portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Saturday, October 28, 2017

XTC - Skylarking

On this day in music history: October 27, 1986 - “Skylarking”, the eighth album by XTC is released. Produced by Todd Rundgren, it is recorded at Utopia Sound Studios in Woodstock, NY and at Cavum Soni (Sound Hole) in San Francisco, CA in Early = Mid 1986. Having recorded their previous album “The Big Express” with David Lord (Peter Gabriel), and the side project EP “25 O'Clock” under the name the Dukes of Stratosphear, XTC come to the US in 1986 to record their next album. The band work with musician Todd Rundgren, best known his own diverse and eclectic work also a solo artist and with the band’s Nazz and Utopia, as well as producing Meat Loaf, Hall & Oates and Grand Funk. Coming to the studio armed only with a clutch of guitars, XTC soon finds out that Rundgren has different musical ideas in mind. Interested in utilizing current technology including synthesizers, sampling keyboards and a drum machine, do not always suit the band’s fancy. The recording sessions are tense, with Andy Partridge and Rundgren often not seeing eye to eye creatively during the recording process. They argue frequently throughout the sessions, over arrangements, instrumentation and even the speed the recordings are tracked at. Eventually, the pre-programmed drums used during the tracking sessions are replace with live drums played by Prairie Prince (of The Tubes). Rundgren eventually quits the project after mixing the entire album three separate times, but none are to XTC’s satisfaction. One set of mixes are chosen, and the deficiencies are corrected during the mastering process. The initial pressing of the LP is released without the song “Dear God”, which is first issued as the non-LP B-side of the UK only single “Grass”. It finds favor with US radio stations who begin playing it. This forces the band’s US label Geffen Records to quickly reissue the album with the song added on (cutting “Mermaid Smiled” from the reissued edition). “Dear God” peaks at #37 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, subsequently becoming one of their best known and most popular songs. In 2010, the album is remastered and reissued on vinyl  with the full track listing, on Andy Partridge’s own Ape House Records label, having regained the rights to XTC’s masters from Virgin and Geffen Records. It also restores the original cover artwork, which had been replaced on the US release. It is also reissued on CD in 2014, correcting the previous CD release which had the stereo channels reversed by mistake. “Skylarking” peaks at number ninety on the UK album chart and number seventy on the Billboard Top 200.

and finally for today . . . well so far . . . . . .there is XTC and this album and single meant a lot to me and I have said elsewhere that they were amongst my very favourite bands (and the loudest!) and 'Dear God' about nailed my burgeoning atheism after so long as a confirmed agnostic (isn't that an oxymoron ED? tautology?) anyway
I know I did 

thanks to the most excellent Jeff Harris' blog 'Behind The Grooves  On this day in Music History

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