LP art - courtesy Daniele PelliconiUsually, you're not aware that you're writing an album. What I mean is, stylistically, songs of a certain feel don't come in neat batches of a dosen. Say, for example, you had a mad crush on a certain instrument, or a certain guitar tuning or certain issues wouldn't leave your pencil arm alone, it's really tricky trying to corral these desires or intentions into a field exactly one album long. No, perhaps what I mean is I never had any conscious control or fore thought into what sort of record I'd to make, until Apple Venus volume one loomed on the horizon. 

Before, things just largely... happened. For example, 'English Settlement' came out like that mostly because of the new instruments everyone had bought, acoustic guitar, fretless bass etc. 
Or 'Skylarking' came out of the oven that way because Todd Rundgren had picked and cooked all of the summary type of songs. He could have easily gone for harder numbers like 'Little Lighthouse', 'Across This Antheap' or 'The Troubles', which would have put a whole different slant on things. But by the time we came to start writing for what was to be the eventually titled 'Apple Venus Volume One', I had a real vivid map in my head of where I wanted to go, up front, no hindsight needed, I knew, In terms of atmosphere I wanted to work with orchestral sounds. 

Of course we'd dipped our toes into these waters before. Tentative and few string on 'Great Fire' or 'Grass'. A smattering of woodwind on cuts like 'Sacrificial Bonfire'. The odd horn on 'Cynical Days' or 'Extrovert'. But these beautiful colours were always looking in from the margin, we played centre field and they occasionally waved their pom-poms from the side lines. Now the time had come for us to stand down a little, suck our half time oranges and brings these (to me) new and timeless tones in to form the broad flesh of songs. Not to be just the odd herb sprinkled on top, By the time we'd finished 'Nunsuch' I was gagging to hear an orchestra tackle our tunes. This barely suppressed desire bubbles up all the way through that album and I truly believe that songs like 'Rook' or 'Wrapped In Grey' were really the first rays of Apple Venus shining in the window. But then nothing comes in neat bundles, see paragraph one. 



XTC are Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. 
All demos were recorded at the respective homes of the songwriters, on either 8 track cassette, 8 track reel to reel or 8 track digital recorders. They were cleaned up and mastered by Tim Young at Metropolis Mastering, London. 

Needlework front and back cover by Luriko Coles. Drawings by A.P. 
Design by Andrew Swinton at Cactus Design. 

Colin would like to give Carol Moulding a great big spank you.


  • Andy Partridge explains the home demos

01. River of Orchids
02. I'd Like That
03. Easter Theatre
04. Knights in Shining Karma  
05. Frivolous Tonight
07. Your Dictionary (traduzione italiana)
08. Fruit Nut
09. I Can't Own Her
10. Harvest Festival
11. The Last Balloon

      Japanese version contain also:

      DISC 2
01. How Easter Theatre Came To Be
02. How Frivolous Tonight Came To Be
03. How I'd Like That Came To Be


LP Label

CD2 (Japan version)




I bought, while writing 'Nonsuch', a Proteus sound module and had it re-jigged to include a lot of orchestral samples. It sounds wetly hippy, but I was trying to get my head into this SPACE. More rosin-ville than plectrun place. When 'Nonsuch' and all its doings were well and truly done, I sat down one day and drifted off, doodling aimlessly. Before long, I started to get hot under the trouser cuff. This cyclical phone pad sketch that had wormed out note by note, over two bars of cascading pizzicato strings and an offbeat rosary of trumpet clusters. Was really making me want to dance and yell.

I made sure my garden shed studio door was locked, and removing my shirt, shoes and socks, I proceeded to fling myself around like a grinning dervish for the next cauple of hours. I was so happy. Scat singing myself into a coma, I decided to turn on my cassette machine te capture the best phrases. This was all happening too quickly and too beautifully, I needed words to sing, where's my notebook? I couldn't lose this transient moment.

Frantically I flipped through my rough book looking for words or couplets jotted down for just such an occasion, and there it was. The phrase 'I heard the dandelions roar in Piccadllly Circus'. A real dreamer's line, but one that had stuck in my head because of its rolling contradictions*. You can't hear a dandelion roar, it's a flower not an animal. Piccadilly Circus is not a circus, and doesn't have animals. But wouldn't it be wonderful if the grimey hub or London was full of flowers, etc. It seemed to chase its tail in the same way that this music did. It was perfect, so 'just right' - was it that this little key immediately opened up a glowing treasure chest of words and intentions enabling the optimistic floral cousin of 'Roads Girdle The Globe' to spring into fully formed maturity.

I was shocked and delighted like a kid at Christmas to find something so new and modern laying in happy ambush for me. How did my clumsy spam fingers find this? One part Philip Glass, one part Gil Evans, two parts nursery rhyme with a slice of carol on the side. Although I would find nothing else so orchestrally pure, this was the biggest boldest signpost saying 'Go down that road, don't wait any longer'. The electric guitar was getting put back in his case for a while.

Technical note: this demo was recorded on a Tascam 238 8 track cassette Portastudio. It lacks the long drip/pluck intro of the finished version, which came to be as a better way of building this sound river, one ploop at a time, as I was convinced from its inception that it would make a great album opener. I had no way of altering or remixing this demo as I had sold the recorder te Blur's Damon Albarn. Sounds like he's used it well since then.

* I originally wanted it as a title for the 'Nonsuch' album but it obviously wasn't to be.



This track starts with the very first mumbled mono cassette sketch, here titled 'I Lik That'. As soon as I get an idea I slam it down quick, so as nat to forget anything, onto the nearest tape deck to hand. All that exists of this early capturing is just under one minute's worth.

We then cut to the eight track ADAT demo I made when the song was all written. We slapping on my own legs because I wasn't sure of what the finished drumming should be. But hey!, both Haydn and Nick liked the self flagellation percussion so we kept the idea in, right to the end. I think for a long time I was a little embarrassed by the light whimsy of this song and would play the demo for people muttering a presage something like 'Oh, it's the soundtrack of the Paul McCartney fan club barbecue, ha ha'. Well, I was right and I was wrong. Sure it has more than a smack of Macca about it, but that's nothing to apologise for. The man's been an enormous influence on me and is bound to surface all over the XTC catalogue, I guess he bobs up equally with Brian Wilson from time to time. Damnit, why did I have to grow up during the Sixties?

When my marriage fell apart in 93, I took myself to New York. For Erica's female solace, to drink (too much) and to co-write with Nicky Holland, I remember well, offering her the embryo of 'I'd Like That', but snatched it back when I realised it was coming to completion very quickly under its own steam. I recorded the main body of this demo back in England on the 22nd of March 1994, after completing the 'Through The Hill' album with Harold Budd and at least four songs for the film 'James and The Giant Peach'. But that's another story.



A nagging but nice chord change and melody had been rolling around my brain since 1986. I remember liking it so much that I kept pestering people asking, 'Are you sure this isn't a song by someone else?' This keeps happening to me. I'll labour over a tune excitedly for while then, near completion, I'll play it for the nearest set of ears and they'll say something like 'Oh! Isn't that 'Hey Jude'? or 'Isn't that Surfs Up?' But with the idea for 'Theatre' I didn't get this reaction, only 'sound nice'. I mentally filed it away for a rainy day.

The melody didn't find a bome til I Dr. Frankensteined it onto those nice brown chords, looking far a chorus, in early 94. I always had a hard job throwing anything away, and thank goodness. The two parts seemed a marriage made in heaven. I enjoyed doing the guitar solo even if it sounded a mite like the man who bulit his own guitar from a fireplace, Brian May. Perhaps mine is more like the man who built his own guitar from matches, Bryant and May.

You know you're doing alright if at some point during recording a demo, your hair stands on end. Which it did when I reached the 'Easter... in her bonnet' section in the middle. Self fright or self delight is difficult to achieve at the best of times, but here, bang out of nowhere, it arrived in bucket loads. Every pore of my skin was smiling fit to bust. Where does this stuff come from? Surely it's not me thinking these songs up? I live in Swindon! Maybe my right arm is an aerial picking up the practical jokes of angels or the whisperings of Genii. Surely my washing machine motor of a secondary modern school brain isn't capable of thinking up songs like this?

Please don't ask me what the name of the chords are, I just don't know. This in not unusual for me, not knowing the chords or even keys of songs. I'm not really a musician, more of an ideas man who found himself holding a guitar. If it sounds right to my shell likes, in it goes!

Technical note:- There's no bass guitar on this demo as in my excitement and rush to get it finished I forgot to leave a spare track to record one on.



If the demo of this sounds close to the finished recordings the reason is simple. I'm not great at finger picking style guitar, so once I'd got the speed, feel and a relatively mistake free performance from each of the two electric guitars that constitute the backbone of this song, why should I play it again? For the master recording we lifted off these two guitars, which I was very happy with, and merely re-recorded the vocal. (Thinking about it, we also kept the bendy acoustic guitar theme and finger cymbals as well?

That's the thing with home recording. If you capture a good performance in the stress free environment of your bedroom or shed or wherever, there should be very little preventing you from dubbing it to your 'great' quality master tape. Providing, of course, it's not going to a nightmare for other musicians to play along with.

During 93/94 I was going through a bad patch in my life and 'Knights' came along as a real comfort, a song to salve my worried mind. It was me crying tea tears at the sink, it was me laid awake fretting all night, bands breaking out in sores and blisters. i needed hugging and guarding in a moment of pain, so I tried to do it to myself in song.

It will probably come as no surprise when I tell you that the music came from me 'dicking about' with the Beatles 'Blackbird', not 'Julia' as some smart-arsed critics have suggested. The 'Jealous Winter Sun' sections, with their descending finger picked chord shifts, to me, betray their origin more than any other parts of the song. But I should add that I have never knowingly stolen any music from anyone (unlike those shamefaced Dukes!), it's a simply a case of playing your faves, making mistakes and being open enough to grab the cock up and use it. The same way 'wrong' Hendrix inspired 'All You Pretty Girls' or messing about with The Beach Boys 'I Get Around' gave birth to 'Books are Burning'.



Our ex-manager thought it reminded him of the theme from Steptoe and Son, a dangerous thing to say for a manager who's oontract is coming up for renewal, but Steptoe's Theme is alright by me and I sort of see what he meant, Music Hall always lurking in my writing. Perhaps it's too many nights spent in working men's clubs watching my parents dance the gay Gordons, where usually at the end of the night my father was invited to get up and sing a melancholy ballad with too much vibrato, or just as bewildering, the family ritual of watching 'Sunday Night at the London Palladium' on our 22 inch TV set, for me, usually in my pyjamas, viewed upside down, on the settee. It all sinks in and I am acutely aware of the songs' old fashioned-ness, so much so that I had a dream where I was doing a duet on 'Michael Barrymore' Big Night Out' exchanging the occasional line with Barrymore and both of us joining in on the chorus, kicking our legs out and clutching hat and cane. Rhythmically I was anxious to avoid the 'Flanagan and Allen lope' in favour of the 'Good-day Sunshine tromp' but inherent feels in songs are difficult to suppress and what you try and hide in a song usally turns out to be the very thing what people like about it, artists being too close to their art so to speak. But Still Andy hasn't accused me of writing 'Granny Music yet, at least not to my face and I won't ask him to put on the 'Penguin Suit' for 'our routine' in some future promotional film or video, but you never know it might simply be a case of 'Gracie Fields Forever'.



When that four watt light bulb goes on in my head I usually reach for the nearest instrument, which, nine times out of ten, ends up being my daughter Holly's school guitar. It's about two-thirds scale, nylon strings, doesn't stay in tune and was built in Romania. Now, as everyone knows, Romania is to Great Guitars as Adolf Hitler was to champion figure skating. But what the heck, it's handy and I seem to have acquired it by default. Boys and pop groups are of more interest to her at the moment than Tom Dooley and Tablature.

Anyway, I was scrubbing away one day on the top four strings and dreamily droning a melody that seemed to sound archaic and summoned up the rolling hills (which we're surrouded by in the bowl of Swindon). I rushed out to my studio at the bottom of the garden and knocked up a loop of percussive noises. Something seemed to be growing. When I traced out my humming melody on a string sound, everything fell into place. I got 'that' single.

The lyric came quite quickly. The music seemed to suggest the land and forests. Vaughn Williams with a hard-on, a Pagan ritual, a celebration of the timeless, the spirit of the trees, the Greenman.

I tried to put into the song all of the essence of the male side of nature. The tall oaks and the eternal father, THEthe lover or the green budding son. In short, mother nature's man in all his forms. It takes two to tango monotheists!

In almost every interview I've done for 'Apple Venus volume one', I'm asked why did we go for a middle Eastern sound for 'Greenman'? What?! For me, there isn't the faintest pyramid shaped thing in sight. Call me the village idiot but it's all rooted in English Folk Music to my ear. Less old bazaar in Cairo, more Marlborough Mop.

Technical note:-All the orchestral sounds on this demo are again Proteus. it would be a few years before a forty piece orchestra in Abbey road got to grips with it. Holly's guitar is called an 'Okada' and was the cheapest in the shop.



I tried and tried NOT to write a divorce song, I really did, you have to believe me. The last thing I wanted was to come over as a grieved cattle bum crying into his beer in the bar of heartbreak motel. Or even worse, as Phil Collins. i mean, divorce is so...middle-aged and crap.

Trouble was, the internal stale steam kept building, the pus kept expanding inside my head. I needed a safety valve, maybe if i just put all the hurt into one song. Not even that XTC should record this song mind you. Just let me release this cak out of my head, then I can move on.

Boy did this thing come together quickly, and do you know what?, I felt better clearer about things the second I finished the demo. In fact, I felt so different, I became very reluctant about going back to the state of mind I was in when I wrote it. This would only make a difficulty if the band ever recorded it, and of course we wouldn't choose to pick it for the album. It sounding so petulant and snide. Nobody would want to record 'Dictionary'. So. no problem. This dog doesn't need to return to his vomit. I feel different from that now.

Oh dear! Everyone In the band loves it our new record companies love it, the producer loves it and the few friends who've heard it, love it. I was to be hoist by my own petard. Protesting meekly would do no good. if everyone else likes it so much, I must be in the wrong. Perhaps it was my embarrassment at penning such a childish tantrum of a song. Very reluctantly I agreed to record It, hoping secretly that it would fall at the last hurdle. But no, it came out fine and I was left feeling annoyed for writing such a self exposing shanty.

This demo recording is close to the finished thing. I guess I knew how it ought to go all along.



Ho tentato e ritentato di non scrivere una canzone sul divorzio, davvero, devi credermi. L'ultima cosa che avrei voluto era entrare nel bar di un heartbreak-motel e piangere accorato come un bovino davanti ad una birra scadente. O anche peggio, come Phil Collins. Voglio dire, il divorzio è così ... una stronzata di mezz'eta'.
Un guaio, esaurito l'entusiasmo che custodivo, il pus si stava espandendo nella mia testa. Avevo bisogno di una valvola di sfogo, forse mettendo tutto il dolore in una canzone. Non che fosse importante che gli XTC registrassero questa canzone. Volevo solo espellere fuori dalla mia testa questa sostanza, in modo da potermi nuovamente muovere. 
Ragazzo tutto questo è successo rapidamente, e sai cosa?, mi sentii meglio, avevo fatto chiarezza e questo favorì la fine del demo. Infatti, mi sentii così diverso, divenni molto riluttante ricordando lo stato mentale in cui ero quando lo scrissi. Procurerebbe solo difficoltà alla band se lo registrasse, e chiaramente noi non lo avremmo scelto per l'album. Suona così scontroso e sprezzante. Nessuno vorrebbe registrare 'Dictionary'. Così. nessun problema. Questo cane non ha bisogno di mangiare il suo vomito. Ora mi sento diverso. 
Oh caro! Tutti nella band lo amano e le nostre nuove case discografiche lo amano, il produttore lo ama e i pochi amici che lo hanno sentito, l'amano. Sono saltato in aria proprio col mio petardo. Non avrei fatto bene a protestare. Se agli altri piace così tanto, devo aver torto. Forse era il mio imbarazzo a desiderare una canzone con tale collera infantile. Con molta malavoglia fui d'accordo a registrarlo, sperando segretamente fino all'ultimo che avrebbe incontrato un ostacolo. Ma no, venne bene e mi abbandonò l'irritante sensazione di averlo scritto esponendomi.
La registrazione di questo demo è vicina alla versione finale. Suppongo di aver saputo come dovesse andare.



Having been seen to have owned five sheds at one time by various people who know me, it wasn't long before I came to be known in certain quarters as 'five sheds Moulding'. So perhaps it follows then that one day I might be best placed to advise friends and fellow hobbyists' of the joys of owning one, but it never occurred to me I would do it in a song. I might have written the tune in any of the outhouses if not for the ephemera of moving house occupying all the them, or at least the ones in good repair. You could say that most of my working life has bad a connection with one shed or another having worked as a groundsman before I became a full-time musician (the horticultural link perhaps?) and whether your putting the Hornby '00' through its paces, peering through a telescope at the moons of Jupiter or even writing a song, being alone in an outhouse at an odd hour gives you a sense of being at the frontier of discovery, a kind of Dr. Jekyl feeling, whose experiments must not be disturbed. However, I should point out that men who spend too much time on their own invariable arouse suspicion, so to avoid that 'dirty raincoat botanical gardens Tunbridge Wells feeling' be generous with the invites to your piece of paradise.

"Fruitnut", after all this was conceived in my own front room, which maybe of little interest but I am sure the keys that I choose for my songs are related to my fear of being overheard from the next room. Singing out at the top of your voice in a proper recording studio can be an intimidating experience but doesn't compare to the humiliation or being caught in mid falsetto by a member of one's family. I can think of only one other surprise interruption which might surpass it...

Yes, you could say my singing has been in hushed tones of late and I've recently wondered whether I might be approaching 'Como-tose', a condition resembling the vocal delivery of the well known crooner, but as there are plans afoot to feather another bunker I'm hoping this will raise the larynx up from the 'swing low sweet chariot range' to a more natural level, otherwise it's back to tight trousers for me.



If it hadn't been for Haydn Bendall pushing rather passionately for this song, I doubt if it would have made it past this demo stage. Again, I felt like I'd exposed rather too much of myself to feel comfortable with. I'd written a song, which to my mind, had made me look weak, soft, indecisive and worst of all for a man, romantic. My life had been in turmoil. Someone I loved dearly was leaving my life and someone I loved dearly was entering it. I guess I was grasping for permanence under big waves of uncertainty. How could I seal my relationships, how could I stop this from happening in future? You can buy a chair. And own that chair. You can buy a pen and own that pen, but you can't do that with a person. The Gossamer frailty or human love had frightened me awake.

Another reason I was reluctant to record a finished version was the 'loungey' feel of this demo. It was recorded,one or two chord at a time, into a computer with a sound that was a mixture of piano and string samples. This gave it a plump but leaden, sedate feel. Somehow, in my head it was more rolling and turbulent (much more how the album version thankfully turned out) and more like the clinate in my heart.

One thing the demo caught which I think is a little mlssing on the finished one is the almost astral sense of suspension, brought about by the high F sharp hanging over the 'swirling sky' C chords. This interval makes me think of a paper lantern moon dangling from a cotton thread. I can't help it, my head's wired that way.



As a kid, I had no idea what the harvest festival ceremony at school was supposed to be about. This bizarre mix of Christianity, paganity, help the Aged, a jumble sale and fridge raid, all seem to crash together (with schoolboy lust interest) in the lyrics of this song.

This demo is in two sections. The first being that prime fumbling onto mono cassette. You can hear me trying out a chorus of 'one kiss you gave me' e teetering over an embryonic melody. This has been edited at 1.04 minutes onto a slightly later eight track A DAT recording. Think you'll agree the song by this stage feels pretty final.

Don't get too wigged out by the burbling maffled orchestra under the early version. What happened was when I got the idea, I Just grabbed the nearest tape, which I think was maybe some 'Handel', and I slammed it into the nearest recorder. In my urgency to catch the muse I'd forgotten that the tape deck was faulty and never properly erases what's underneath. So here we have it, an inadvertently psychedelic version with a baroque master unknowingly jamming with me from beyond the grave.

I decided to move the arrangement from acoustic guitar to piano simply because of the evocation of an English school assembly. Music master seated at the grand in the hall, girls one side, boys the other. Furtive but powerful glances shooting between the ranks of confused white shirted trainee adults. A smile from a girl across, the room can have an atomic blast impact on a spotty, shy lad of thirteen. Ground zero at your heart.

I'm very proud of the lines 'see the children with baskets, see their hair cut like corn, neatly combed in their rows'. This, for me, is the whole confused dream of school harvest festival distilled into a few words.



I was approached by a musician in the mid 90's to contribute to, or complete, some Instrumental he was about to record. Could I fina themes to go over them or add lyrics and turn the pieces around into songs. I threw myself into the project, well, I was on strike from Virgin what else was there to do? A really oblique but sad theme came up far one instrumental which I felt rathrer proud of, but I was beginning to smell fish about the project in general. So we parted ways, far reasons too many and varied to go inte here, and I was left with my haunting melody.

I kept the tune, changed the chords underneath (I didn't want anyone to accuse me of stealing) and tried various keyboard sound, out to support it. I liked a sample of an acoustic guitar, which sounded oddly more like a harpsichord, and a whole chain of mental events went off to create the lyric.

Harpsichords always make me think of balloons. You know, the Montgolfier Brothers type of craft. Balloons make me think of escape, maybe from a besieged place. Escape from something bad. Bad ways, bad thoughts. You can see where I'm headed.

'The Last Balloon Home' was for a while, the working title of the 'Nonsuch' album, but was not to be. All that time it was laid in my lyrics book, whimpering to me, "make me into a song" it called, so now was the time.

Its primarily a sad song, we, who are stained by our bad deeds, our violence, weapons, vanity, we aren't going to get on board that balloon to a bitter place. It's the young who are. It's the young who must not make the same stupid mistakes that we have. They are the hope. They must not listen to us, they must drop us, like ballast, if they are to rise above it all. I'm an optimist at heart and feel, even though it's grey here, that above and into the future it will be brighter, fresher where my children are going.

I apologise wholeheartedly for the wretched fake trumpet solo on this demo. But didn't Guy Barker make up for it with some magnificent flugelhorn on the real thing?