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Archive Films

You are in: Wiltshire > History > Archive Films > Andy Partridge on RPM

Andy Partridge in Swindon in 1981

Andy Partridge in Swindon in 1981

Andy Partridge on RPM

Watch clips from the BBC West TV archives showing XTC frontman Andy Partridge taking a tour round his hometown of Swindon in 1981, and discussing giving up playing live in 1983.

Local music fans with long memories will recall a BBC West regional television programme from the early eighties called RPM, and presented by Andy Batten-Foster.

Andy Partridge's Swindon

Broadcast on the 3rd February 1981 was an edition of the show which saw Andy Partridge - singer-songwriter from arguably Swindon's finest musical export - new wave/pop-punk band XTC, take a quirky tour of his hometown.

At the time, the band were enjoying the success of their fourth album Black Sea, released five months before. And their single 'Sgt Rock (Is Going to Help Me)' was climbing the UK singles charts at Number 28, and would later peak at Number 16.

At the beginning of the 10 minute segment, Partridge is shown standing beside one of Swindon muralist Ken White's famous paintings which covered a wall in Prospect Place in Old Town.

Andy strolls through the Brunel Plaza

Andy strolls through the Brunel Plaza

It was probably the most well-known of all the many murals of Ken's which adorned the town of the time, as it featured a line-up of Swindon's most famous faces, including Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, Diana Dors and XTC themselves!

Few bands are as synonymous with the town they came from as XTC are with Swindon. And although Partridge has something of a love/hate relationship with the place and once described it as "averageville" and "full of mundane people", to this day he has lived in Swindon all his life.

As his 1981 tour of Swindon progresses, he is seen visiting the town's historic Railway Village and the run-down Mechanics Institute building where he reveals XTC once rehearsed.

Also on his journey, he finds time to stop in and look at the exhibits at Swindon's Railway Museum, when it was still housed in Wesleyan Church on Fleet Street.

Later on, Partridge is seen wandering around the much-maligned Brunel Shopping Arcade, which he quite aptly describes as "Paddington Station meets ice rink". 

Andy at The Oasis

Andy at The Oasis

Then it's time to pay a visit to another of Swindon's dubious landmarks - the dome-shaped Oasis Leisure Centre.

Partridge says that he was told not to refer to the place as a 'pleasuredome', especially as given the shape of the building he jokes that "if there were two of them you'd need a hell of a brassiere to keep them down in a strong wind!"

His short tour of his hometown ends with one final stroll through Canal Walk in the town's shopping centre, where a clearly freezing cold Partridge says he off home for tea and toast!

This clip is a fascinating curio and will appeal to anyone who remembers Swindon in the early eighties, or is a fan of XTC and Andy Partridge's characteristically oblique worldview.

Andy talks about quitting touring

Just over two years later on 18th April 1983, an edition of RPM was broadcast which included Andy's first television interview since he sensationally decided to quit touring, at the height of XTC's mainstream success.

Andy on RPM in 1983

Andy on RPM in 1983

RPM presenter Andy Batten-Foster visits Swindon and talks to a philosophical Andy in a local pub to find out the reasons behind this shock move.

Andy talks openly about the two nervous breakdowns he suffered that led to his decision, and his disillusionment with the album-tour-album-tour treadmill that bands must endure in order to find and maintain success.

He also admits how naive he and the band were when they came to sign their recording contract, which ended up becoming a millstone around their necks.

last updated: 24/03/2009 at 13:24
created: 23/03/2009

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