"X T C"|
(active 1975 to 2002) U.K.
XTC was formed in the industrial town on Swindon in north Wiltshire, where it's still based today. The original foursome of Andy Partridge (vocals, guitar, some percussion), Colin Moulding (bass, vocals), Barry Andrews (keyboards), and Terry Chambers (drums), burst onto the London scene in 1977, during the height of the punk explosion.
Partridge, Moulding and Chambers were eventually brought together - along with Andy's friend, Dave Cartner - in the spring of 1973 when they called themselves "Star Park". They played their first gig at Swindon College as support to Thin Lizzy and shortly afterwards changed their name to "The Helium Kidz". They also recruited a new vocalist called Steve Hutchins.
The Helium Kidz had to wait two years for any nationwide exposure and it came in the form of a small feature in the New Musical Express, but it didn't change their luck and in the summer of 1975 they opted for a change of name instead. The inspiration was a Jimmy Durante film, of all things, in which the New York comic was searching for a lost chord. Having found it he cried: "Dat's it. I'm in XTC." It struck a chord with Partridge too, who thought it epitomised their incisive, witty style. Partridge also became the band's lead vocalist at this time, replacing Steve Hutchins.
Success was still a long way off for XTC and they had to wait for punk, which exploded at the end of 1976, before they got the boost they wanted.
XTC never were a punk band, but they were outrageous enough to suit the mood. The only problem was a sudden lack of a keyboard player - recent recruit Jon Perkins having left to join another band. Andy then spotted a notice in John Holmes' organ shop in Faringdon Road, saying simply: "Keyboard player seeks band". And so it was that Barry Andrews joined the band.
In 1979, Andrews left and was replaced by fellow Wiltshire native Dave Gregory (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals). They engaged in four years of grueling tours (from Venezuela to Japan to New Zealand and all points in between). While on stage in Paris, Partridge collapsed. Shortly after, XTC stopped touring for good.
Partridge suffered a breakdown, was unable to tour and far from cashing in on the success of English Settlement, Partridge became a recluse and XTC ran into debt. They were rescued from disaster by a renegotiated contract with Virgin which tied them to a further six albums. A succession of illnesses, divorce and financial problems have dogged Partridge.
In 1982, Terry Chambers left the band and emigrated to Australia; he was not replaced, reducing it to a three-piece, and XTC left Epic Records for Geffen Records. The band enlisted a new drummer - Pat Mastellotto of the Los Angeles band Mr. Mister.
Partridge came close to ruining a great collection of songs by needlessly embellishing them with layer upon layer of instrumentation. While Moulding and Gregory were happy to keep things relatively simple, Partridge was the opposite and rifts were growing in the band.
1985 saw the debut, on another label, of the band's psychedelic alter egos, "The Dukes of Stratosphear", a retro-cool parody of eccentric '60's pop on 25 O'Clock. The Dukes returned in 1987 with the once more critically acclaimed Psonic Psunspot.
XTC were left feeling very dissatisfied with Virgin's handling of their album Nonsuch, and announced their desire to leave the label. Virgin were understandably keen to hang on to an act with such a substantial Stateside fanbase, and a lengthy contractual dispute began which took nearly six years to resolve, during which time guitarist Dave Gregory decided to leave.
Following the departure of Gregory, in late 1998 and not replaced, the group is effectively now a duet of original members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. In view of the style of music and Andy Partridge's much-publicised anxiety attacks, it is very unlikely that XTC will ever play live again.
Andy Partridge was born on the island of Malta on November 11, 1953 where his father, a sailor, was stationed. The family eventually returned to Swindon and lived at Penhill where Andy, inspired by The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and The Monkees, set up Radio Anglo, 'broadcasting' records out of his bedroom window.
He slowly turned to making his own music, but with little success and it was while playing with a group called Clark Kent, at Headlands School, that Partridge first met Colin Moulding, who was also from Penhill.
Bass player Colin Ivor Moulding was born in Gorse Hill, Swindon on August 17, 1955, second son (he has an older brother, Graham) to Charlie and Vera. At the age of 14 Colin and his family moved to a cottage in the grounds of Headlands School when his father became caretaker. Although a regular at local dances, he was not overly interested in music, preferring fishing and astronomy.
The only member of the band not to come originally from Swindon, Barry Andrews was born in West Norwood, London on September 12, 1956. His family moved to Swindon when he was seven.
Taking to piano at an early age, Barry excelled at school. Although he played with a variety of local cabaret acts and covers bands during his late teens it was an advert he placed in a local music store that caused Andy Partridge to approach him and ask if he would like to join XTC as a replacement for the recently-departed Jonathan Perkins.
Terry Chambers, born in Swindon, Wiltshire, July 18, 1955, was a promising footballer until he had an unsuccessful trial with Swindon Town, was to become XTC's drummer.
After recording two songs for the follow-up to XTC's seminal album English Settlement, Chambers moved to his wife's native Australia and -except for a brief stint with Aussie band "Dragon" - he turned his back on the music industry - and the drums.
Their albums include:
- White Music (1978)
- Go 2 (1978)
- Drums and Wines (1979)
- English Settlement (1982)
- Mummer (1983)
- The Big Express (1984)
- Skylarking (1986)
- Oranges and Lemons (1989)
- Nonsuch (1992)
- Apple Venus Volume 1 (1999)
- Apple Venus Vol.2 (2002)