The Dukes of Stratosphear

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The Dukes of Stratosphear
Also known as The Dukes
Origin United Kingdom
Genres Psychedelic pop,[1][2] psychedelic rock[3]
Years active
  • 1984–1987
  • 2003
  • 2008
Labels Virgin
Associated acts XTC
Past members

The Dukes of Stratosphear were an English rock band formed in 1984 by Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory, and Ian Gregory. Modeled after psychedelic pop groups from the 1960s, the Dukes were initially publicised by Virgin Records as a mysterious new act, but were actually an XTC spin-off band. The project amounted to the albums 25 O'Clock (1985) and Psonic Psunspot (1987).[2] In the UK, the records outsold XTC's then-current albums The Big Express (1984) and Skylarking (1986).[1]


The band released two records under this pseudonym, the mini-album 25 O'Clock (1985), and the full-length album Psonic Psunspot (1987).[2] The two releases were compiled onto a single CD under the title Chips from the Chocolate Fireball: An Anthology, which was released simultaneously with the vinyl issue of Psonic Psunspot. The Dukes were also mentioned in the credits of XTC's 1986 album Skylarking, where they were thanked for the loan of their guitars.

In 1991, Andy Partridge produced two tracks, "It's Snowing Angels" and "Then She Appeared", intended to be released as a hoax flexidisc attached to the cover of Strange Things Are Happening magazine. Although credited to fictional bands "Big Chief Cigar Choc Champion" and "The Golden", these tracks were a continuation of the Dukes recorded oeuvre in all but name. The magazine folded before the single could be pressed, although "Then She Appeared" would later be reworked for the Nonsuch album. "It's Snowing Angels" was released in 1994 via John Flansburgh's Hello Recording Club,[4] and both tracks were included on the Fuzzy Warbles anthology.

Several sequels were proposed but ultimately abandoned, including the mock rock opera The Great Royal Jelly Scandal, an animated feature film of 25 O'Clock, a 'prequel' album as "The Mersey Dukes", and a glam rock parody as "The Stratosphear Band". In 1992, XTC proposed a spiritual successor to the Dukes in the form of The Bubblegum Album, a compilation of mocked-up one-hit-wonder 1970s pop singles. The album was half completed but rejected by Virgin. This rejection was one of the main contributing factors to the seven-year feud between the band and Virgin. Several of these tracks were reworked and released on various XTC albums and compilations.

The 2002 XTC rarities compilation Coat of Many Cupboards, premiered a hitherto unheard 20-second section of narration recorded for Psonic Psunspot but not used. This does not appear on any other XTC/Dukes release.

The band briefly reformed in 2003, to record the track "Open a Can (Of Human Beans)" for the MS Society charity compilation album The Wish List. This track later reappeared on the Fuzzy Warbles anthology and the re-release of 25 O'Clock.

In 2008, Partridge recorded a promotional single for Eurostar as The Dukes - "Tin Toy Clockwork Train" - which was given away free at railway stations. This, and a rejected earlier attempt - "Black Jewelled Serpent of Sound" - were added to 25 O'Clock for its 2009 re-release.

On 20 April 2009, both records were released on CD for the first time in their own right - along with demo recordings, bonus tracks and brand new sleeve notes from the band. These editions are credited to "XTC as The Dukes of Stratosphear" and were released on Andy Partridge's Ape House record label (they are also the first XTC recordings to which Virgin Records have relinquished the rights).[2]


The pseudonymous personnel included:

  • Sir John Johns (Andy Partridge) - singing, guitar, brain buds
  • The Red Curtain (Colin Moulding) - electric bass, song stuff
  • Lord Cornelius Plum (Dave Gregory) - mellotron, piano, organ, fuzz-tone guitar
  • E.I.E.I. Owen (Ian Gregory) - drum set

Both 25 O'Clock and Psonic Psunspot were produced by John Leckie and the Dukes. On 25 O'Clock, the producers are credited as "John Leckie, Swami Anand Nagara and the Dukes"; Anand Nagara was Leckie's sannyasin name, when he was a follower of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.



  1. ^ a b Hunt, Chris (1989). "Andy Partridge Interview". Phaze 1. 
  2. ^ a b c d Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Dukes of Stratosphear - Biography". All Music Guide. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  3. ^ "Film at 11: The Dukes of Stratosphear". Magnet. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  4. ^