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Drums and Wires is the third studio album by English band XTC, released on 17 August 1979, on the Virgin record label. The album marked the debut of Dave Gregory, who joined the band as lead guitarist following keyboardist Barry Andrews' departure in early 1979. Gregory went on to remain with the group up until 1998, during the recording of Apple Venus Volume 1.

Drums and Wires
XTC Drums and Wires.jpg
Studio album by
Released17 August 1979
RecordedJune–July 1979
StudioThe Town House, London, England
ProducerSteve Lillywhite
XTC chronology
Go 2
Drums and Wires
Black Sea
Singles from Drums and Wires
  1. "Making Plans for Nigel"
    Released: September 1979

It reached No. 34 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 176 on the US Billboard 200. One single, "Making Plans for Nigel", was released from the album on 14 September 1979, and reached No. 17 on the UK Singles Chart. It also contained the original recording of "Ten Feet Tall", a re-recorded version of which was released in March 1980 in the US only, as the band's first American single, designed to coincide with their first American tour. Certain versions of the album also include "Life Begins at the Hop", which was released on 27 April 1979, and reached No. 54 on the UK Singles Chart. In later years, the album was rated at number 38 on Pitchfork's "The Top Albums of the 1970s" list.



The first 20,000 copies of the LP were bundled with a free 7" EP, with three songs; "Limelight", "Day In Day Out" and "Chain Of Command". The song "Life Begins at the Hop", written by Colin Moulding, was released as a 7" single before the original LP's release. It appears on some international versions of the album, either as an addition or substitution. All four songs were later included on CD reissues starting in 1985.

UK and Canadian vinyl editions came with an insert featuring lyrics to all the songs on Drums and Wires as well as XTC's previous albums, Go 2 and White Music, although it didn't list which album each song came from.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [1]
Chicago Tribune    [2]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[3]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [4]
Record Collector     [5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [6]
Smash Hits9/10[7]

Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote: "My reservations about this tuneful but willfully eccentric pop are ideological. With its playful clash of cross-currents (crossed wires, really, to go with the jingle drums) it's just a 'Complicated Game'—like everything else under the sun, Andy Partridge believes. This idea is an attitude rather than an analysis, and it assures that the music's underlying passion will be strictly formal. But I like games, especially three-handed hearts or this record—which require concentration but not lifetime dedication, and Partridge and Colin Moulding are moving toward a great art-pop mean that will set standards for the genre. Catchy, funny, interesting—and it rocks."[3]

Cover versionsEdit

"Making Plans for Nigel" and "Scissor Man" have both been covered by Primus on their EPs Miscellaneous Debris and Rhinoplasty, respectively. "Making Plans for Nigel" has also been covered by Robbie Williams on his single Old Before I Die, by The Rembrandts on the tribute album A Testimonial Dinner: The Songs of XTC, by Nouvelle Vague on their self-titled debut album, and by Pitchshifter on their single Genius. The Nigel character was later referenced by The Enemy in the song "Be Somebody" from their album Music for the People.


Drums and Wires is considered "an emblem" of new wave, as well as one of the genre's most innovative records of the late 1970s.[8]

The 2001 reissue CD was digitally remastered by Ian Cooper at Metropolis Mastering.

The final song on side two of the album, "Complicated Game", made its way onto television in 2014 as non-diegetic source music in the premier episode of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire, which was broadcast on 1 June 2014.

The album was reissued on CD and Blu-ray in October 2014, boasting a new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix of the album from renowned remixer Steven Wilson, as well as new liner notes from Partridge, Moulding and Gregory, alternate mixes and nearly 40 demo and rehearsal tracks. Partridge said of the new mix: "It's so good it's upped my opinion of the album."

Track listingEdit

UK ReleaseEdit

All tracks written by Andy Partridge, except where noted.

Side one
1."Making Plans for Nigel"Colin Moulding4:13
2."Helicopter" 3:54
3."Day In Day Out"Moulding3:08
4."When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty" 3:20
5."Ten Feet Tall"Moulding3:12
6."Roads Girdle the Globe" 4:51
Side two
7."Real by Reel" 3:46
8."Millions" 5:57
9."That Is the Way"Moulding2:56
10."Outside World" 2:40
11."Scissor Man" 3:59
12."Complicated Game" 4:53

1979 US ReleaseEdit

All tracks written by Andy Partridge, except where noted.

Side one
1."Life Begins at the Hop"Colin Moulding3:49
2."Helicopter" 3:54
3."Making Plans for Nigel"Moulding4:13
4."Ten Feet Tall"Moulding3:12
5."When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty" 3:20
6."That Is the Way"Moulding2:56
Side two
7."Real by Reel"3:46
9."Outside World"2:40
10."Roads Girdle the Globe"4:51
11."Scissor Man"3:59
12."Complicated Game"4:53
EP Side one
EP Side two
14."Day in Day Out"Moulding3:08
15."Chain of Command" 2:33



Additional personnel


  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Drums and Wires – XTC". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  2. ^ Kot, Greg (3 May 1992). "The XTC Legacy: An Appraisal". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: X". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 23 March 2019 – via
  4. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  5. ^ Rathbone, Oregano (January 2015). "XTC – Drums and Wires". Record Collector (436). Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  6. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha (2004). "XTC". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 890–92. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  7. ^ Starr, Red (23 August – 5 September 1979). "Albums". Smash Hits: 25.
  8. ^ Herrera, Ernesto (12 April 2019). "'Drums and Wires': 40 años de un emblema de la 'new wave'". Milenio (in Spanish). Retrieved 27 May 2019.