Todd Rundgren Reignites Feud With XTC Over ‘Skylarking’
Todd Rundgren arrived to produce XTC's breakthrough Skylarking at the suggestion of their label -- and it all went downhill from there.
The producer said he had an album-length vision for the 1986 LP, which included XTC's first-ever Top 20 hit on Billboard's rock tracks chart, "Dear God." The band's co-founder, Andy Partridge, never warmed to Rundgren. "Essentially, it was kind of preordained by me – what the record was going to be – which was something that they never had endured before," Rundgren told Marc Maron during an interview on the latter's podcast. "I think 60 percent of the band trusted me, but Andy never trusted me."
Worse, according to Rundgren, was that Partridge lost his nerve when it came to his future hit single, which boasted an agnostic message. After mastering had already been completed on Skylarking, Partridge came back with a demand to pull the song. "He was afraid that there would be repercussions personally for him for taking on such a thorny subject," Rundgren recalled. "What a pussy. ... I called them and said, 'This is a mistake.'"
History tells us that Rundgren was right. "Dear God" was taken off the album and tucked away as a B-side until DJs started playing it, and the song became an out-of-nowhere hit. "It saves their career," Rundgren said. "We have to go and remaster the record again, and put 'Dear God' back on it."
In time, even Partridge came around on Skylarking – eventually admitting it was XTC's "most complete/connected/cyclical record ever." But that was much later. At first, Partridge "went back to England, immediately after we finished the record, and took every press opportunity to say it was the worst record they ever made," Rundgren remembered. "He hated me at that point, and he was willing to sabotage his own career through his vitriol over me and the fact that I did not give up what I said I was going to do at the beginning of the record."
But even today, Rundgren says Partridge has never taken responsibility for reworking the album, instead saying the decision to leave "Dear God" off initial pressings of Skylarking were related to a problem in the mastering process. "He's such a brat, even at his age," Rundgren told Maron. "I think it's total bulls–. But if such a thing existed, it's because they changed the running order on it and had to remaster it – and I had nothing to do with it. What a prick."
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