If I Could Only Take One

My desert island song by XTC

Welcome to another installment of my recurring Wednesday feature where I need to pick one song to take with me on an imaginary trip to a desert island. It must be a tune from an artist or band I’ve only rarely or not covered on this blog to date. And the picks are happening in alphabetical order.

This week, I’m up to “x”, meaning it needs to be a band or artist (last name) who starts with that letter. Frankly, how many such music acts you know? I only came up with two: XTC and X-Pensive Winos, a band Keith Richards formed in 1987 to back him on his solo efforts, which included Waddy Wachtel (guitar), Ivan Neville (keyboards), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Charley Drayton on bass and Steve Jordan (drums, percussion).

Kingclover, a frequent visitor and commentator who was aware of my challenge, also mentioned X, an ’80s punk rock band, and another punk band from the ’70s or ’80s called X-Ray Spex. He cheerfully added the latter really sucked! In any case, I don’t know any of them.

While I haven’t covered the X-Pensive Vinos per se, I’ve written multiple times about Keef and the Stones, so it really came down to XTC. But at this time, essentially, I know this English rock band by name only and that fellow blogger Graham at Aphoristic Album Reviews is a fan. He also noted the band’s only song I could name: Making Plans For Nigel. Since I happen to like that tune, this made my pick an easy decision.

Making Plans for Nigel was written by Colin Moulding (bass, vocals), one of the group’s founding members. The tune first appeared in August 1979 on XTC’s third studio album Drums and Wires. The following month, it became the record’s lead single and marked the band’s commercial breakthrough. In addition to reaching no. 17 in the UK, it also charted in Canada (no. 12), New Zealand (no. 29), The Netherlands (no. 32) and Australia (no. 94).

XTC were formed in Swindon, South West England in 1972. Initially, they were known as Star Park (1972–1974) and The Helium Kidz (1974–1975) before becoming XTC in 1975. Here’s more from their AllMusic bio: XTC was one of the smartest — and catchiest — British pop bands to emerge from the punk and new wave explosion of the late ’70s. From the tense, jerky riffs of their early singles to the lushly arranged, meticulous pop of their later albums, XTC’s music has always been driven by the hook-laden songwriting of guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding. While popular success has eluded them in both Britain and America, the group has developed a devoted cult following in both countries that remains loyal over two decades after their first records.

In January 1978, XTC released their debut album White Music. Eleven additional studio releases followed. Eventually, Patridge’s and Moulding’s musical partnership unraveled, and the group effectively came to an end in 2006/2007. There was no official announcement of a breakup.

Following are some additional tidbits on Making Plans For Nigel from Songfacts:

This was XTC’s breakthrough single. It was written by bassist Colin Moulding, who shared vocal and songwriting duties with guitarist Andy Partridge.

Moulding: “Partly biographical, this one. My dad prompted me to write it. He wanted a university future for me and was very overpowering in trying to persuade me to get my hair cut and stay on at school. It got to the point where he almost tried to drag me down the barber’s shop by my hair. I know the song tells of a slightly different situation, but it all boils down to the same thing – parental domination.”

Partridge: “Quite early on it had been decided that Making Plans For Nigel was going to be the single. We spent five times longer messing with that song than any of my tracks. At one point I was fuming because my songs were being ignored.”

The Rembrandts, Primus and Robbie Williams all covered this.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Songfacts; YouTube

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12 thoughts on “If I Could Only Take One”

  1. Great choice and I would argue, my favorite of your desert island picks. I too am an XTC fan and wrote about them a while back. (So long ago that none of the commenters are still blogging). The post was inspired by this song. I love how they capture that “You will work for British Steel” thing. Seems like you don’t have a lot of options in the UK. Class-wise you’re either a professional or a laborer. Or a rocker. Not much else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jim. And I’m glad that depsite my funny selection criteria I finally came up with a desert island song that it sounds like you could imagine picking youself, or at least it’s a tune you dig!

      I’m still at the very beginning of my XTC exploration. The other night, I listened to their 1992 album “Nonsuch” and definitely liked what I heard. Do you have any favorite XTC album?

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      1. There were definitely others I dug. I’d just say that this is probably my favorite. As to an album, I’m partial to “Oranges and Lemons.” But my guess is Aphoristical probably has a better handle on their discography. I’m currently listening to all of Elvis Costello’s albums and XTC is on the short list for next up.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. X-cellent choice, at least for the band, obvious as it might be (as you say, how many acts are there starting with ‘X’) . Don’t know what my favorite song by them would be – ‘Not thugs in Our house’ comes to mind, as does ‘Generals and Majors’, and ‘Supergirl’ and…well, there are so many good ones! This was the first I heard by them and I liked it right away. I kind of link it somehow to ‘Games Without Frontiers’ by Peter Gabriel as it seemed they played on radio a lot around the same time and made me go ‘wow! this is really a totally new sound, but I like it.’

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      1. it’s a good jumping on point! It was the first one I heard by them too. I actually should get more of their music… I never owned anything they did after ‘Skylarking’ (circa ’87) but I know they did several more albums that got great reviews and were probably rock solid.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the shoutout. My favourite is ‘Easter Theater’ from 1999’s Apple Venus Volume 1, but that’s not even on Spotify, although Andy Partridge also thinks it’s their best.

    I’m not sure if I want to hear Robbie Williams’ ‘Making Plans for Nigel’….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My pleasure. “Easter Theater” sounds pretty cool. I would argue you can hear some Beatles influence there. 🙂

      As for Robbie Williams, other than having heard the name, I have no idea about his music. That being said, prompted by your comment, I listened into his take of “Making Plan For Nigel.” It’s actually not too bad!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, early XTC jumped on the new wave bandwagon, but from 1980’s Black Sea onwards there’s a ton of Beatles in their work. Colin Moulding’s bass playing is very similar to McCartney’s.

        Robbie Williams was huge in NZ – his hit Angels was hard to escape here.

        Liked by 1 person

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