Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Lost Bubblegum Album

And they said "We Don't Understand."

Just before XTC went on strike against Virgin records, Andy Partridge pitched an off-kilter wild idea. XTC would record an album that would be marketed (with a nudge and a wink) as a collection of hit bubblegum songs from the late 60s and early 70s. Virgin would announce that they'd acquired the rights to the imaginary label Zither and release an album of Zither's hits from bands with names like The Lemon Dukes, Sopwith Caramel, The Twelve Flavours of Hercules, Anonymous Bosch, The Brighton Peers, The Lollipopes, Cake's Progress, The Piccadilly Circus Tent Rip Repair Company, etc. All these "bands" would really be XTC and XTC fans would recognize this (in the same way they recognized the Dukes of Stratosphear as XTC).

The songs were all classic bubblegum numbers -- sweet and seemingly innocent but filled with double entendres that would rank them among the filthiest songs ever recorded.

Partridge and Colin Moulding even had demos for a dozen or so of the bubblegum songs. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)

Virgin didn't get it. They wanted XTC on Top of the Pops. Failing that, they wanted to hire young bands to dress up in period costumes and perform the songs on TV.

A couple of these songs leaked out on compilations over the years and more surfaced on Andy Partridge's Fuzzy Warbles demo series.

It could've, should've, would've been amazing. In an alternate universe, it would have knocked Nirvana and all the grunge bands off the radio and out of the stores. We might even have been spared the boy-band craze of the mid-90s and American Idol.

But then again, Virgin never knew what to do with XTC (and XTC didn't have the desire or clout to do anything to resolve their situation with Virgin).

So the album remains lost, unfinished... and legendary.


William V. Madison said...

This is utterly fascinating -- truth stranger than fiction. It could have been an elaborate April Fool's joke, but for the clips, which are not only corroboration but goldmines. And I love the band names.

I've recently discovered some of Serge Gainsbourg's songs for the teenybopper France Gall; likewise bubblegum with double meanings, the songs turned France into Lolita. Still angered by Gainsbourg's "betrayal" of her, she claims she never realized that sucking a lollipop could mean anything else....

Holly A Hughes said...

Ah, what a treasure this might have been! Though I suspect its only fans would still have been the small cult of oddballs and full-on nutters who already "get" Andy Partridge. And I fear even this would not have saved us from American Idol...