Pure XTC


The recording industry is littered with tales of artists never reaching their station in the pantheon of music royalty/ies.

From the local pubs and clubs to those on the fringe of mainstream success, so many have been, for whatever reason, unable to tick off the requisite boxes to achieve widespread acclaim.

The saddest part is when such talented singers as Lanie Lane give the game away. The effort to forge a living from the biz becomes too much, an exercise in beating one’s head against the proverbial.  Bands I’ve known personally such as The Madeline Streets simply couldn’t coordinate rehearsals and recording time around their members’ full time jobs and lives – their demise certainly no reflection on their talent.

During the 1980’s so many new wave bands hit it big.  Sure enough, arguably the best of them didn’t make the immediate impact they should have for the lack of support from dozy labels.  And if you couldn’t record half decent videos or wrangle a modicum of radio play then you were pushing it uphill.

In retrospect – thanks to 21st Century connectiveness – then under-appreciated bands such as The Smiths and XTC have since been bumped up to legend status.

The Smiths at least had the benefit of their chief protagonists, Morrissey and Johnny Marr, to keep their spirit alive via their solo ventures.  XTC’s legacy though, apart from their biggest hit Senses Working Overtime, faded fast.

It didn’t help that just six years into their three decade career Andy Partridge suffered from stage fright (due to his wife throwing his Valium away) which henceforth consigned live performances to the realms of impossibility.

XTC, at their best, crafted poptastic tunes with brilliant lyrics.  Besides Senses Working Overtime, Generals and Majors, Peter Pumpkinhead, Mayor of Simpleton and signature atheist’s anthem Dear God demonstrated their class.  In their latter days the best song the Beatles never wrote, Spiral, was matched and raised by River of Orchids.  A work of art.

Such was their unorthodoxy, XTC also released albums under a pseudonym; The Dukes of Stratosphear.

As so often happens with groups there was a fallout between the driving forces. Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge drifted apart and could no longer work together beyond 2005, and we are the poorer for it.

Perhaps the greatest avocation of their output is that by name and by nature XTC simply make you feel happy.

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. Nice work Jeff. Whilst there was some forgettable dross that came out of the UK in the 80s new wave, there was some pure gold, XTC being a sadly neglected part of that. Loved Generals and Majors (thought Andy sounded a bit like Brayn Ferry in Roxy Music on that one) and agree, Dear God, Peter Pumpkinhead and Senses working overtime are still good today


  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Hear Hear Jeff

    Saw them once at Thebarton Theatre 1980 – they were supported by Flowers and Magazine.

    XTC were pretty good, only up to Black Sea at that stage, which formed most of the set, although they did a rollicking “Life Begins at the Hop” from memory.

    But Magazine blew them away that night.

    For the uninitiated, track down Statue of Liberty from their earlier works.

    There are plenty of hidden gems in their canon and their Dukes of Stratosphear stuff is worth seeking out.

  3. Dave Brown says

    With you Jeff – XTC one of my favourites. Came to them through an eminently forgettable (with a few exceptions) tribute album that They Might Be Giants did a cover of 25 o’clock on (plus the TMBG song XTC v Adam Ant). Sgt Rock pops up in all sorts of interesting places these days.

  4. Great to read this tribute to a great band after all the recent musical dross on the site recently from Stone Cold et al. 30 years later I still have songs like ‘Generals and Majors’ and ‘Senses Working Overtime’ going around in my head.
    Try to tell the difference ‘tween a lemon and a lime………………………

  5. What a suprise that you feel your taste is superior to others, Peter

  6. Good stuff, Jeff. At the risk of being accused of blatant self-promotion, folks, one of Stereo Stories Live most popular pieces is, yes, Senses Working Overtime, featuring a story about a 15 year old Canadian girl coming to terms with summer in Australia in 1982:


  7. Daryl Sharpen says

    Good work Jeff. Saw these boys in the first floor ball room at The George in Fitzroy St in St. Kilda circa 79/80. Pub was run by Graeme ‘GR’ Richmond and Tod Shelton at the time. Thought it was on a grand final night from memory. Things were a bit hazy back then but I got hooked on ‘Making Plans for Nigel’. You could feel the floor literally moving under neath as the punters crammed in and went berserk. Of late a mate who is on community radio in Hobart gives XTC a run periodically. He works for the army and hammers Generals and Majors; reckons the lyrics are spot on. ‘World of their own’ strikes a chord.

  8. Emma Westwood says

    OK, gents. The litmus test of music taste follows. There are two camps: those who appreciate Tommy Tutone’s ‘Jenny’ and those who don’t. Which one are you?

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Sorry Emma, they were a bunch of Greg Kihn Band wannabees in my book.

  10. Jeff,
    Agree wholeheartedly with your XTC assessment.
    Certainly some brilliant lyrics.

    8675309 – certainly deserves a place near the top of one-hit-wonder tunes.
    Along with Echo Beach & Video Killed the Radio Star.

  11. And by the way, Jeff, when Andrew Fithall introduced me to Lanie Lane some years back, I said to him “She is going to be a star”. How disappointing that she has given it away, but I applaud her courage to do so.

  12. Emma Westwood says

    Smokie – And ‘Get Used to It’ by Roger Voudouris.

    Swish – Such a shame. You showed so much potential.

    ‘Jenny – 8675309’ only resurfaced on my radar a few years back. My recently departed (at 94) grandma loved listening to Billy Pinnell on 3AW on a Saturday night. Thing was, she was hard of hearing so, even though I was in another room, it sounded as though the radio was by my bedside. Billy loves a theme and this one night it was songs about the telephone. And Jenny came up on the playlist. I thought, ‘Wow, I’d forgotten what a punchy, perfect little rock song thatis’ then my grandma turned the radio off before it was finished. Don’t think she was a fan.

  13. Emma Westwood says

    Jeff – Love it. Bring on the music stuff from the vaults. Lovely to have the memory (and ears) tweaked.

  14. Dennis Gedling says

    What a band. ‘Dear God’ was a track released as a b-side and was loved so much they released it as a single and did a video.

  15. Great piece JD, however I’d hardly say that XTC were under appreciated back then or through the years. Any critical review of that period would include XTC. You have got me putting an XTC playlist together. Along with songs listed by you and others I’d include Towers of London, Respectable Street and a 70s fave, Are You Receiving Me. Cheers

  16. Roger Patton says

    You can blame the two-headed monster of Ian Reid and Virgin Records for their failure at stardom..

  17. I’d like to see your list Rick – I’d throw in King for a Day as well.

    As tends to the case XTC was a band that might have been critically appreciated but it didn’t translate to sales. Conversely bands that achieved mega sales back in their time didn’t feel the love so much from critics.

    Not being able to tour at all must have been a ball and chain too Roger, though it never mattered much to Kate Bush (albeit I haven’t read the story about what Ian Reid & Virgin did or didn’t do).

  18. Making plans for Nigel is there best tune

  19. i couldn’t believe after so many years, i just found out that the bird, the ship, and the moon – on the cover of Black Sea – is supposed to spell X-T-C?

  20. Don’t know why it took until Round 1 to bring this XTC tune to mind. Carlton, Kangas, Suns and Cats fans can empathise with us Eagles. There is no light but the oncoming train.

    “The Disappointed”

    The disappointed
    All shuffle round in circles
    Their placards look the same
    With a picture and a name
    Of the ones who broke their hearts
    The disappointed
    All congregate at my house
    Their voices sob with grief
    That they want to be chief
    Of the tribe with broken hearts
    Once, I had no sympathy
    For those destroyed and thrown away by love
    Seems, your ring upon my finger
    Signifies that I’ve become the spokesman of…
    The disappointed
    Will bear me on their shoulders
    To a secret shadow land
    Where a sombre marching band
    Plays a tune for broken hearts
    And day grows darker now
    Everywhere, everywhere
    The disappointed
    Are coming in their millions
    They’re spilling from the bus
    At a monument to us
    Made of bits of broken heart
    The disappointed
    Are growing every second
    They blot the sun to black
    At the bottom of the pack
    I’m the king of broken hearts

  21. Pancho Pete says

    FYI Sean. Andy sounded different on Generals and Majors because it was actually Colin who wrote and sang the song.

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