"sax swing solo"?

I’m the kind of guy who will, once you get him going, go on and on about the incredible genius of Andy Partridge, about the range, depth, cleverness, and unceasing creativity of even many of his unreleased sketches and demos…but even I will admit that his inspiration sometimes runs…well, sideways.

Perhaps an example or two will suffice. Conveniently, the two selections will also double as Sesame Street type illustrations of the opposing concepts of LARGE and SMALL.

Illustrating LARGE, we have “Bags of Fun with Buster.” What’s this song about? Well, it’s billed to “Johnny Japes and His Jesticles” if that’s a clue. (It also features loony Brit John Otway.)

On the SMALL side of our continuum, we have the primarily instrumental outtake “Do the Dwarf.” Recorded during the sessions for Mummer, this is one of the rare rock songs in the key of Q-flat minor.

Really, though: flip the goofiness of those two tracks around, take their good humor, their sense of tonal adventurousness and apt sound-painting, and put them to something Partridge truly cares about, and he comes up with something like “Easter Theatre,” in my opinion one of the grandest and most powerful songs of the past thirty years. Sick to death of pastel cuteness and gooey sentiment – or solemn religiosity – surrounding the holiday of the season? “Easter Theatre” is an anecdote to both, a pagan celebration of Spring in its joyful glory. Happy holiday.

(As a bonus, here’s an interview wherein Partridge explains the origins of this song’s chord sequence – an illustration of the way the physical act of playing the guitar, and the images the sounds evoke, can drive composition.)

Johnny Japes and His Jesticles (XTC ft. John Otway) “Bags of Fun with Buster”
XTC “Do the Dwarf”
XTC “Easter Theatre”
Andy Partridge “How ‘Easter Theatre’ Came to Be”

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “"sax swing solo"?

  1. Paula

    “Easter Theatre” is indeed beautiful…that whole album is just gorgeous, and one of those late-career albums that make you realize that creativity doesn’t have to dry up just cuz you’re not 19 no mo’.

  2. Paula

    Furthermore, I just downloaded a bunch of XTC songs from the iTunes Store, inspired by hearing these MP3s–lest anyone claim that MP3-blogs are killing the industry.

    (But don’t get me started on file-sharing, which is different).

  3. James

    Paula –

    after listening to “The Man Who Murdered Love” a couple of years ago, I was so knocked out by how great the song was, that I started to make a mental list of “class of 77” punk veterans (full bands, not counting later solo careers) who were still making interesting music by 1999. My list was not long (XTC, The Fall, and Pere Ubu were all I could come up with.

  4. James

    Yep, except in 1999 I don’t think Wire had reunited yet (or if they had, they hand’t released any new material), so they were out of the running, as I remeber it.

  5. Paula

    I wouldn’t raise the bar so high–bands should break up. (Hi, REM). It inspires me enough just to see individual artists keep putting out decent records.

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