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.