You Say It's Your Birthday: XTC's Andy Partridge

XTC singer/songwriter Andy Partridge was born 44 years ago today in Swindon,

England. The band's smart lyrics and Beatle-esque pop sound, exemplified on

such songs as "Senses Working Overtime" and "Dear God," have earned it a devoted

core audience over the years but not much in terms of mainstream chart-success.

The first inception of the group was in 1973, when Partridge, second songwriter

Colin Moulding and drummer Terry Chambers were all playing in a New York

Dolls-influenced band called the Helium Kidz. In 1976, the group changed its

name to XTC and restructured its sound to reflect Partridge's love of the

Beatles, the Small Faces and Captain Beefheart. XTC's first two albums were

released only in England and were largely, and mistakenly, grouped with the

legions of new-wave bands emerging from the punk scene in the late-1970s.

1979's Drums and Wires was the group's first U.S. release, and the wry

humor of its "Making Plans for Nigel" made an impression on a small group of

fans, who helped send their 1980 release, Black Sea, into the U.S. top

50. 1982's English Settlement was praised by critics but was a commercial

disappointment in the United States. In the U.K., the album's single, "Senses

Working Overtime," hit #10 on the pop charts. The group attempted to tour the

U.S., but birthday boy Partridge suffered a nervous breakdown due to stage

fright and the rest of the tour was canceled.

The group released a series of albums that received much critical acclaim in the

mid-1980s, but it was 1986's Skylarking that finally helped them to

secure a solid cult audience in the U.S. Produced to Partridge's initial chagrin

by Todd Rundgren, the album gained fame because of a track that almost was left

off the album, an acoustic anthem for agnostics entitled "Dear God." From

there, the group's success on the college charts was pretty steady. Both 1989's

Oranges and Lemons and 1992's Nonesuch hit #1 on the college

charts, with Oranges and Lemons' "The Mayor of Simpleton" reaching #72 on

the pop charts. Although XTC haven't released any new material since

Nonesuch, they currently are in the studio working on a new album that is

set to be titled Firework, which should be in stores next year.

Other birthdays: David Gates (Bread), 57; Brenda Lee, 53; Jermaine Jackson, 43;

and Mike Mesaros (Smithereens), 40.