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Ape House Records, the label formed in 2003 by Andy Partridge, founding member, guitarist and songwriter of the British pop band XTC, is proud to announce the release of reissues from The Dukes of Stratosphear. The critically acclaimed releases, 25 O’Clock and Psonic Psunspot, which have been remastered from the original analogue tapes, feature unreleased material, such as demo versions, bonus recordings and videos.

In 1985, XTC members Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and David Gregory, along with David’s brother Ian, founded The Dukes of Stratosphear concurrently with XTC’s continued musical activities. Their first release was a vinyl only 12” EP of affectionate parodies of '60s psychedelia and guitar-pop called 25 O'Clock. As David Gregory said, “The plan came together with remarkable speed. There were no songs to speak of yet, just a few random ideas, and a studio had still to be found, as well as money to pay for it. A psychedelic EP for 1985? Surely we were joking! The whole raison d’etre of the Dukes was to be low-tech, religiously retro and anti-modern in every respect. Virgin Records, in due course, cautiously advanced us £5,000 - enough to rent Chapel Lane Studios, near Hereford, for a couple of weeks - and, with four songs from Andy and one from Colin virtually written, we convened in my tiny living room in Swindon for one rehearsal before setting off the next morning for the studio.”

David continues, “In order to make an authentic-sounding record we needed the ears and technical skills of our gifted engineer and co-producer John Leckie. From the get-go, he instinctively knew exactly the sounds we were looking for, his years as a trainee at Abbey Road in the early 1970s having provided the grounding for an impeccable studio career, engineering or producing for George Harrison, Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, Wings, Roy Harper and Be Bop DeLuxe among many others, before meeting with XTC and producing their first two albums in 1978. Only he knows the exact formula of the fairy-dust that would magically transform our shaky takes into a Real Record!”

Instead of releasing the EP under their own name, they released the record under the name The Dukes of Stratosphear with all three members of the group adopting pseudonyms — Partridge was Sir John Johns (singing, guitar, brain buds), Moulding was the Red Curtain (electric bass, song stuff), David Gregory was Lord Cornelius Plum (mellotron, piano, organ, fuzz-tone guitar) and Ian Gregory joined the band under the name Ian E.I.E.I. Owen (drums). 25 O’Clock was released without mention of XTC's name anywhere on the record, and the group claimed they had nothing to do with the project.


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In 1987, The Dukes of Stratosphear released a full length vinyl only album, Psonic Psunspot, also produced by John Leckie. Gregory says, “Having established the form with 25 O’Clock, it’s possible that we laboured the content for “Psonic Psunspot”slightly, because now it was official: the Dukes Of Stratosphear were a real band making their all-important first LP. We had been given a whole month to record and mix, at the lovely Sawmills studio, buried in the woods up a river creek in Cornwall. The gay abandon with which we hurled ourselves into the creative process at Hereford was now replaced, post-“Skylarking”, with a measure of serious thought and methodical consideration. Nonetheless, ten quite brilliant songs had materialised from somewhere, at least two of which – ‘Collideascope’ and ‘Pale And Precious’ - rank as highly for me as anything the group ever recorded.” By the time Psonic Psunspot appeared in 1987, XTC were beginning to admit in interviews that they were indeed The Dukes of Stratosphear. The Dukes were also mentioned in the credits of XTC's 1986 album Skylarking, where they were thanked for the loan of their guitars.

Later in 1987, both the 25 O’Clock EP and the Psonic Psunspot album were released on a single compact disc, Chips from the Chocolate Fireball to rave reviews. In Seattle’s The Stranger, Sean Nelson gave Chips… “4 stars” and raved, “Chips remains a brilliant psychedelic pop pastiche that lovingly combines morsels of early Pink Floyd, middle Beatles, Electric Prunes, Hollies, Kinks, and dozens of other, like-hearted bands….the songs and sounds are more than a celebration of influences. ‘Braniac's Daughter,’ ‘Collideascope,’ and ‘The Mole From the Ministry,’ in particular, take the band's heroes to school, offering up hooks and rhymes every bit as delectable as the genuine articles.”

Jason Nickey from Pitchfork gave Chips a “9 out of 10” and proclaimed, “The Dukes were truly of their era, yet wholly XTC-- whimsical, bright, and trippy, but also wry, subtly sarcastic and sophisticated.…To put it bluntly, if you can only have one XTC album (by presidential mandate or something), this is the one. All 16 are kaleidoscopic pop gems. It stands as a testament to the band's quirky genius that their loving parody/tribute side project just happens to be responsible for the best music they've ever made."

According to Gregory, “It’s within the realms of possibility that XTC would not have survived beyond the 1980s without the cathartic effect this fun side-project engendered. That so many others found it amusing and entertaining simply adds to the joy we derived from its creation.”


For additional information on The Dukes of Stratosphear, please contact Jocelynn Loebl at Howlin’ Wuelf North at 917.523.8881 or at Jocylibs@yahoo.com.


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