Andy Partridge of XTC turns 60

For Andy Partridge’s 60th birthday, Cindy Howes interviewed WYEP Music Director Mike Sauter regarding the XTC singer. Founding the New Wave band XTC in the 70s, along with Collin Moulding, Partridge wrote some of the catchiest most biting songs of the New Wave era.

After the Sex Pistols broke out in 1977, XTC released their first album in the middle of a musical revolution in ‘78. XTC wanted to sound different than any other music coming out of the 70s, and they started with a unique cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

Partridge suffered from a terrible stagefright, and in 1982, the band stopped touring and became a studio band. This allowed them to develop their sound more than a touring band. The lyrics were very intelligent, with a wry observational stance. Some songs had social commentary, although subdued and resigned. Really just point it out, saying “I guess that’s the way it is and nothing can be done about it.” He also wrote self deprecating love songs that said “Who am I, but I love you.” “He always had an interesting take and a great perspective that made his social commentary songs very interesting to listen to,” Mike says.

Their most successful album commercially and artistically was the 1986 release Skylarking. They hired producer Todd Rundgren, but they had a very contentious relationship. He brought something new from XTC, and drew them away from their New Wave roots. This new, different sound was much more pastoral, as Mike says, and people really responded well to Skylarking.

Andy Partridge wrote about 2/3 of XTC’s songs, but Collin Moulding wrote incredible songs too. He wasn’t as prolific a writer, but the ones he did write were very good. “Collin Moulding , kind of like that guy in the room where everyone is having a conversation and he doesn’t say very much, but when he does open his mouth to say something you know it’s going to be good.” Andy Partridge, however, was a lot more prolific, and that allowed him to experiment more. “You never knew what to expect from an Andy Partridge song,” says Mike.

Cindy challenged Mike to introduce people to Andy Partridge via one XTC song. Mike balked at the challenge, citing the duality of Partridge’s writing persona. He has the self deprecating lover aspect, and the social commentary aspect. For the latter, Mike said he would pick “Dear God”. “He’s really singing from his heart, and he’s trying to get his point across, and it really comes across well.” For the self deprecating lover aspect, Mike picked “The Mayor of Simpleton”. “It’s a great song, it has an incredibly catchy hook, it’s very well written as a song…Personally, I can’t imagine anyone not liking that song.”

“He seems like a likable guy, and when he writes his social commentary type songs, he’s never really strident in it. He’s really never yelling at you or trying to tell you what to do. He is a real genuine type of guy, seems like a lot of fun, with a real sharp wit, but not the kind of intelligence that you don’t even want to talk to him.”