XTC / Skylarking: new edition

XTC / Skylarking: corrected polarity edition

Andy Partridge is to reissue XTC‘s 1986 album Skylarking in April.

This new CD edition – out on his own APE label – will feature a number of changes including the addition of the track Dear God (always intended to for the album but left off due to record label concerns about US audience reaction), new artwork (consistent with Partridge’s original concept) and last but not least corrected polarity.

In 2010 it was discovered that the polarity had been reversed, and error that it is thought may have occurred originally in the transfer from the multi-channel tape to the stereo master. This is not the same thing (or as bad) as a reversed left/right channel, but it does nonetheless remove some of the punch and presence from a finished recording.

28 years after its initial release, Skylarking finally appears on CD as XTC originally intended with the packaging as initially envisaged.

Even better, Patridge has promised that “when and if the multi-track tapes can be found”  a 5.1 Surround Sound edition to be mixed by Steven Wilson is also planned.

SkylarkingCorrected Polarity Edition will be issued on 14 April 2014. You can purchase directly from APE via burningshed.com or Amazon links are below.

Track listing

  • 1. Summer’s Cauldron
  • 2. Grass
  • 3. The Meeting Place
  • 4. That’s Really Super, Supergirl
  • 5. Ballet for a Rainy Day
  • 6. 1000 Umbrellas
  • 7. Season Cycle
  • 8. Earn Enough for Us
  • 9. Big Day
  • 10. Another Satellite
  • 11. Mermaid Smiled
  • 12. The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul
  • 13. Dying
  • 14. Sacrificial Bonfire
  • 15. Dear God
  • 16. Dying
  • 17. Sacrificial Bonfire


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Great info. Lucky me I ran across your site by chance (stumbleupon).
I’ve saved it for later!


I missed out on the vinyl reissue, so I can’t wait for this. One of my favourite albums of all time, along with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road… it’s a great time for my reissue collection!! I have the original pressing, the 2001 remaster, and the Mobile Fidelity ‘Gold’ CD. Of course the SW 5.1/remix-remaster is the Holy Grail, but for now I’m happy that this version is finally getting issued.

As for the cover, it was detailed in the ‘Chalkhills and Children’ book that this was the original design which EMI freaked out about. Andy Partridge says “I thought it described the outdoor, summery, slightly erotic atmosphere of some of the songs… a Lady Chatterleys Lover risqueness”. Certainly supported by the lyrics to ‘Grass’!!


I can’t believe all of the puritanical responses to the cover art of this reissue. The juvenile responses don’t surprise me, though. It’d be nice if you could *try* to understand what Partridge was going for with this imagery.

Sally Linfeld

I don’t want to see a puss on the cover !!

Mar Mixa

It may be worth noting that Dear God was eventually included in most versions because it became popular among many College radio stations in the US, who played the flip-side of Grass as opposed to the A-side, even some in the Bible Belt. Concerns regarding the US audiences were understandable but it was a certain portion, and the one that really mattered, in the US really gave XTC the US breakthrough. Subsequently, songs like Earn Enough for the Both of Us and Major of Simpleton became College Radio staples, establishing XTC as a viable source there.

Had Partridge not suffered from stage-fright, causing the band not to tour the US, XTC would have had the opportunity to become a major force in the US.

Paul Kent

“Polarity”, “absolute phase”, “oomph”, “punch”, “presence”… to be honest, I could care less about adjectives. All I know is that whatever has been done most definitely DOES have an “audible effect” on the version I heard. One thing Partridge could never be accused of is “marketing nonsense”. Where his own recorded legacy is concerned he is showing great integrity, taking his time to track down the original multi-tracks, taking ownership of and great care with the artwork and presentation and, generally, doing his utmost to offer his fans the highest quality product. The projected “5.1 Surround Series” is clearly a labour of love and I think we’ll all be waiting a long time before the catalogue is with us in full (if ever). However, if it’s all up to the standard of “Nonsuch”, I’m more than happy to wait. Partridge has spent literally decades trying to wrest control of his work from Virgin and present it to us as he always wanted. This issue of “Skylarking” is merely a bonus. So, if you’re unhappy with how it looks and sounds, just hang fire for the 5.1 version, which I’m sure will restore the artwork and mix we’ve all been conditioned to through years of exposure. I’ve bought many releases from APE – the “Fuzzy Warbles” series, the “Powers” album, the “Monstrance” album, the Dukes remasters, the “Nonsuch” CD/blu ray – and have yet to be disappointed, so I’m looking forward to this and whatever else comes our way in the future… and now, the weather! Ha, ha!!! :)

Matthew Best

This is nice and all, but what I really want to know is when the next instalment of the 5.1 series is coming out. I believe it’s supposed to be Drums & Wires with a 5.1 remix by Steven Wilson. Would be great to have a release date for that.


They’re just fannying about, then.

Kev Moore

I was rather hoping it was going to be retitled in a Chaucerian vein: “In an Englishe Cuntrye Gardene”..

Simon Long

“Polarity” has no meaning in the sense of mastering audio; it’s a term from electronics. What they presumably mean is that the “absolute phase” of the recording has been corrected. Which is nice, but far from making a difference to “punch” or “presence”, it’ll have basically no audible effect at all. Yet more marketing nonsense, I’m afraid!


Well nonsense it may be in theory but having done a direct comparison of the original vinyl and the ‘rephased/reploarised’ vinyl the new release definitely comes out the winner. It sounds much fuller and has more depth to the soundstage. The original always sounded a bit ‘thin’ to my ears especially after English Settlement and Mummer (the less said about the sound of The Big Express the better).
Anyway soon you will be able to judge for yourselves – you may well disagree with me…

While I much refer the original release’s artwork the ‘new’ artwork is what Andy originally intended the artwork to be. This is discussed in detail in the new vinyl release (which includes Andy’s original sketches for the sleeve).
So actually I think it’s quite nice to see (and have) both versions.

I still can’t really get used to the new version though – not just the adult content :-) but also the colour scheme. The original blue/green and gold colours really suited the pastoral/passing of a day theme…


Whhahhhaaa the fuck?! Lol.


Yeah, the sleeve we got in 1986 is superior….this’ll shock a few people maybe (or just not appeal to their tastes)…..and it’s fine as it goes…but the previous artwork is better, I agree.


I’d prefer the original sleeve because 1) it’s the one that I consider the “real” cover and 2) it’s simply better – this pubic image is all fine and dandy but c’mon. When Morrissey changes his cover art, I feel the same way, historical revisioning at its worst.


“Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow”….haha.

Really pleased to hear of this re-issue, I always wondered why my CD sounded kind of strange but assumed that was the intention! As for the sleeve…..my word….they wouldn’t have got away with that in 1986, or even 1996 I expect. In fact I seem to recall there being enough of a fuss over the “drawing” on the version that did get released….with the lady taking her fella’s flute in her mouth?!


From the looks of the cover, this is an oldie. They don’t look like that anymore!


This was my discover álbum of the band and personally one of bests i never Heard so it’s good to see there’s goin be a new versión and hoping for the 5.1 can be released asap.

Other way about the original “cover” let me be clear, nothing against it but persoannly for me is a little bit hard, those kinda pics never have been of my private tastes but if he planned that way, well, not much more to add…

Paul Kent

I heard a vinyl rip of this version and was absolutely stunned. It’s got so much more “oomph” than the original, something evident even on the dodgy mp3 I was listening to. Really pleased to see it finally getting a CD issue. Fingers crossed they unearth the multi-tracks for that 5.1 mix!


Bought the vinyl edition of this when it was released (and a lovely package it is too).
The sound quality is superb. I spent ages digitising it so that I could listen to it on my iPod. Now it seems I needn’t have bothered :-)

Anyway – well worth picking up. A great album amongst an oeuvre of great albums from the band.

John S

I can’t find the vinyl 45rpm anywhere. Would you be interested in selling yours?

Mark Wilson

I’m sure a vinyl version was released a few years ago.

Kev Moore

Ooh, I need to hunt that one down!


What, no vinyl edition?