1976 in Swindon, England
Core '80s Group Members:
- Andy Partridge (born Andrew John Partridge on November 11, 1953 in Valletta, Malta) - Lead, harmony and backing vocals, guitar, primary songwriter
- Colin Moulding (born Colin Ivor Moulding on August 17, 1955 in Swindon, England) - Bass guitar, harmony, backing and lead vocals, songwriter
- Terry Chambers (born July 18, 1955 in Swindon, England) - Drums (until 1983, after which the group used session drummers)
- Dave Gregory (born September 21, 1952 in Swindon, England) - Keyboards, guitar and backing vocals
XTC's central creative duo of Partridge and Moulding began playing music together as early as 1972, cycling through a number of band names before settling in 1976 upon its winking, wordplay-focused moniker in 1976. That same year, not so closely following the addition of Chambers as permanent drummer in 1973, the group cemented its lineup by adding a fourth original member, keyboard player Barry Andrews. Though originally heavily influenced by the flamboyant style and off-kilter sensibilities of the New York City punk rock scene and British glam rock, the band rather quickly found its own distinct style.
Formative Version of the Alternative & College Rock Sound:
Even as other musicians and listeners were still reacting to the punk explosion, XTC's relatively veteran track record afforded the group an opportunity to find a singular approach to post-punk, which ranged from an ethereal brand of jittery guitar rock to a pleasingly busy mix of rock styles increasingly draped in lush pop. XTC quickly became a critical favorite, also finding some commercial success in spite of the self-conscious quirk of these early years. Atmospheric gems from the late '70s that foreshadowed the band's immediate and impressive songcraft include "Life Begins at the Hop" and "Making Plans for Nigel."
Obstacles Ahead - Partridge's "Breakdown" Changes XTC Path:
Entering the '80s, XTC stood out as one of rock's most interesting and exciting bands, a group capable of anchoring the as-yet-unnamed alternative rock movement. In 1982, the quartet released its first major album statement, the double LP English Settlement, which featured one of XTC's signature tunes, "Senses Working Overtime." But however poised the band might have been for stardom, Partridge suffered a jarring case of stage fright before a Paris show on March 18 of that year (apparently linked to an unplanned halting of his Valium addiction) transformed the group into a non-touring, studio-based outfit.
XTC Maintains Buzz & Momentum Into Its Peak Era:
Other than the departure of Chambers, Partridge's so-called "breakdown" had little if any negative impact on the group's status or artistic output, as 1983's Mummer revealed soundly in the form of the tasty sonic treat "Love on a Farmboy's Wages." After a somewhat characteristic period of experimentation for that record's follow-up, XTC emerged in 1986 with Skylarking, an album that met with great success both critically and commercially. Recorded amidst creative friction between the band and producer Todd Rundgren, the record delivered seminal tracks like "Grass" and "Dear God."
Birth of Alternative Rock Gives XTC a Final Commercial Hurrah:
MTV finally came calling as the '80s came to a close, at a time when interest in what was previously known as college rock began to gain steam. Released in 1989, Oranges & Lemons demonstrated a wide appeal and confidently furthered XTC's reputation as world-class, intricate purveyors of offbeat, hook-infused pop. "The Mayor of Simpleton" and "King for a Day" not only reached high levels of popularity but also showed no signs of an erosion of quality. Unfortunately, only one more XTC record would see a release before a long-term contract dispute effectively silenced the group throughout the bulk of the '90s.
Sustained Influence & Temporary Rebirth as an Indie Band for the New Millennium:
As if a six-year hiatus precipitated by business struggles weren't enough, XTC saw the departure of Gregory in 1999 as the result of creative differences. But even though many bands would have had serious trouble pressing on under such circumstances, Partridge and Moulding persevered into the 21st century with new recordings and enjoyed a steady position as ongoing, important alternative rock dignitaries. By late 2006, hopes that the duo would remain active had fizzled, with Partridge's announcement that Moulding had withdrawn from music. Still, three decades of work have produced an impressive legacy.