The Big Express

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The Big Express
XTC bigexpress84.jpeg
Studio album by XTC
Released 15 October 1984
Recorded Early 1984
Studio Crescent Studios, Bath, England
Length 44:01
Label Virgin
Producer David Lord, XTC
XTC chronology
The Big Express
25 O'Clock
(1985)25 O'Clock1985
Singles from The Big Express
  1. "All You Pretty Girls"
    Released: 3 September 1984
  2. "This World Over"
    Released: 29 October 1984
  3. "Wake Up"
    Released: 28 January 1985

The Big Express is the seventh studio album by the English rock band XTC, released on 15 October 1984. In comparison to its' direct predecessor Mummer, which was largely subdued and keyboard-orientated, the album features a bright, uptempo sound marked by studio experimentation, setting a template that they would develop on subsequent albums.[1] A few of the album's tracks were recorded using a Linn LM-1 Drum Computer. The Glitter Band's Pete Phipps was hired as a session musician, as XTC did not have a drummer at the time.

Upon release, the album was met with little critical notice, reaching No. 38 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 178 on the U.S. Billboard 200. Lead single "All You Pretty Girls" peaked at No. 55 on the UK Singles Chart even with over £33,000 invested on the production of its music video.


In late 1983, XTC released the holiday single "Thanks for Christmas" under the pseudonym Three Wise Men. It was produced by David Lord, owner of Crescent Studios in Bath, and they subsequently negotiated a deal that allowed them to work as much as they want on their next album at his studio. Some of the album was recorded using a Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, and extensive time was spent on its programming.[2] Andy Partridge envisioned the work as "industrial pop. We come from a railway town, and I was like, 'Well, let's wallow in that; in the imagery and the sounds. Let's make an album that's riveted together and a bit rusty around the edges and is sort of like broken Victorian massive machinery.'"[3]

The end result, The Big Express, returned the group to a brighter and uptempo sound.[1] He jokingly referred to some parts of the album as the only time the group were befallen with stereotypical 1980s-style production.[3] According to Partridge, working titles for the album were Coalface, Head of Steam, Shaking Skin House, Bastard Son of Hard Blue Rayhead, The Known World, and Bull with the Golden Guts.[4]

The seventh track, "I Bought Myself a Liarbird" is about their former manager, Ian Reid. The fourth track, "Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her" was written by Partridge on the band's mellotron. It inspired the name of the Japanese indie rock band, Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[1]
Chicago Tribune2.5/4 stars[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[7]
The Village VoiceB[8]

The Big Express was released in October 1984 to a higher chart position than Mummer[9] but was "virtually ignored" by critics.[1] Virgin invested £33,000 into the music video for "All You Pretty Girls" to little effect.[2] A contemporary review by Erica Wexler of Musician magazine suggested: "XTC is never short of ideas; their only real flaw is a propensity for crowding together too many. But in this day of pop cliché, I'd take XTC's senses-working-overtime anytime. I just hope they're still not too far ahead of their time."[10] The album spent two weeks on the UK charts, reaching No. 38.[11] In the U.S., the album spent 7 weeks on the Billboard 200 album charts and reached its peak position of No. 178 in December 1984.[12]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Andy Partridge, except where noted.

Side one
1."Wake Up"Colin Moulding4:40
2."All You Pretty Girls" 3:40
3."Shake You Donkey Up" 4:19
4."Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her" 3:50
5."This World Over" 5:37
Side two
1."The Everyday Story of Smalltown" 3:53
2."I Bought Myself a Liarbird" 2:49
3."Reign of Blows" 3:27
4."You're the Wish You Are I Had" 3:17
5."I Remember the Sun"Moulding3:10
6."Train Running Low on Soul Coal" 5:19



Additional personnel


Year Chart Position Citation
1984 UK Official Charts 38 [11]
1984 US Billboard 200 178 [12]


  1. ^ a b c d Woodstra, Chris. "The Big Express – XTC". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Ingham, Chris (March 1999). "XTC - 'Til Death Do Us Part". Mojo. 
  3. ^ a b Pierson, Pat (September 2007). "Permanent Bliss: The Immutable Pleasures of XTC". Filter. 
  4. ^ "XTC on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Kot, Greg (3 May 1992). "The XTC Legacy: An Appraisal". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  7. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha (2004). "XTC". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 890–92. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (25 June 1985). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  9. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "XTC". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  10. ^ Wexler, Erica (January 1985). "XTC The Big Express (Geffen)". Musician. No. 75. 
  11. ^ a b "UK Official Charts: The Big Express". Official Charts Company. 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  12. ^ a b "Billboard 200: XTC". Billboard. 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017. 

External links[edit]

  • The Big Express on Chalkhills