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  • Rob Butterfield

THIS IS POP...

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Or is it? White Music, the first album from XTC, made a big impression on this 15 year old lad. This was nothing like any pop music I’d heard before… or since.


White Music by XTC. Released January 1978. Photo by Rob Butterfield.

I mentioned in my earlier ‘vinyl junkie’ blog (25th Feb 2019) that I recall pretty much every vinyl album purchase during my teen years. So this is the first of probably many posts about those special 70’s album releases and the story of how they made it into my vinyl collection.


If you’re not familiar with XTC, before you do anything else, maybe even before you read this blog, search out some of their stuff and give it a listen. You’ll thank me.


So, White Music, the first studio album from Swindon based XTC, released in January 1978. I have to confess to not being familiar with their quirky and ‘jagged’ style of performance until I saw them on the Old Grey Whistle Test (OGWT) in February 1978 where they performed album opener Radios in Motion, the now iconic Statue of Liberty and as I recall an incredible version of Dylan’s All Along the Watch Tower – I seem to remember frontman Andy Partridge describing it has having been ‘given a new set of clothes’.


My 15 year old mind was officially blown. I remember the next morning my mate Andy calling for me on the way to school and greeting me at the door with “Did you see that band on the OGWT last night?” Of course, he was talking about XTC. We were both immediately hooked.


Here’s a link here to that first performance on OGWT – definitely worth a watch! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBaUWDrtlSc


At the time I had a Saturday job working in a men’s clothes shop. My £5 a day wages would usually be spent on bus fares, a sandwich, an album from HMV (which then would have been around £3) and a music mag or paper, leaving a little over to save up for gig tickets. The formula for a perfect life was very simple then.


No surprise then that my very next album purchase following the appearance of XTC on the OGWT would be White Music. And what a joy it was and still is – in fact I’m listening to it as I write this blog. From the opening track ‘Radios in Motion’ there’s really no let-up in its’ genius as it gives you perhaps a little insight into the crazy minds of writers Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding.


My favourite track? Damn that’s a difficult question but I’d point towards side two, track five ‘Spinning Top’. Or maybe ‘Statue of Liberty’, or maybe ‘X Wires’, or even ‘I’m Bugged’ or ‘Atom Age’ or ‘Neon Shuffle’… you get the picture. Go out and get yourself a copy and decide for yourself. They’re all absolute bangers!


Following the purchase of White Music I became an avid fan of XTC picking up their later releases as they became available and managing to see them live on a couple of occasions; the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion in October 1978 and at the Rainbow Theatre London in September 1979 – on my 17th birthday!


A recent BBC4 documentary ‘This is Pop’ gave an insight into their brilliance and for me was possibly one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. I follow Andy Partridge on Twitter also (@xtcfans) and that man certainly hasn’t lost any of his wit and wonder.


Seeing XTC on the tv back in February 1978 and purchasing that first album White Music was for me a moment in time. A moment in time when I started to realise that musically perhaps there was something else out there to fill the void after the passing of my biggest idol Marc Bolan in 1977. I’m sure he would have approved.

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