ANDY PARTRIDGE: DON'T YOU EVER DARE CALL HIM CHICKENHEAD
THE BULL WITH THE GOLDEN GUTS, 1993
THE LITTLE EXPRESS stepped up to the plate again in 1993 with another official collection of ANDY PARTRIDGE demos, THE BULL WITH THE GOLDEN GUTS. The material spans 1985-1992, and includes many "old favorites" such as "Goodbye Humanosaurus," "Goosey Goosey," "Don't You Ever Dare Call Me Chickenhead" and the show-stopping one-two punch of "Everything" and "This Is The End." Also included are exclusive tracks like "Was A Yes," "Difficult Age" and "Zonked Right Out (On Life)."
Along with the Shed came a complete studio upgrade. PARTRIDGE was among the first to go digital at home in the early 1990s, and was quickly able to take advantage of MIDI and having more than four tracks on which to record. So it's only natural that his compositions since then have been more expansive in terms of instrumentation and layers of musical parts. Since then he's also been able to approximate very closely the individual sounds of an actual traditional string-and-brass orchestra, which thrust his songwriting in yet another direction.
The first fruits after NONSUCH arrived in late 1994, via the HELLO CD OF THE MONTH CLUB, run by JOHN of THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS (ha ha! I forget which one.). Two new songs were written especially for this CD EP, one song written for ANDY's famed (and still unrealized) bubblegum music project ("Candymine"), plus "It's Snowing Angels." The new songs,"Prince Of Orange" and "Some Lovely (My Brown Guitar)" have a very casual, offhanded feel to them which belies their complex melodic and rhythmic nature. The first listens to the new songs generated nothing but head-scratching and confusion. But around the fourth or fifth listen elements began to emerge, backing vocals that had been heard before but not noticed. Guitar solos that appeared from nowhere. And more backing vocals! The mood of the two songs is characteristic giddiness mixed with powerful melancholy. An emotional mixed bag that reveals itself only while the songs are playing.
A new, full collection of PARTRIDGE demos began circulating in late 1994, which made up much of the most recent XTC album, APPLE VENUS VOL 1. The demos are clearly divided between acoustic/orchestral songs and full-on rock band songs with electric guitars.
APPLE VENUS VOL 1 is the orchestral stuff, with no trace of electric guitar. VOLUME 2 will be the rockin' stuff. When BBC radio interviewed him at home in late 1996, PARTRIDGE played a new demo, "Playground." Lyrically very much in line with much of the VOL 1 material, which has an almost overriding nostalgia.
Another batch of PARTRIDGE demos that is unlikely to get an official release is the four songs he wrote for Disney executives who asked him to submit material for the computer animation film JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. Four INCREDIBLE songs, I might add. Disney refused to give ANDY a cut of the home video sales they were guaranteed to generate, so he was left, as he said "with four songs about a fucking peach." Parents the world over would've been lucky to have their kids begging to hear "Dont' Let Us Bug Ya," "Stinking Rich Song" and "Everything Will Be All Right"!!! Disney stuck with their old favorite RANDY NEWMAN and life continues as normal.
There was talk in 1997 of XTC revisiting several of the best-known unreleased demo tracks. New versions would be recorded for THE BOOTLEG SESSIONS, but the project seems to be shelved.
Unlike most hometapers Andy Partridge is not a publicity whore. He does not have a Geocities account with hours of Real Audio files and MP3s for download. He does not spend weekend evenings down at Kinko's with an x-acto knife and a ruler, trying to get both sides of his tape covers to line up perfectly. You cannot e-mail Andy Partridge to ask him how to buy his latest tape. His non-XTC recordings circulate in a strictly word-of-mouth fashion by what many consider to be the most rabid (in the good and bad senses) fans in the world. And while Partridge himself has expressed outright indifference about the internet, his fans continue to keep themselves informed with the latest news and debates on all manner of trivia on e-mail lists like CHALKHILLS.There are rumors of more demos from the 1994-5 period circulating now. I'm keeping my ear to the ground!
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