“It would shock you, too/the things we used to do on grass…”
Though Andy Partridge is the lead-mad genius of British New Wave rocker XTC, my all-time favorite song by the band was written and sung by Colin Moulding. The lighthearted, easygoing bassist was very much the McCartney in XTC. His songs are guided more by the heart than the more cerebral, neurotic songs written by Partridge. Of the two, Moulding is very much the one who comes across as an average bloke, the sort of guy you could have a beer with down at the pub. That’s not to say Moulding was incapable to complex, witty, psychedelic numbers like Partridge.
Moulding’s song “Grass” off the band’s 1986 album SKYLARKING is my favorite XTC song for a couple of reasons. For one, its surreal, psychedelic sweep is beyond splendid. The song opens with a sweeping string arrangement and chirping bird sounds (the album does anyway, the single version doesn’t have the sound effects). Lyrically, the song is both about having sex in a field and having sex while under the influence of marijuana. The song is loaded with delightful double-entrees that are cute and not skeevy like I’m making it sound. While it’s by no means high poetry, I’ve always enjoyed the cheeky, very British, wordplay of “Grass.”
“Grass” was written and recorded in the late 1980’s, at a time when it was pretty uncool to like The Beatles. Sure, there were bands like Tears For Fears mining The Beatles pop territory, but it was done in a most un-Beatle way. “Grass” was a desperate stab at a much-needed American hit single. The song got XTC a hit in the States, but not in the way the band predicted: DJ’s ignored “Grass” and made the song’s b-side “Dear God” a surprise hit instead. Produced by super-producer Todd Rundgren, the song never got it’s due in my opinion. I think “Dear God” is a very good song, but by no means as representative of XTC and what the band stood for as “Grass.”
A great way to start Spring, enjoy “Grass”: