XTC
The Things They Did On Gum

 

You’ll never know where bubblegum music might pop up next. Take for instance XTC, the quintessential “English Countryside” pop band lead by Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. After releasing numerous shimmering, hook-laden pop albums and failing to crack the US market, Partridge & Moulding (along with their MVP Dave Gregory) released 25 O’Clock in 1985, a tribute to their favorite psychedelic groups of the late 60’s. Performing under the name Dukes Of Stratosphere, Partridge and Co. took their encyclopedic knowledge of the genre and conjured six new classic songs (and followed that up with 10 more gems in 1987's Psonic Psunspot both collected on the Chips From The Chocolate Fireball CD). Throw these tunes on your iPod with the Beatles, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Tomorrow, and The Move and you’ll never figure out that the Dukes were ‘87 and not ’67.

Well, you can’t be too careful about these things. Safely back from their psychedelic trip, XTC enjoyed a resurgence of sorts (the Todd Rundgren produced Skylarking helped) and, understandably, wanted to stretch their homage streak to include another late-60's genre. 

However, when Andy presented an idea to “Dukes” the classic bubblegum era with an album choc full of songs inspired by the Monkees, Ohio Express and Tommy James, their label, Virgin, didn't chew it up. After two more pop-perfect releases ('Oranges & Lemons' and 'Nonsuch'), XTC tangled with Virgin over their limiting contract and pitiful royalty rates. For the next decade, Andy & Colin were in virtual retirement. No XTC, no gum. Read on.


Consumable
July 24, 1997
Joe Silva

The first part of this interview appeared in the July 15 issue of Consumable Online

AP: So those are all musical styles I feel completely at ease working with. There are a lot that I haven't got into that I would feel completely at ease working with. Bubblegum music, I think I have a huge debt to bubblegum music.

CO: Could you name an artist, like just off the top of your head?

AP: Oh. just all things like a band named the Equals in England. I don't know if you ever got to hear them. They were originally two white guys and three black guys and the one black fellow that stood in the middle painted half his body white so there were two and a half of each color in the band. They played these really banal, kind of giddy and exciting youth club kind of things. They had some really huge hits in England but I guess they didn't come over the Atlantic. They were like bubblegum ska. They were very direct. As soon as you put an Equals record, there was an instant party. People like the Equals. Oh, who was who did that "Yummy Yummy"? The Ohio Express? Lemon Pipers, although they were sort of at the psychedelic end of bubble gum. "Mellow Yellow" meets a “Quick Joey Small” or "Mony Mony" meets almost anything by the early Troggs. You know, it transcends or descends below all expectations and thus it comes out in another dimension somewhere. It goes faster than the speed of light ale and bursts through into the banal zone. I have a huge debt to bubblegum music. I love it.


Now what are these nice Swindon boys doing 
(From www.chalkhills.org FAQ)

#40. What happened to the proposed “bubblegum” album?

Karen O'Brien did an interview with Andy Partridge for The Independent on Sunday, published on September 6, 1998:

[In 1993] Partridge had presented a new project, songs he had written as homage to the bubblegum-pop bands of the late Sixties to early Seventies. He felt the idea was blissfully simple: "I wanted Virgin to say that they'd bought this entire back-catalogue from this imaginary label called Zither. They said, 'So you go on Top of the Pops and play one of these songs?' I said, 'No, this is a fake historical document!' So they said, 'Okay, we get a young band and dress them up in early Seventies clothes?' I said 'No, no!' They just didn't get it." Cue much shaking of pony-tailed heads.

The Zither project was to have been “nicely banal, pitched around 1970, a dozen tracks about sex. . .” Three of the songs have been released in one form or another. “Cherry In Your Tree” (originally intended to be performed by “The Captain Cooks”) was released on the children's album Carmen Sandiego Out Of This World in April 1994. “Candy Mine” was released on a single Andy Partridge did for John Flansburgh's Hello CD of the Month Club in November 1994. “Standing In For Joe”, released on Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), was originally intended for the bubblegum album. And one of the fictional band names intended for the project, Knights In Shining Karma, was used as the title of a song released on Apple Venus Volume 1.

Some of the other fictional bands to have been recorded for the project include the following:

The Lemon Dukes
Knights in Shining Karma
The Captain Cooks
Sopwith Caramel
The Ten Commandos
The Twelve Flavours of Hercules Solid Gondolas
The Barbers of Penzance
Anonymous Bosch
The Brighton Peers
The Tweedledeens
The Herbert Fountains
Irving Merlin
The Lollipopes
The Four Posters
The Periwig Pack
Cake's Progress
Jellyache
Funnel Of Love
The Rubber Ducks
Ancient Grease
The Piccadilly Circus Tent Rip Repair Company
Kitchener's Sink
Isambard Kingdom Necessary On A Bicycle?

Some of the songs to have been included on the project include the following:  

Lolly Let's Suck It And See
My Red Aeroplane
Cherry in Your Tree
Candy Mine
Jelly Baby
Standing In For Joe
I'm The Kaiser
Visit to the Doctor
Cave Girl
All Aboard for Bubble Land

Virgin did not take that seriously, either. These bubblegum songs included such Andy Partridge compositions as "All Aboard for Bubble Land", "Candymine" (demo version released on Andy Partridge EP), "Cave Girl", "Cherry in Your Tree" (released on the Carmen Sandiego compilation CD), "It's Snowing Angels" (demo version released on Window Box), and "Visit to the Doctor", as well as Colin's "Don't Come Crying to Me."

The band names Andy thought up, not necessarily just for the bubblegum project, include: Ancient Grease, Anonymous Bosch, The Brighton Peers, Cake's Progress, The Captain Cooks (which was meant for "Cherry in Your Tree"), The Four Posters, Funnel of Love, The Herbert Fountains, Irving Merlin, Isambard Kingdom Necessary on a Bicycle, Jellyache, Kitchener's Sink, The Lollipopes, The Periwig Pack, The Piccadilly Circus Tent Rip Repair Company, The Rubber Ducks, Sopwith Caramel, The Tweedledeens, and The Twelve Flavours of Hercules.

Apples and Lemons: an Interview with XTC
by Chris Tyrrell (published 2/22/99)

And what of a bubblegum pop project that XTC had cooked up over the hiatus, in the same vein as their pseudonymous band, The Dukes of Stratosphear?

"Christ!" says Moulding, "I think that was the last straw with Virgin." He believes their "little twee vignette," all in the name of fun for the Swindon boys, was an idea that illustrated how Virgin and XTC had not been on the same page. Rabid fans will, for now at least, have to settle for XTC's psychedelic alter egos, the Dukes.



P.7 ‘Pop Goes The Bubblegum’  
From ‘The Little Express’ (Thanks June & Peter!)
Issue 35 Winter 92/93

“Both Andy and Dave have for some time been courting the idea of doing another ‘alter-ego’ project along the lines of “The Dukes”. This time the plan was to hind behind a number of different make-believe groups, on a compilation of “Bubblegum Music” . . . “the most unloved musical form, the sugar-coated underachieving child of the Pop World. We never really intended it to be an album, we thought about doing an EP similar to “25 O’Clock”. I like the idea of anonymous music, you can’t pass by it, cause it may be us!

This particular idea only got so far as ‘talking’ with the Record Company. One basic stumbling block was the band’s original concept for complete anonymity. Under such circumstances the worry of it quickly ending up in the bargain bins (particularly if the artwork looked authentic) perhaps influenced the company’s luke warm response.

However, it may still happen and one wonders what kind of magic such an album would weave.”  


P.5 “Still Chewing”  
From ‘The Little Express’ (Thanks June & Peter!)
Issue 36 Spring/Summer 1993

Bubble-Head Philosophy . . . “Bubbles are like love; impossible to describe and constantly new.” – Louis “The Amazing Bubble Man”

Another idea that we hope will eventually see the light of day is XTC’s desire to record some “Bubblegum” songs. (Chris Twomey has heard some of them and was very impressed!) “They’ve all been written,” says Andy, “I’ve finished the whole bubblegum album, but I don’t know if it’ll ever be made.”



P.1 “I’ve heard all of Andy’s bubblegum stuff and this one is my favorite . . .”  
From ‘The Little Express’ (Thanks June & Peter!)
Issue 37 Winter 1994

David Yazbeck, a musician/producer , who Andy has worked with in the past, is currently musical director for a young folks TV show that comes out of New York. “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” is a half-hour mixture of fun and (geographic) education. The programme has a resident group called “Rockapella” and Yazbeck produced the show’s first successful CD release. Andy was conveniently located in N.Y. when Dave called him to see if XTC would be interested in “guesting” on the second CD for the show. Andy suggested one of his bubblegum songs, and “Cherry In Your Tree” was pulled from the pack. “I’ve heard all of Andy’s bubblegum stuff and this one was my favorite,” said Dave.

The song (which was credited to XTC) is one of two “guest appearances”: the other is by “They Might Be Giants.” Colin was invited to join the session, and a good time was had by all. “It was quite a happening session,” recalls Colin, “it really didn’t need much on it; we got a cello player to do some one liners.” Andy agreed. “It came out really well, we used ‘They Might Be Giants’ drummer Brian Docherty, who had  a great swing feel; he and Colin played live together and I redid my piece. It’s just the three of us plus a cello and some vocal harmonies.”

Dave Yazbeck, who is a long time fan of the band, was thrilled to be working in the studio with at least two thirds of XTC.

“It was very cool for me because I got to fill in for Dave (Gregory) on keyboards and stuff, that was a little fantasy moment.” He also commented that “being a musician and XTC fan, I know there is a huge following for the band in music circles, and it was hard not to tell all my friends that they couldn’t just drop by the studio like they usually do, because there would have been a mob of people all the time.”

Dave points out that “Rockapella has a higher profile to a certain type of audience than XTC but we are hoping that the XTC song will garner some radio airplay on certain stations.”

They had a bit of trouble with one of the lines in the song which originally was “making love with you.” Andy whipped his culinary talents into gear and the song now cooks to “baking love to you.”

The record should come out around March on the children’s label Zoom Express, the title is Carmen Sandiego: Out of this World. Check the kids bin.

P.2. Still Chewing
”All the tracks exist, and all the bands exist, I’m very tempted to do it from home after being very pleased with the quality of Martin Newell’s record” . . . Andy, on being asked about the destiny of his bubblegum music."


P.12 ‘Language In His Lungs: Andy Partridge on Collaborations, Stage Fright, and Rejecting Disney’ 
By Tom Chao  
From ‘The Little Express’ (Thanks June & Peter!)
Issue 38 Summer/Autumn 1994

AP: “I have a really perverse goal. I’d like to be a record label and every band on that label, but without anybody knowing. It’s an idea I was speaking to Virgin about last year, a bubblegum sampler with twelve bands on a mythical label from 1970. They didn’t like the idea of the historical document. I had all the songs written and all the bands, and they wouldn’t do it. One song did surface on the Carmen Sandiego sound track (Zoon Express/BMG). It’s called “Cherry In Your Tree,” by The Captain Cooks,” but the lyric was a bit more double entendre.”


P.10 ‘What You Always Wanted To Know About Andy Partridge . . . And Weren’t Afraid To Ask’ 
By Tim Coles (Cambridge, United Kingdom)  
From ‘The Little Express’ (Thanks June & Peter!)  
Issue 42 Summer/Autumn 1998

TC: Are the James and the Giant Peach and the “bubble gum” demos ever going to crop up on a CD?

AP: Possibly sometime in the future. I don’t think the ‘James and the Giant Peach’ songs are going to be re-jigged with other lyrics and stuff. I can’t get them mentally unlocked from the (Giant Peach) story, so I think they’ll just stay as they are. Little still-born things that were never done. And the bubble gum demos will probably stay as they are, although funny enough, I’ve actually lost a couple of them. But I don’t think either of those projects are going to be done; but they may get released on CD in some form down the line. Maybe we’ll do something through Idea. We still want to do the official bootleg album and we also may do a ‘Dead Projects’ album as well that could contain those.”


http://www.optimismsflames.com/1R-32.html

He (Andy Partridge) loved music and soon became fascinated with The Monkees. He won a "Draw A Monkee" competition in their fan magazine, cut his hair like Peter Tork's and took to wearing fringed jackets and love beads. He carried an acoustic guitar around with him, even though he could barely play a note . . .


Serene Dominic recently sent me a link to a near all-encompassing interview with Andy Partridge for the May 11, 2000 edition of Phoenix NewTimes.  The completely fascinating interview may be found here and I've stuck the gum referenced section of the article below.

But Partridge's 1993 brainstorm -- that XTC pretend to be 12 different bubblegum bands on a fake historical retrospective from the early '70s -- knocked the record label for a loop.

"The liner notes would say these are the greatest hits of all the bands that recorded for the Zither label, which was a make-believe label. We had all the names -- The Four Posters, The Sopwith Caramels, Anonymous Bosh, Kit and Caboodle. The best one was The Twelve Flavors of Hercules," howls Partridge. "And all of the lyrics were heavily sexual. There was a song called "Lolly (Suck It and See),' and there was another one called "Visit to the Doctor,' which was vaguely molesting. The cleanest one was called "Cherry in Your Tree,' which we eventually got to record for an American kids' album called Out of This World With Carmen Santiago. It's the same crass song with a few cleaned-up lyrics.

"So I played Virgin the demos and they just didn't get it," he recalls, semi-ruefully. "Their jaws just hung open like that scene in The Producers when people see Springtime for Hitler the first time. There was a horrible silence for what seemed like an hour. And the project didn't get done and the songs atrophied on the back burner."

One has to mourn the loss of such randy morsels as "Candy Mine," "Cave Girl" and especially "I Am the Kaiser," which Partridge happily performed on the phone without prodding, a rock 'n' roll clicking rhythm like "Yummy Yummy Yummy" sung in a crass redneck, country-and-western voice.

 



The Newspaper Splits: Draggy, Hooky & Cake Head