|Studio album (mini-LP) by The Dukes of Stratosphear|
|Released||1 April 1985|
|Studio||Chapel Lane Studios, Hereford, England|
|Singles from 25 O'Clock|
25 O'Clock is the debut album by English rock band the Dukes of Stratosphear, side project of XTC, released in 1985. Also counted as XTC's eighth studio album, the Dukes indulged in the stylistic tropes of 1960s psychedelia, particularly the British variety. It was followed up in 1987 with the LP Psonic Psunspot.
In November 1984, one month after the release of XTC's album The Big Express, bandleader Andy Partridge traveled to Monmouth, Wales with engineer John Leckie to produce the album Miss America by singer-songwriter Mary Margaret O'Hara, who had recently signed with Virgin. Partridge and Leckie were dismissed due to conflicts related to their religious affiliations or lack thereof (O'Hara was a devout Catholic). Partridge was feeling inspired by Nick Nicely's 1982 psychedelic single "Hilly Fields 1892", and devised a recording project to fill the newfound gap in his schedule. The rules were as follows: songs must follow the conventions of 1967 and 1968 psychedelia; no more than two takes allowed; vintage equipment wherever possible. Partridge said: "I didn't really have songs ready, just ideas. I knew I wanted to do something like Syd Barrett. Perhaps a Beatles-esque track. ... I rung up the other guys and said 'Hey, let's put on a show!'; you know, that kind of thing."
Leckie agreed to take on production and searched for a cheap studio for the band. Partridge invited his XTC bandmates to participate; they were augmented on drums by Dave Gregory's brother Ian, since the group did not have a drummer at the time. The song "25 O'Clock" was quickly written as they waited for the project to be greenlit by Virgin. After the label reluctantly loaned the group £5,000, two weeks were spent on the album's recording and mixing at Chapel Lane Studios in Hereford, England. The project was planned as a full-length LP, but only six songs were completed due to time constraints. Partridge looked back on its making as the "most fun we ever had in the studio."
Each musician adopted a pseudonym: "Sir John Johns" (Partridge) "Lord Cornelius Plum" (Dave), "The Red Curtain" (Colin Moulding) and "E.I.E.I. Owen" (Ian). Partridge's moniker came from a 1967 DC Comics martian character, while Moulding's was derived from an old nickname referring to the length of his hair. The band dressed themselves in Paisley outfits for the sessions and lit scented candles. Partridge: "Dave Gregory took to the Dukes a bit too much. Elephant jumbo cord flares, big white belt, beads - we were a bit worried." In contrast to himself and Gregory, "Colin was more of a heavy metal kid. He was more into Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep (band) and people like that. So he didn't really have much of a grasp on psychedelia."
"25 O'Clock" and "Bike Ride to the Moon" were reimaginings of the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" (1966) and Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle" (1967), respectively. One of the "best bits on the EP," Partridge later said, was Moulding's "What in the World??...", which featured tape manipulation akin to the Beatles' "Only a Northern Song" (1969). Moulding offered another song, "Big Day", but the group deemed it good enough for the next XTC album. He explained: "The Dukes thing was written in an air of 'Well, it doesn't really matter, we'll tart it all up in the mix.'" "Have You Seen Jackie?", a Pink Floyd–Tomorrow–Keith West–Rolling Stones amalgamation, was also left off the album.
Released exclusively in Britain on April Fool's Day 1985, the mini-album was presented as a long-lost collection of recordings by a late 1960s group. Partridge designed its cover art on his kitchen table using colored pens and photocopied 19th-century lettering. Virgin Records publicised the Dukes as a mysterious new act, and when asked about the album in interviews, XTC initially denied having any involvement. A music video set to "The Mole from the Ministry"—the first in which they were allowed total creative input—was produced for BBC West's RPM music programme. Partridge: "That's the only one of our videos that I've liked, the only one I can watch ... every little [promo] film [from 1967] we could find, we put ideas from them in there."
In England, 25 O'Clock sold twice as many copies as The Big Express, even before the Dukes' identity was made public. The album also achieved considerable sales in the US. On XTC's next album Skylarking (1986), the Dukes were mentioned in its liner notes, where they were thanked for the loan of their guitars.
|2.||"Bike Ride to the Moon"||2:24|
|3.||"My Love Explodes"||3:54|
|1.||"What in the World??..."||5:01|
|2.||"Your Gold Dress"||4:38|
|3.||"The Mole from the Ministry"||5:50|
A remastered and expanded version of 25 O'Clock was released on 20 April 2009 by Andy Partridge's Ape House record label. This edition of 25 O'Clock is credited to "XTC as The Dukes of Stratosphear". It also included the promotional video for "The Mole from the Ministry" as a QuickTime file.
|2009 CD bonus tracks|
|7.||"25 O'Clock (Demo)"||2:25|
|8.||"Bike Ride to the Moon (Demo)"||1:30|
|9.||"My Love Explodes (Demo)"||1:54|
|10.||"What in the World??... (Demo)"||3:40|
|11.||"Nicely Nicely Jane (Demo)"||1:17|
|12.||"Susan Revolving (Demo)"||1:24|
|13.||"Black Jewelled Serpent of Sound (Radio Caroline Edit)"||2:17|
|14.||"Open a Can of Human Beans"||4:44|
|15.||"Tin Toy Clockwork Train"||3:17|
The Dukes of Stratosphear
- Sir John Johns (Andy Partridge) - vocals, guitar, bass on "What in the World??..." 
- The Red Curtain (Colin Moulding) - electric bass, other (song stuff), rhythm guitar on "What in the World??..." 
- Lord Cornelius Plum (Dave Gregory) - mellotron, piano, organ, guitar, fuzz-tone guitar
- E.I.E.I. Owen (Ian "Eewee" Gregory) - drums
- Produced by John Leckie, Swami Anand Nagara and The Dukes ("Swami Anand Nagara" is an alternate identity of Leckie; both are credited as producers.)
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