Sunday, July 19, 2009

Terry and the Lovemen Conquer Black Sea

All part of decency's jigsaw, I suppose.

A couple weeks ago, I went out to see a band that was scheduled to start at 10:30. This served two purposes: 1) It proved that I'm not old, and 2) It let me see an XTC tribute band -- which calls itself "Terry and the Lovemen (Luke Adams, Jon Button, Zak Shaffer, and Danny Delamatyr) -- perform XTC's Black Sea album in its entirety. In order.

The cover of Black Sea shows the band wearing diving suits, but I always thought of it as "the Green album" because the first pressings came wrapped in a green paper bag (for reasons that escape me). I still have the vinyl and it's still wrapped in the paper bag (and that's probably what kept me from completely wearing out the record).

The band, whose members are session and touring musicians with great credits, were amazing. And they were having a great time, playing fantastic (and surprisingly difficult) music.(Link for Gmail subscribers.)

When you hear a song live that you know really well, what you're hearing blends with your strong memories of the music, creating a hybrid experience that blends the recording you know with the show you're seeing. (This partially explains why tribute bands do so well and can be so much fun.)

Now, Black Sea is an album I know backwards and forwards (especially side 1 of the vinyl). The album built on the strengths of Drums and Wires, but featured better songs and tighter performances. The chance to see the album performed live (even if it wasn't by XTC) was too good to pass up -- even if it meant going out to see a show that wouldn't start until 10:30.

By the way, the name "Terry and the Lovemen" has great meaning for XTC fans. It was an alias used by XTC when they re-recorded an old B-side for the XTC tribute album A Testimonial Dinner (which also included XTC songs redone by Joe Jackson, Sarah McLachlin, and They Might Be Giants. And it also was one of the alternate titles for the album that would become Black Sea. Drummer Terry Chambers vetoed that title, but he was long-gone from the band by the time of A Testimonial Dinner, so the band dusted off the name. (More trivia: according to Andy Partridge, the list of performers who wanted to appear on the XTC tribute album but couldn't includes: Elvis Costello, Sting, Tony Bennett, David Byrne, Suzanne Vega, Bjork, Barenaked Ladies, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, INXS, Shonen Knife, the Chieftains, and Al Kooper.)

Virgin Records chief Richard Branson was still pushing to make Colin Moulding a sex symbol (and portray XTC as Moulding's band, despite the fact that Andy Partridge wrote most of the songs) and decided Virgin needed a video for Colin's song "Generals and Majors." Branson decided they should shoot a video starring Branson (filmed at Branson's country estate). To Branson's credit, he allowed the band to appear as waiters serving him, then had them pretend to play guitars while bouncing on a kids-party inflatable castle in the driveway.

Virgin also had XTC record a more radio-friendly version of Andy Partridge's song "Respectable Street" (eliminating the words "abortion," "sex position," and "wretching" in a failed attempt to please top 40 stations and MTV).

As for Luke, Jon, Zak, and Danny that night? They were amazing and really fun. My only regret is that more people weren't at the show. And that they didn't play the kazoo solo from "Sgt. Rock (is Gonna Help Me)."

I'd go see them again in a heartbeat -- only next time I'll be sure to bring a kazoo or two.


Steven said...

OMFG where was this show? I would love to see this band. I am a HUGE XTC fan. Let's get this band to Northern California now!

XTC is one of the all-time great bands and I appreciate you turning people on to Black Sea, as it is an amazingly good album. Yes, I have the "green sleeve" version too. I could have bought second house with all the money I've spent on XTC over the years. But what would I do with a second house?

You have a great blog, keep giving props to XTC. In a fairer world they would have been huge. Someday, when I am King...


Alex said...

Steven, the show was at a small theater near downtown L.A. (we had to wait in the lobby and be quiet until the play let out).

The band was really great and just seemed to be having a great time... really, really fun.


PS: I'm usually pro-democracy, but if it helps XTC, I'd support you as King (at least King for a Day).

Steven said...

hahaha... King For A Day... Well, it's start and better than Mayor Of Simpleton.

Send that tribute band up north to the Sacramento area, would you?


Jim Tyrrell said...

I'm pretty sure the reason for the green outer sleeve on the original release of Black Sea was due to the band/album name not appearing on the actual front of the record. (Last year I was lucky enough to find a copy with the green sleeve intact!)