THAT TIME WHEN XTC’S ANDY PARTRIDGE SANG FOR THE RESIDENTS
by Oliver Hall
During my childhood and adolescence, XTC was an enigma. When I first heard their minor hit “Dear God,” the band had already long since retired from the stage, and then for years after 1992’s Nonsuch, they seemed to have walked out on the record business, too. They could write a song so anodyne it has now crept into our nation’s drugstores, yet they could also render an apparently note-perfect cover of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s “Ella Guru.” None of the musicians I knew who had the chops to attempt such a feat even liked Beefheart.
So while I played my tape of Waxworks over and over again in my teenage bedroom, these were among my thoughts: Who was this Andy Partridge guy, anyway? How did he play those weird chords? Why was he so reclusive? Was it all because he was, like, mental?
It wasn’t until I found a copy of the authorized biography Chalkhills and Children that I learned the facts of the XTC story. In the intervening 20 years, I have, of course, forgotten most of these (except that Andy Partridge is not “mental”) and lost the book, but at that time I sort of expected XTC to tour again someday, and I would have given a fucking eye for one evening’s entertainment from the swinging swains of Swindon. Part of the mystique came from listening to bootlegs and watching Urgh! A Music War, and part was this: a stone Residents junkie, I knew that Andy Partridge sang lead vocals on the Commercial Album‘s antepenultimate track, “Margaret Freeman.”