Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation Returns Tonight With XTC’s Andy Partridge

purepoplogoThe triumphant return of our signature melodic pop talk show, Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, is happening tonight, Tuesday, August 11, at 7 pm ET (4 pm PT). We’re looking back to May 3, 2005 when our wide-ranging interview with XTC’s Andy Partridge first aired. Andy talks with Alan Haber about his career with the band and his mammoth collection of demos and orphaned tracks contained within the Fuzzy Warbles series, plus a whole lot more.

andy partridgeThis two-hour show, which will repeat this Sunday at 5 pm ET (2 pm PT), is one of the most popular we’ve ever aired. Andy has no shortage of great stories or opinions, which makes for a lively discussion that will surely delight XTC and Partridge fans. A few songs from the band and Andy’s solo years will be heard during the program.

For more interviews with both current and heritage pop artists, visit the Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation PodOmatic podcast page. More than 60 interviews are on hand to listen to and/or download, with more on the way. Click here to be magically transported.

Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation airs Tuesday nights at 7 pm ET (4 pm PT) and repeats on Sunday afternoons at 5 pm ET (2 pm PT). New interviews with your favorite artists are coming soon. Stay tuned to this website for news you need to know about future episodes!

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Apples, Apples, Everywhere

(Here is a look at XTC’s wonderful, unfortunately out-of-print, Apple Box. It originally appeared on the buhdge website on November 6, 2005. Note that the two new songs discussed below were also available on a single, promotional CD entitled Apple Bite and as part of the also-no-longer-available Apple Set, which also came with two t-shirts and a badge.)

XTC's Apple Set
XTC’s Apple Set

Just released by XTC’s Idea Records, Apple Box brings together the entirety of the Apple Venus project as originally envisioned by the band: a two-record set, one acoustic, the other electric–Apple Venus and Wasp Star all in one place, with their respective demos discs, Homespun and Homegrown, in tow. Apple Box rights the wrongs, and then some.

Along with all of the music, you get a spiffy, well-designed 64-page book sporting all of the lyrics to the songs and new notes from Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (who also provide their autographs on the cover). There’s a surprise that bursts out at you when you open the box; I won’t spoil it here, though (it’s very unexpected and very cool). There’s another surprise: a coupon you mail in so the folks at Idea can send you a heretofore unknown goodie. That’s perfect. I love surprises!

But wait…there’s more! You also get a plastic card with a little scratch-off area on the back. Rub a penny over it and, voila, a number is revealed that you use to download two brand-new XTC songs, the first such numbers since Wasp Star. And, boy, are they wonderful. (You can also download a ringtone for your cell phone from any country.)

XTC's Apple Bite
XTC’s Apple Bite

Colin’s wistful, breezy melodic masterpiece, “Say It,” is an instant classic, with a warm, affecting vocal performance from Moulding and an extremely satisfying, natural chord progression. Beautiful harmonies, too, adorn this sweet tale of spreading the gospel of love before it’s too late. The lyrics are among the bassist’s best. For example, this tasty verse: “Say it very soon/When you take your tea and toast/Don’t leave the house without saying/Whose toast you love the most.” Very, very endearing, very clever, and very English.

Andy’s new song, the lively, poppy “Spiral,” a groovy love letter to the 45 rpm disc and all its magical qualities, is fun all the way, adorned with unique chord changes and varied connecting musical tissue, not to mention a generous sense of humor. The ending is a happy, smiling surprise. Instantly memorable and catchy and classic. A real toe-tapper, this is.

Yes, you have to buy Apple Box to get these very cool and indispensable new songs, and, yeah, I know, you already have all the music, but you don’t have this very nifty collectable, and you don’t want your collection to have a hole in it, do you?

Enough said. Plunk down yer cash already.

Alan Haber
November 6, 2005

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

The Warbles: They’re Still Fuzzy

(The following review appeared July 4, 2005 on the buhdge website. It appears here with only a few changes made.)

Andy Partridge's Fuzzy Warbles 5
Andy Partridge’s Fuzzy Warbles 5

With the release in 2002 of the first few volumes of Fuzzy Warbles discs, another cottage industry–that of illicit Andy Partridge demo collecting–was crushed in its tracks. Suddenly, here were great sounding recordings straight from the man himself–everything from demos to songs offered to, and rejected by, other artists; instrumental weirdness; and other groovy musical trinkets. No more trading of ninth generation dubs necessary. Here was the real thing, and lots of it.

Six volumes in, and two more to go to complete the series, Partridge is continuing to come up with collections stuffed to the gills with pearls and diamonds and all manner of heretofore undiscovered treasure. There seems to be no end to the delights being unearthed and passed on, and we are all the better for it.

If you’re a Partridge fan (and, of course, you are), you’ll dig these discs without me having to convince you of their worth. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a few highlights per volume, so here I go:

On Volume 5, “I Defy You Gravity” is the keeper, a hit song if ever there was one. Written for, and rejected by, as Partridge calls her, “disco lite chanteuse” Sophie Ellis-Bextor, this vaguely dance-oriented pop song has one of those XTC-ish melodies that defy classification, other than to say it’s catchy as catchy can. And it includes a lyric line that is typically inventive: “Isaac Newton’s annoyed with me.” Of course he is! A keeper of the highest order.

More Volume 5 highlights: a fine, tambourine-heavy, four-track demo of Skylarking’s “Earn Enough for Us,” the 007-meets-underwater marching chorus instrumental “Aqua Deum” from the film Ocean’s Daughter; and the majestic, previously-unheard “My Land is Burning,” a criticism of government set against a old-folkish melody.

Andy Partridge's Fuzzy Warbles 6
Andy Partridge’s Fuzzy Warbles 6

As good as Volume 5 is, Volume 6 is even better per pound. Try on for size the sprightly song written for, but not used in, the film James and the Giant Peach. “The Stinking Rich Song” finds Partridge in fine child-esque mettle, adopting a variety of voices perfect to communicate the thoughts of those who might be…stinking rich. Very clever and fun to listen to.

Why XTC didn’t record the wonderful, seemingly-effortless pure pop delight “I Can’t Tell What Truth is Anymore” is anyone’s guess. Scribed for the band’s Nonsuch album, it would have fit well there, or on the second Dukes of Stratosphear release. You won’t be able to get this one out of your head. “Tiny Circus of Life” was used as the title for an XTC greatest hits CD in France, and, lo and behold, here it is the title of a lively, previously-unheard song sporting lots of cool changes and a typically offbeat approach.

But wait: There’s more! “In My Hand,” written by illustrator friend Mark Thomas and Martin “Woody” Wood, was recorded by Partridge at the behest of Thomas’ wife for Mark’s birthday. A song that fits snugly in what Partridge calls “masturbators corner,” comprising this and three other demos appearing side by side by side by side here (including Oranges and Lemons’ “Pink Thing”), it’s a well-written, hooky tune with an instantly memorable chorus. You’ll swear Partridge wrote it using a pseudonym. The closing song on Volume 6, “End of the Pier,” yet another orphan from the Nonsuch writing sessions, shines with dance band underpinning and some of Partridge’s best lyrics, and another wish-I’d-written-it melody for the ages.

Once again accompanied by booklets featuring Partridge’s song-by-song commentary and adorned by smartly designed, postage-stamp covers magically created by Andrew Swainson, the Fuzzy Warbles series continues to delight. Partridge says volumes 7 and 8 will put an end to the gravy train. I, for one, hope he decides to let the gravy continue to flow.

Alan Haber
July 4, 2005

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes