220px-dukes_of_stratosphear_psonicpsunspotHere’s a clip of  XTC-driven pen name band The Dukes of Stratosphear with their Beatles-Meet-Brian-Wilson inspired tune “Brainiac’s daughter” as taken from 1987’s Psonic Psunspot.  The song brings together two passions of writer Andy Partridge – psychedelic-era music, and comic books.

Where many think of psychedelic music as lofty in approach and at times inaccessible as pop music, this track reminds the listener that a good deal of psychedelia has an endearing child-like quality to it as well.  This makes it something of a perfect fit for XTC, who began to embrace the sensibilities of children and childhood from this point onward in their own songs.  This tune is clearly a nod to Paul McCartney’s ‘White Album’-era output, in turn with some of McCartney’s Brian Wilson-oriented sunshiny musical worldview woven right in.

Why the guys in XTC decided to disguise themselves as a lost 60s-psych-pop group Dukes of Stratosphear is anyone’s guess, since they were clearly in debt to many of the influences to whom the Dukes were paying homage anyway.  But even if they weren’t ready to release the material under the XTC name, the guys threw themselves well into their roles, even taking on pseudonyms.  Lead singer and guitarist Andy Partridge was Sir John Johns.  Bassist and singer Colin Moulding was simply ‘the Red Curtain’.  And lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Dave Gregory played the part of Lord Cornelius Plum. And on the drum kit, Dave’s brother Ian Gregory as E.I.E.I Owens.

The band put out an EP, 25 O’Clock in 1985, while concurrently working on their masterpiece as XTC, the celebrated Skylarking.  That album came with a credit to the Dukes in the liner notes for the use of the Dukes’ guitars.  They must have been pleased with their own cleverness on the EP, later putting out a full-length Psonic Psunspot on vinyl in 1987.  The compilation album Chips from the Chocolate Fireball came out later that year, which pulled in both releases onto one disc.

It seems that XTC is on indefinite hiatus at the moment.  Yet, I wonder if we’ll hear from the Dukes any time soon.  The outfit, anonymity and all, might be just the thing it takes to remind everyone concerned what inspired them in the first place, and that music is not something to split hairs over.

Read more about what inspired the Dukes of Stratosphear project, and which sounds inspired the songs on XTC fan site Chalkhills.org.


2 thoughts on “The Dukes of Stratosphear Play “Brainiac’s Daughter”

  1. Hi netchick sent me!

    I’ll be honest I never heard of this group before, I listened to several clips on itunes before commenting. I liked what I heard, it also reminded me of my childhood when the psych-pop was popular. Yes, I’m old … sigh.

    Have a great day, thanks for sharing information about this group.


  2. Hey Monica A,

    Y’know, this might be the first time I can say “I’ve been expecting you”. 🙂

    Thanks for reading and listening. A lot of people haven’t heard the Dukes. The record they put out was about twenty years out of date. Yet, the Beatles-Brian Wilson sound they made is timeless at the same time.

    I’d also point you to XTC’s output, most notably the Skylarking album, which came out around the same time. It was produced by Todd Rundgren, who you might have heard of, and carried in a lot of the same influences you’re hearing on the Duke’s clips.

    Happy listening!

What are your thoughts, Good People? Tell it to me straight.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.