XTC – In Concert at The Rainbow – London – September 17, 1979 – BBC In Concert Series – BBC Radio 1 –
XTC in concert this Sunday night/Monday morning. Recorded live at The Rainbow in London on September 17, 1979 for BBC Radio 1’s In Concert series.
XTC formed in Swindon in 1972. Fronted by songwriters Andy Partridge (guitars, vocals) and Colin Moulding (bass, vocals), the band gained popularity during the rise of punk and new wave in the 1970s, later playing in a variety of styles that ranged from angular guitar riffs to elaborately arranged pop. Partly because the group did not fit into contemporary trends, they achieved only sporadic commercial success in the UK and US, but attracted a considerable cult following. They have since been recognized for their influence on Britpop and later power pop acts.
Drums and Wires, released in August 1979, was named for its emphasis on guitars and expansive drums. AllMusic reviewer Chris Woodstra wrote that it signalled “a turning point … with a more subdued set of songs that reflect an increasing songwriting proficiency. The aimless energy of the first two albums is focused into a cohesive statement with a distinctive voice that retains their clever humor, quirky wordplay, and decidedly British flavor. … driven by the powerful rhythms and angular, mainly minimalistic arrangements.” The distinctive drum pattern of its lead single, Moulding’s “Making Plans for Nigel”, was an attempt to invert drum tones and accents in the style of Devo’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”. The song became a number 17 hit and helped propel the album to number 37 in the UK. Before “Nigel”, XTC had struggled to fill more than half the seats of the small club circuits they played. Afterward, the single was playlisted at the BBC, which helped the band secure two appearances on Top of the Pops. When touring resumed in November, every date was sold out. In later years, the album became the best-known of XTC’s discography and Moulding and Partridge would look back on this point as the symbolic start of the band’s career.
To follow up “Nigel”, the band released “Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down” (1980), a reggae-influenced Partridge song with production by Phil Wainman of Bay City Rollers fame. It was their lowest-selling single to date. Concurrently, Virgin issued Moulding’s “Ten Feet Tall” as the band’s first US single. According to Gregory, “Colin began to fancy himself as the ‘writer of the singles'”. In response to “the fuss made over Colin’s songs”, Partridge attempted to exert more authority in the group: “I thought I was a very benevolent dictator.” Gregory disagreed, recalling that the band was “pretty tired” and that Partridge “could be a little bit of a bully.” Partridge at this point released a side project with Take Away / The Lure of Salvage in early 1980; a one-off record that appeared without much notice, except in Japan, where it was hailed as a work of “electronic genius” and outsold all other XTC albums.
For a sample of their 1979 period – click on the player and dive in – and play loud.