell Me Why, Charlene’, and the great ‘Fall In Place’?; and one other, which I think was either Town & Country or Hybrid Vigor– it was all covers, and had ‘Rockin’ Little Angel’, ‘Talk Talk’, and the Small Faces’ ‘My Mind’s Eye’. I don’t know why it is that I remember four album titles, but only three albums.
Wow, I’m still stunned that I found someone who has heard of him.

So is anybody here into Shonen Knife?

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mygif

Thanks for the info about Wire, Dayv! I should’ve known that wasn’t all, lol!

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mygif

I went to school with the son of the lead singer of Wire, just thought i’d share that with you…

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