Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday
XTC is one of those bands that I've always enjoyed, but never gave them the attention that they so richly deserved. They first appeared on my sonar when WLIR had the aforementioned "Senses Working Overtime" in heavy rotation.
The distinctive guitars, great harmonies and quirky melody had me. I love the broad guitar sound that is distinctive to the band. Did I buy their albums? No, they were played frequently enough on LIR that I didn't feel it was necessary.
A few years later, their Skylarking album came out and got airplay on the biggest Rock station in New York, WNEW. The single was released, (Grass), but instead the Non LP B side, "Dear God" got lots of airplay-and protest for the atheistic view portrayed in the song. (Trust me, by today's standards, the song is very tame). In short order, Virgin pulled a song from the album and re released the disc with the song replacing "Mermaid Smiled." I remember a friend, Bawb, buying the CD the day it came out (probably another reason why I never bought their albums, I heard Bawb's copies) and then going out and grabbing the replacement version when it came out.
Two years later, another great release, Oranges and Lemons and once again, I didn't buy it-I still don't know why. A video of a song that got played at many a wedding displays Colin Moulding's mullet and a female love interest attired in various outfits inspired by Emma Peel was "The Mayor of Simpleton" Over the years, I'd scoured used CD shops for this album and Skylarking. It's no surprise that I never found one...
Then, in 1992, I got a job in yet another record store. This coincided with the release of Nonsuch and we had a promo copy of the album. The running joke is that if you were lead into the store blindfolded, you would be able to tell which of the three managers and five staffers were working. If this CD got past track four and you came through the door, it meant that Suzanne and Shawn were working!
I actually broke down and bought a disc by XTC, but it was the CD5 of "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead". It contained yet another Non LP B side, "Always Winter, but Never Christmas" and my boss, Merv, coveted this song heavily. (I suspect it was partly because of the Christmas nature but more for the Chronicles of Narnia reference).
Merv negotiated a trade: as store manager, he had first crack at the promo discs and he'd already called the Nonsuch CD for himself. He offered me the Nonsuch CD in exchange for the CD5, because he hadn't grabbed one before they sold out! Sure, I'll swap!
I'm glad I did. This is a disc that I still play years later. Before the days of owning an iPod, cleaning the house (for me, anyway) requires cranking some uptempo music that I can sing along with. Nonsuch fit that bill. The CD was at maximum capacity with over 70 minutes of music, and only one track underwhelmed me. Meanwhile, the album was full of rich recordings such as "The Disappointed."
It ends up that as I played the tracks, since XTC has been stuck in my head after writing the line, Ed ticked off all the albums he's got archived. It's over 20 years late, but you'll have to excuse me, it's time to reacquaint myself with some XTC.