FOR XTC's Andy Partridge, the Monkees were childhood heroes. He even won a competition in Monkees Monthly for his caricature of Micky Dolenz. A dream came true in 2016 when he wrote for the band's 50th-anniversary comeback album Good Times! His song You Bring the Summer was one of that record's highlights – as was the bonus track Love's What I Want. Two years later, he proves he can do winter just as well as summer with Unwrap You at Christmas, the lead single from the newly released Christmas Party.
Mark Fisher, editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls, talks to Andy Partridge about his limited-edition EP covering two songs from 1967: Humanoid Boogie by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Apples and Oranges by Pink Floyd.MARK FISHER: I'm assuming you're sitting there in Dukes of Stratosphear garb. ANDY PARTRIDGE: It's only just coincidental that they're two songs I've always loved and always wanted to cover. There are other songs I could have equally picked: Citadel by the Rolling Stones or Mellow Yellow… seemingly all from the same sort of years. I guess I was just at that everything-impressiony stage. I would have been 13 – or 14 in November 67.
So these were the first things you were listening to of your own volition. Well, one of the very first albums I bought in 68 was the Bonzos' Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse. I took my paper-round money into a bookshop called Wymans. They had this groovy little square section filed off at the back as a …
Mark Fisher, editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls, takes a sonic journey into the land of Black Sea, freshly spruced up by Steven Wilson in a stereo remix and glorious 5.1 surround sound . . . SORRY for stating the obvious, but XTC were a studio band for a long time. The last album they played live was English Settlement in 1982 – and then only about half the songs. After that came another seven albums, plus Dukes of Stratosphear outings, all of them created for the studio alone.
That's why all these years later, Steven Wilson's remix of 1980's Black Sea, officially released on 24 November 2017, comes as such an ear-opener. What you hear, thanks to the booming bass and thudding drums, is a band at the height of its live powers. This Black Sea is a tight set of adventurous pop gems which, for all its angular arrangements and atypical subject matter (neighbours, navvies and nihilism) is raw, unadorned and ready for action.