Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Different Takes From 'Drums and Wires' Era

I have already gone on the record that my favorite era of XTC is when their lineup included the manic keyboards of Barry Andrews. Damn blog. Well, I'm sure you can see where I'm going. 'Drums and Wires,' the band's third album and first without Andrews, is consistently my most listened to in their long and illustrious catalog. Yes, I'm parsing words. If you don't have the physically out-of-print 'Coat of Many Cupboards' box set, you may not have heard these takes on 'Drums and Wires' standouts "Life Begins at the Hop" and "Helicopter."

This re-recorded version of "Life Begins at the Hop" was put to tape in September 1979 because Virgin Records thought Australian producer Cameron Allen had the magic touch to make this already great song a hit in America. I agree with Colin Moulding that "Cameron was definitely after a wholesome apple pie, which we gave. But I think I prefer the strudel we had prepared earlier." Andy Partridge took his criticism of this version quite a bit further: It sounds "as if one side of the stereo cut out." If you know the "Drums and Wires" take well, you'll find what Partridge meant quite jarring. Here's a bit of trivia: The hand claps on this unused U.S. single recording were done by Sting and his wife, Francis Tomelty.

Here's an unused single re-recording of "Helicopter," with album producer Steve Lillywhite at the controls in June of '79. Partridge describes it as "tougher than its predecessor." His vocals are not as good as on the album version we all know, but I love the grit of this take. The '80s were just around the corner. Enjoy one of the last times you would hear XTC with a touch of punk.

XTC - Helicopter (Unused Single Recording) (mp3)
XTC - Life Begins at the Hop (Unused U.S. Single Recording) (mp3)

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