My fellow writer here Lisa recently pointed out how overwhelming it is to try and pick just ten songs to put the spotlight on when there are so many, countless thousands of great ones. Even picking ten great artists would be nearly impossible and inevitably lead to exclusion of a ton of worthy ones. So as we roll towards the end of this great event, I have about 200 songs I want to get to, and four more slots to actually write. So it’s not only a bit of a spin of the wheel to see which ones I’m going to choose, but even what decade or genre. Today’s pick is from what I think was at its best the most exciting musical decade to me – the ’80s – and one of its best, but under-appreciated bands. Let’s hope there are “No Thugs In Our House”…but at least some XTC records!

“No Thugs In Our House” was the third single off the band’s fifth, and most ambitious to that point, album, 1982’s English Settlement. XTC were, as allmusic rightly put it “one of the smartest – and catchiest – British pop bands to emerge from the punk and new wave explosion of the ’70s.” Starting out as a rather simple new wave act, they’d grown increasingly experimental with their sounds and instruments while never letting go of a great Beatle-sque grasp of catchy riffs and melodies. I’d been a fan since their Drums and Wires album three years prior and its ahead-of-their-time singles “Life Begins at the Hop” and “Making Plans for Nigel.”  The quartet were all talented, but unquestionably their ship was captained by the lead singer Andy Partridge, who also played some guitars and wrote most of their material. This ended up being a bit of a problem for XTC, as Partridge was riddled by a number of mental issues such as severe social anxiety, stage fright and a fear of flying…not good for a band trying to breakthrough into international markets. In fact, Andy said they pushed the boundaries on English Settlement because “I got into my head that I wrote an album with a sound less geared towards touring, there maybe would be less pressure (from the record company) to tour.” That backfired. The record’s good reviews and adequate sales outside their native England made the need to tour North America greater. Which all proved too much for Partridge. “In L.A., I cracked up completely,” he told The Quietus. “I believed I was going to die. It was that bad.” He packed his bags and headed home from California, scrubbing a good chunk of their tour and creating a rift with the record company which would cost them in terms of royalties and PR efforts down the road. They still created some great records, but never toured again, and never really broke through into the mainstream despite very loyal fans and great record reviews.

There are so many good XTC songs to listen to, picking one is pretty difficult. And while many are musically quite complex, “No Thugs In Our House” is comparatively straight forward, with Andy singing and playing acoustic guitar, Dave Gregory on lead guitar, Colin Moulding on bass and Terry Chambers behind the drums. Partridge says the basic tune was meant as a bit of an homage to Eddy Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” It’s an eminently catchy little tune that rocks but the lyrics and Partridge’s vocal delivery put it over the top. “No Thugs In Our House” demonstrates his great talent at wordplay  – “a boy in blue is busy banging out a headache on the kitchen door” – and his ability to deal with a very real problems with a sense of humor. In five minutes he deftly skewers ostrich parents, wilfully blind to what’s right in front of their eyes, sketchy policing, inconsistent courts and of course, lazy, good-for-nothing thugs. It’s a theme which sounds sadly relevant to this day given the news of the past year or so. And one which can’t help but get you moving!

I know many readers here are already big XTC fans. If you’re not familiar with them but like catchy, vaguely-edgy pop in the realm of Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Crowded House and The Smiths, XTC might be for you. And you could do far worse than by starting with their English Settlement.


  1. I might get some ribbing from some of the song drafters on this…I’m not sure I remember this one. After listening to it, it sounded familiar, but I can’t say for certain. I may have heard it once or twice in the past, which may be why it sounds familiar.

    Thanks for sharing….

    • no ribbing from here… although it was a single, it wasn’t really a hit. I think I may have heard it three or four times total on the radio back then. I figured I was going to go with a mildly unfamiliar (to many) band, as I couldn’t really pick one favorite, I might as well pick one off my list that would be new to many , as opposed to say “Making Plans for Nigel” or “senses working Overtime”

  2. Great to see XTC make it in the draft…they are under-appreciated but yea…that lack of touring at that time was crucial…great song Dave. I didn’t really know about them much until “The Man Who Murdered Love” from the Wasp Star album. I had heard like Making Plans for Nigel and a few others in the 80s.

    • we were lucky in toronto area because they were much-played on the alt rock station & that in turn led the “regular” hit rock station , if you will, to also pick up on them and play their hits at least.

    • You’re parents called you ‘Thug’? LOL. Thanks for commenting, Graham (I assume!). I would have a hard time picking one favorite of theirs but this one would be in my top 5 by them.

    • one of the ones I thought were overdue… “Skylarking” was a near miss on my own list for ones to cover on your Album draft… if it had gone maybe 3 rounds more, I probably would have picked it.

    • thanks Lisa. Very talented band but they – or Andy Partridge mainly – didn’t do themselves any favors for North America with their lack of touring, sometimes snarky disposition and the later song ‘Dear God’ (which was a college radio hit) that got them boycotted widely in the Bible Belt.

  3. I’ve been a fan of XTC since ‘Senses Working Overtime’, also from the English Settlement album. The story of how they ended their US tour, breaks my heart. This song isn’t one I readily know, so it’s nice to hear. I love having XTC in the draft.

    • thanks. Yes, it is quite sad that he couldn’t withstand the pressures… and too bad that the record label didn’t support him more. I mean there were bands that were successful that seldom toured like Alan Parsons Project and Steely Dan. I had trouble deciding on one track by them, but really like this one and figured if writing about a semi-obscure band, why not pick a less obvious tune to begin with?

  4. I like this tune, which reminds me a bit of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Women” – the main explanation may be that I saw Traveling Wilburys tribute band last weekend! 🙂

    Anyway, I’ve heard of XTC before thanks to Max from PowerPop but haven’t really gotten around to further explore them.

    • hmm, hadn’t thought of that, but likewise wouldn’t have tied it to “Summertime Blues” but they say that helped inspire the sound . Wilburys’ tribute band… interesting! Did they do solo stuff of theirs – Petty, harrison etc- too or just the TWs?

    • The Wilburys tribute band (The Traveling Milburys) mostly played songs by the individual artists rather than the Wilburys. I would have preferred a bit more of the latter. That being said, they were part of a music tribute festival and played an abbreviated set. Perhaps their regular show includes more Wilburys tunes.

    • they were highly talented. I get your last point too, sometimes I really like listening to their double bes-of, or Skylarking start to finish, other times I might only want to hear one single then move along. Of course, that’s also true of most artists I find…. sometimes you’re in the mood for them, other times not.

    • well thank you! That’s nice of you to say. They were a very good band, this one a bit more rock than some of their songs, but they always had melody and good lyrics. Like I said to someone else here, it’s a shame the label was so cantankerous; they could’ve still gone all out to promote them and make more videos but they chose not to put much into XTC or moving their careers along after the tour was scrubbed.

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