This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. Currently we’re at year 21 – 1979
Drums and Wires was the third studio album by XTC, released on 17 August 1979, on the Virgin record label. It marked the debut of Dave Gregory, who joined the band as lead guitarist following keyboardist Barry Andrews’ departure in early 1979. Gregory went on to remain with the group up until 1998, during the recording of Apple Venus Volume 1.
Drums and Wires reached No. 34 on the UK Albums Chart, and No. 176 on the US Billboard Albums Chart. The lead single, “Making Plans for Nigel”, was released from the album on 14 September 1979, and reached No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart.
The album also contained the original recording of “Ten Feet Tall”, a re-recorded version of which was released in March 1980 in the US only, as the band’s first American single, designed to coincide with their first American tour. Certain versions of the album also include “Life Begins at the Hop”, which was released on 27 April 1979, and reached No. 54 on the UK Singles Chart.
In later years, the album was rated at number 38 on Pitchfork’s “The Top Albums of the 1970s” list
Go 2 is the second studio album from XTC, released on 6 October 1978.
The album’s cover was designed and executed by Hipgnosis. It consists of an essay about how album covers are used to attract buyers of the album. On the first British pressings of the LP version of the Go 2 album the track listing on the vinyl disc label mimicked the type style of the cover art. The label is crammed full of text.
In some non-English speaking countries, the group shot that was featured on the album’s inner sleeve in the UK was used instead as the album cover. The French 13-track album, including the bonus track “Are You Receiving Me?”, was one of the releases that featured this sleeve.
In January 1978, a relatively unknown Swindon band released the single ‘Statue of Liberty in advance of their debut album – ‘White Music’. I was just into my second term at West Sussex College of Art & Design in Worthing, UK and the Virgin signed XTC were being played to death in every studio on the campus.
Owing more to quintessential English psychedelia than the raw nihilistic three-chord assault of their punk peers, XTC’s art-pop sound combined with the very obvious song-writing talent of Andy Partridge endeared itself to fine art, ceramics and fashion students alike.
Later in 1978 XTC released the more sonically adventurous second album ‘Go 2’ which was heavily influenced by the likes of Brian Eno to mould quirky art-pop with equally quirky electronica.
The band build success on success with the dawn of the 1980’s releasing the massively successful ‘Drums and Wires’ album in 1979 and a spate of chart-busting hit singles including ‘Making plans for Nigel’, Senses working overtime’ and ‘When you’re near me I have difficulty’.
But, whereas the ’80s brought the good time, the ’90’s initially brought obscurity as fashion changed and the band left Virgin to start their own independent label ‘Idea Records’. However, the Virgin split had a silver lining as an audit revealed that a considerable backlog of royalties had been withheld from the band. An out of court settlement allowed the building of two new studios but despite remaining together through to at least 2005 and releasing a lot of back-catalogue material, XTC never regained the glory days.