Andy Partridge, of XTC, seems to do some of his best writing when he’s conflicted. I suppose that should be no surprise, since conflict as content is standard in other art forms. Anyway, here are three examples.
Probably his best known (and in some quarters, most reviled) song, “Dear God” isn’t quite as simple-minded a statement of non-belief as it’s sometimes taken to be: if it were, it would be either purely rhetorical in address or nonsensical (why talk to something you don’t believe in?). No, I think the idea is more that whatever “God” might be, the tolerant and merciful aspects of religion seem utterly overthrown by the tyrannical and wrathful aspects. XTC’s version of this song is well enough known; here’s a cover by Sarah McLachlan from the pretty spiffing tribute album A Testimonial Dinner.
Partridge has released, over the last few years, a whopping eight CDs’ worth of home demos (plus a ninth, shorter bonus disc of less aurally-finished versions), all of which were recently compiled into a box set under the title of Fuzzy Warbles. In his often amusing and sometimes insightful notes to the tracks, Partridge notes that at least two songs were directed inspired by his long, tangled relationship with his current wife, Erica Wexler, who was apparently unnervingly persistent in her attentions despite Partridge’s being (mostly unhappily) married to someone else at the time. (Happy ending, though: Wexler and Partridge have been together for years now.) The attraction – as you will have guessed from my parentheticals – was mutual, and Wexler was the subject of the jaunty, odd “Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her,” presented here in its demo form (with goofball intro).
Partridge expresses regret over writing the next song, “Another Satellite,” since he now reads it as a needlessly harsh rejection. Partridge’s discomfort and conflict are our gain, however (we are greedy vampires, we music fans), and so another finely calibrated and desperately direct song strikes home. I’ve posted the demo – but I also like P. Hux’s version from A Testimonial Dinner quite a bit.