XTC: Mayor Of Simpleton UK CD-3 
- Mayor Of Simpleton
- Ella Guru
- Living In A Haunted Heart
- The Good Things
The other day I reached up into my mini-milk crate of CD-3s and this was what I grabbed. So today I’ll write about it. It’s that simple! This was not the first XTC CD-3, that honor goes to the 1988 reissue of the catalog single “Senses Working Overtime” on the then-new format. Virgin was to be commended for working that back catalog action on the shiny new CD-3 format. It made for some excitement in seeing what treasured older singles would get the nod on the format. But this was the first, contemporary XTC single that could fit in a shirt pocket and wasn’t a cassette.
This was the leadoff single from what I consider to be their last “imperial period” album, “Oranges + Lemons.” “Mayor Of Simpleton” was a streamlined Andy Partridge A-side that sounded like it was made to chart high, and in the US, it did – in a manner of speaking. It reached 72 on the Billboard Hot 100; the band’s highest charting US single ever. But chin up, XTC fans. At least it did make it to the top of the Modern Rock ghetto Billboard chart! As you can imagine, nothing untoward has been done to the song in terms of remixing or such. Three non-LP B-sides were added to the program to make the fans pony up.
“Ella Guru” was previously released the subsequent year on the Captain Beefheart tribute album, “Fast + Bulbous.” Since we hate buying albums for a single track by bands we collect, I could not have been happier at this occurrence. My Captain Beefheart experiences are far from complete, so I’ve never heard the original [from “Trout Mask Replica”] to compare, but Mr. Partridge is doing his best Don Van Vliet impersonation on this cut. The rest of the band clatter along admirably in a dissonant fashion as a Magic Band tribute act. The net result is 95% Beefheart and maybe 5% XTC.
This is quite unlike the psychedelic pastiche the band did as The Dukes Of Stratosphear. That work adroitly walked a fine line between appropriation of many psychedelic-era bands and styles as well as the band’s own creative ethos, resulting in a multi-leveled hybrid that could satisfy on many levels. It’s hard to imagine this track satisfying anyone.
The remainder of the program were home demos recorded by Partridge and Moulding which appear only on this single. “Living In A Haunted Heart” sounds like a typical Andy tune that hasn’t been buffed to its best sheen. “The Good Things” by Colin Moulding is a slight tune, typical to his latter period work in the band. Listening to the creative arc of his work over the years, the loss of confidence that it puts across can’t help but make me think that the drama that the neurotic Partridge generated as he attempted to control “his” band led to Moulding retreating from the tuneful mastery he evidenced in the band’s earlier period. He might not have even been conscious of it, but to the listener, it’s there and quite apparent.
– 30 –
Love this one and yes Ella Guru really only satisfies on a “hey good cover guys” level. As for your impressions of Colin Moulding, I have to agree – I am certainly a Moulding fan with some of my favorite XTC tracks being his – but after Oranges and Lemons, his percentage of tracks which appear as well as their impact drop off. He seemed to get some confidence back on the last two proper releases with Standing In For Joe being a real favorite of mine. I think Andy Partridge wears everyone out and it was inevitable that at some point even Colin would fall victim. I still really miss XTC and am sure that if they ever felt there was a reason to record again, it would be enjoyable for me.
Echorich – I’ve two different XTC books in my Record Cell [one is “official”] and you have to conclude that Andy is the Monster That Ate XTC. After a certain point, he completely consumed the other members. But yeah, “Standing In For Joe” was a brief return to form from Colin! Damned if I’d be in the same band as Andy Partridge! Too much effort!!
This was issued as a 7″ 45rpm, too – which track was the B-Side?
Ronkanefiles – Strangely enough, the UK 7″ B-side was “One Of The Millions,” an LP track!