ST. ANDREW OF BEDROOM ROCK Andy Partridge (Pt. 2)

More of our
free-association tango with the XTC/Dukes of Stratosphear auteur.

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

Editor’s note: we
continue our conversation with good man Andy Partridge, who as we pointed out
in part one of the BLURT interview, will hold forth, unfiltered, on freaks (and
freak magnetism), Nigel moments, unsexy heavy metal, crap rap, Grandpa
Partridge’s war wounds, religion, comic books, and why he hates concerts. Among
many topics – not to mention that massive Dukes of Stratosphear box set.

 

FOOD OF THE GODS

Partridge once had an enormous comic book collection, but it
met an untimely end when mice infested his apartment above an old shop. “I was
away on tour a lot,” he recalls, “and [the mice] ate through stacks of comics,
the Mylar bags and everything. That was a real heartbreak.” Partridge figured
if he couldn’t keep his comics safe and in mint condition, he’d sell them. “I
let ‘em go for a song, which is a shame, because now my son’s an animator and
it would’ve been great to give him such a great comic collection for
reference.”

 

ANDY WHORE-HOL

XTC fans know Partridge’s affinity toward visual art, and
that he’s served as his own art director on XTC releases, including the Dukes
box set. “I love doing all that stuff. That’s a big thrill for me… to try to do
as much of the artwork. I’m a real packaging slut, I tell ya.” He’s rather
proud of the orange (and blue limited-edition) double-disc packaging for the
eponymous debut of Monstrance (Partridge with former XTC keyboard player Barry
Andrews and drummer Martyn Baker, who played with Andrews in Shriekback) CD. “I
think it looks like an art object, you know?” He also enjoyed creating the
book-ish digipak for The Lowdown, the
debut release of another side project, Orpheus
(with Slapp Happy’s Peter Blegvad). “Orpheus was fun to do; I like the silvered
ink on dark brown-it makes it look like old photographic stock, the nitrate
type thing on old photographs. It was good fun building the collages. Peter and
I built them on the glass plate of his scanner with just stuff out of the
garden and bits of paper and stationery and stuff like that.”

 

CHECK OUT THAT BOX

Naturally the Dukes box, what with the puzzle, shirt, Dukes
Dollars, and fuzzy velvet box, was good fun for Partridge to design. “Yeah,
it’s the kind of thing, if the Ape label loses money, at least I’ll be able to
move into the box! That was a blast. It’s nice; it looks like a sort of
psychedelic funeral parlor. [laughs] It’s that color, the dark purple and the
kind of ornate, Victorian-looking stuff on it. It reminds me of a sexy funeral
parlor. Does such a thing exist? Die Filthily! Randy’s Mourning Glory Emporium!

 

            “It was
meant to be something you’d use to keep something precious. Or even
chocolates-“eat me, please” and blow-your-mind kind of thing. And also a little
referential to that gloriously daft, late psychedelic record Odessa by the Bee Gees. Again, it’s meant to evoke the late-60s because that’s really
the whole Dukes thing. If it doesn’t make you feel that it’s historically accurate,
it hasn’t done its job, I don’t think.”

 

ALL THAT RAP JAZZ

The purple velvet on the Dukes box also gives off a pimp
vibe-Bishop Don Magic Juan comes to mind, although his hue of choice is green.
“Who’s Bishop Don?” Told BDMJ is a pimp “spiritual advisor” to Snoop Dogg,
Partridge says he’s not a fan-of Snoop or hip-hop.

 

“It’s a world I know little of,
young fellow! I don’t really revolve in those R&B, rappy circles much.
Although I have to admit – begrudgingly – that the hip-hop and rap stuff is probably
the only new-ish musical sensation in
the last twenty years.” This prop comes at the expense of current indie rock
bands, which sound derivative to Partridge, “like they’re straight out of
1974.”

 

            As for
Snoop, et al? “[Snoop Dogg] seems to rub me up the wrong way; I can’t tell you
why.” And its message and image of gangsta/bling rap-“the sort of stuff you say
on the playground when you’re six years old-that draws Partridge’s ire: “‘I’m
gonna kill you and I’m gonna shoot you and your mum and your girlfriends and
everything, and I’m gonna fill you full of holes!’ Then you rewrite it as Straight Outta Compton and away you go.
It just seems kinda childish to me.

 

            “I don’t
think there’s any nobility to rap, whereas there’s fantastic nobility to a lot of jazz, a real sense of nobly
searching for new ways of doing things. Jazz is America’s greatest gift to the
world. Forget Coca-Cola, forget blue jeans… And hey-a lot of people making jazz
are poor and black, but their boasting comes through the music, not literal
‘I’m gonna shoot your ass’ type stuff.”

 

DISNEY POP: NOT AS
BAD AS METAL?

“Yeah, you gotta let them make their own mistakes and
discoveries,” Partridge said when the subject of kids being force-fed crap
tween-pop like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. That’s all he had to say
about Disney’s musical transgressions. Heavy metal’s what really drives him
nuts.

 

“Somebody said, ‘Heavy metal took
the sex out of rock.’ And it’s true. ‘I’m a zombie and I’m gonna eat your
soul!’ and ‘Welcome to Hell!’ Come on! Come fucking on! The dog fart vocal, and the ‘spawn of Satan’? Oh, fuck off.
It’s just really wanky, teenage kid music. You just know it’s made by virgins for virgins. They drained every last drop
of sex out of rock n’ roll with all this talk of blood and visceral decay and
zombie flesh rotting. You know, [imitates
mumbly, mush-mouthed metal singer
]! Jesus Christ. They all sing like some
sort of fucking villains from Scooby-Doo.
‘Look out, here comes Carrot-Man!’ [more
metal mimicry
] I don’t know how you’re going to write that out, by the
way.”

 

COCKERNEE ENVY

The Dukes song “You’re A Good Man Albert Brown (Curse You
Red Barrel)” was an attempt to write “one of those fluent cockernee [Note: Cockney rhyming slang], knees-up,
kind of pub psychedelia songs.” The danceable strain of psych, says Partridge,
seemed to be getting a grip in England
in the late ‘60s. “Really, the Kinks were to blame for that, with “Dedicated
Follower of Fashion,” and then the Stones caught it [sings “Something Happened
to Me Yesterday”]. They really wanted to be the Kinks at a certain point. And
also the Small Faces had a lot of ‘how’s your father’ cockernee [psych songs].

 

GER-SCHPLODEN:
PARTRIDGE’S BIG BANG

The lyrics to “Albert Brown” are a mishmash of the true
story of Partridge’s paternal grandfather Albert and Elsie Brown, the nurse who
nursed Grandpa Partridge back to health after he was wounded in the trenches in
the first World War-and later became Partridge’s grandmother. The song title
combines their names and checks Red Barrel-“this appalling beer that was everywhere in England in the ‘60s and ‘70s”-in
the parenthetical.

 

            “It’s
really quite truthful and factual,” says Partridge, “which is unusual for the
Dukes.” Albert Partridge, he tells, was due to field-test the then-new secret
weapon-the tank-that afternoon. During combat that morning, Albert was manning
the machine gun, and a shell landed near him. “It blew every tooth out of his
head but one, strangely enough.”

 

Partridge says “It would be nice to
meet the German that shot the shell that exploded and blew my granddad’s face
apart… If that German hadn’t fired that shell, I wouldn’t be here now. So I’m
shaking him by the hand, somewhere in a heavenly realm. Danke schoen, mein
freund, for ze ger-schellen, explody, ger-schpunken… plunken. Whatever.
Ger-schploden? There’s probably a long word with about fifty letters in it that
describes that action.”

 

SHEPHERD’S PIE: YOUR
NIGEL MOMENT

Although XTC mate Colin Moulding wrote “Making Plans for
Nigel,” Partridge identifies with the song’s central theme. “It happened to me.
I’m sure every parent has this thing, where you plan for your child’s future…
he’s gonna be an accountant or a furniture salesman or usually [something to do
with] the parents’ interests and backgrounds. They do everything to steer you
and guide you into that sort of world.”

 

He calls the realization that you
want something other than what your parents plan a “Nigel moment.” Partridge’s
went thusly.

 

“Once I’d seen the Monkees on TV,
and I’d seen A Hard Day’s Night and Help! at the cinema, that was it. ‘Wow,
this is how you get girls-and it looks easy! You get nice clothes and you live
together with your friends in a house. And writing songs can’t be difficult,
can it? Yeah, that’s the job for me.’ And suddenly I forgot all about wanting
to be a policeman or joining the Navy like my father.”

 

OF SHORTS AND
SHRIEKS: IS THERE A CORRELATION?

Partridge wasn’t sure of everything at that 1964 screening of A Hard
Day’s Night
. “I think I was in short trousers at the time,” he recalls,
“and I remember feeling very torn. All the girls are screaming, and I thought
‘Are boys supposed to scream?’ I didn’t scream, but I felt very confused.
Should I be screaming? Is that the etiquette? Does one scream? Are you supposed
to have long trousers on to scream? Because it means something different if you
scream and you’re in shorts.”

 

FUCK A CONCERT

“I can’t stand concerts; I hate going to concerts. I always
have.” Such a strange admission for a musician, but Partridge makes sense of it
– after all, he is St. Andrew of Bedroom Rock (Or Whatever You Want to Call
It).

 

            “I had the
chance to see the Beatles live or Hendrix live. I’ve seen dozens of bands as a
teenager and in my twenties. I have never been really satisfied. I prefer getting the record on and putting on my
headphones and just disappearing inside of my own world. I don’t want to be
with a load of sweaty people yelling and waving lighters or throwing cans of
beer and stuff.

“I used to see bands and think,
‘No, you’re out of tune’ or ‘[scoffs] You can that a light show? That’s shit’
or ‘You dressed really poorly. I
wouldn’t come on stage wearing that
or ‘This music’s rotten. I could write a better song than that.’ I was always far
too critical. So many bands I’ve walked out on because they’ve not satisfied
me. But that’s kinda part of the drive of wanting to do it yourself. You think,
‘Oh I can do better than this, and I’m gonna.'”

 

OPIATE-FREE KIDS

Religion is a pet peeve of Partridge’s. It came up when
discussing religious reactions to “Pink Thing,” an ambiguously written song
that Partridge confirmed in the Fuzzy
Warbles Volume 6
liners is about his son and not his penis, although the
double-entendres are intentional. An excerpt of his explanation:

 

            “…You want so badly to write about your kids,
it’s natural, but it seems too easy to fall into the sickly greeting cards
world overpopulated by flatulent but well-meaning fathers. So I thought I’d
write about Harry in a way that was utterly unmistakable with thinly disguised
filth. … Of course, being more of an upright member of society these days, if I
spot a D.E. in my lyrics I whip it out immediately
.”

 

            So the
suggestion that pious acquaintances freaked out about lyrics like “Pink thing,
spit in my eye/I’d love you for it” probably pushed a button, eliciting this
reaction from the devoted father and unapologetic lyricist and general no-shit
guy:

 

“You know I think there should be a
campaign started-children should not be exposed to any religious upbringing.
They should be legally allowed to choose their own religion when they become
legally an adult. Not to have it put on to them in any way. If they ask
questions, like every kid does, and you feel you must give a religious answer,
then that’s fine. But the squeezing of kids into this mold, I think, is really
wrong-whatever the religion. It’s the sole reason that religion perpetuates, is
through forcing it on to your children … They’re trying to baptize that spunk
before you’re even conceived.”

 

 

 

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