Making Plans for Nigel

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"Making Plans for Nigel"
Making Plans for Nigel.jpg
Single by XTC
from the album Drums and Wires
  • "Bushman President"
  • "Pulsing Pulsing"
ReleasedSeptember 1979 (1979-09)
RecordedJune 1979
StudioTownhouse Studios, London
Songwriter(s)Colin Moulding
Producer(s)Steve Lillywhite
XTC singles chronology
"Life Begins at the Hop"
"Making Plans for Nigel"
"Ten Feet Tall"
Audio sample

"Making Plans for Nigel" is a song written by bassist Colin Moulding of the English rock band XTC, released as the lead single from their 1979 album Drums and Wires. The lyrics are told from the point of view of parents who are certain that their son Nigel is "happy in his work", affirming that his future in British Steel "is as good as sealed", and that he "likes to speak and loves to be spoken to."[1]

According to guitarist Dave Gregory: "Despite glowing press reviews [of Drums and Wires], we were still struggling to fill small theatres in the UK and the brief tour was disappointing. But then, the unthinkable happened -- Nigel got playlisted at the BBC and in early October, XTC were back in the charts! And back on Top of the Pops! Twice! When we resumed touring in late November, every gig was sold out."[2] As a response to the song, British Steel reportedly gathered four Sheffield employees named Nigel to talk about job satisfaction for the trade publication Steel News.[1]

The single spent 11 weeks on the UK Singles Chart. Biographer Chris Twomey wrote that although the single is reported to have reached number 17, it was "later learned that a computer error by the chart compilers had forced the record downwards when it had in fact gone up."[3] The song also reached number 12 on the Canadian chart and remained on the charts there for 22 weeks.[4] In 2016, "Making Plans for Nigel" was ranked number 143 on Pitchfork's list of the 200 best songs of the 1970s.[1]

Background and recording[edit]

Moulding said of the song:

I didn't know where it came from. That phrase popped into my head, and one line followed another. Before I knew it, I'd written three parts of the song, and the rest of it just kind of fell in line probably a day or two later. ... When I was about 16, my father wanted me to stay on in school. But by that time, I really didn't want to do anything other than music, I think. ... So, in a way, is it autobiographical? Well, a little bit. I knew somebody called Nigel at school. But I think that, when you write songs, it's a lot of things all wrapped up, like in your dreams. Your dreams are kind of bits and pieces of all the walks of life you've been in. ...

We used to rehearse about two or three times a week with the band, and I'd take songs to rehearsal, you know? This one seemed to get a favorable response. But at that time, I didn't really have enough confidence in myself to know where I was going with the arrangement. The other guys helped me on that, I suppose.[5]

In a Mojo article, it is stated that the distinctive drum pattern was discovered by accident after a miscommunication between guitarist Andy Partridge and drummer Terry Chambers.[6] Partridge said that the drum pattern was actually a deliberate attempt to invert drum tones and accents in the style of Devo's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction".[7] He also remembered being bothered by the amount of time spent recording the song, remarking that "[w]e spent a week doing Nigel and three weeks doing the rest of the album."[6]

Official video[edit]

The video, directed by Russell Mulcahy was shot in London on 10 July 1979, together with another put together very quickly for "Life Begins at the Hop."[2]


As provided on the record sleeve:[8]



In popular culture[edit]

Cover versions[edit]


Chart (1979) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[9] 17


  1. ^ a b c Pitchfork Staff (22 August 2016). "The 200 Best Songs of the 1970s". Pitchfork.
  2. ^ a b Bernhardt, Todd (15 December 2008). "Dave remembers 'Making Plans for Nigel'". Chalkhills.
  3. ^ Twomey, Chris (1992). XTC: Chalkhills and Children. London: Omnibus Press. p. 102. ISBN 9780711927582.
  4. ^ "Image: RPM Weekly, 19 April 1980". RPM Weekly. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  5. ^ Moulding, Colin; Bernhardt, Todd (24 November 2008). "Colin discusses 'Making Plans for Nigel'". Chalkhills. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b Ingham, Chris (March 1999). "XTC - 'Til Death Do Us Part". Mojo.
  7. ^ Partridge, Andy [@xtcfans] (29 January 2019). "WC-Re NIGEL..."distinctive drum pattern of its lead single, Moulding's "Making Plans for Nigel", was discovered by accident after a miscommunication between Partridge and Chambers" No, it was planned like that. We liked DEVO putting the wrong drums in right place on SATISFACTION" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  8. ^ Drums and Wires, Virgin Records, 1979 - record sleeve
  9. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 January 2018.

External links[edit]