XTC, “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead”

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Americans have just witnessed, or perhaps endured might be the better word, a pair of political conventions full of impassioned rhetoric and big promises. Regardless of political affiliation, we can probably all agree that such promises often tend to fall by the wayside. But what if there were a politician or any kind of public figure who stepped into the fray and could deliver on every promise he or she made. How would we react. What would become of this person.

That’s the premise behind XTC’s “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhean,” a stinging bit of cultural commentary embedded in a cautionary tall tale. Written by the group’s singer Andy Partridge, the song graced the British band’s 1992 album Nonsuch and exemplified the melodic, literate alternative rock they had delivered since their late 70’s debut.

In an interview with Todd Bernhardt in 2006, Partridge explained how a Halloween jack-o-lantern that he decided to keep around after the holiday by impaling it on a fencepost near his recording studio fired up his creative juices. “Yeah, so I'd see the rotting head, and I started to think, ‘What did he do to deserve to be executed -- to be put on a spike on Traitor's Gate here. He did nothing wrong. He was kind of perfect.’” Partridge remembered. 

“And then I thought, ‘Hmmm, what would happen if there was somebody on Earth who was kind of perfect.’ I just started to extrapolate on that idea, and really mess around with it in a kind of Dylanesque way. I thought, ‘Why don't I come up with 'The Ballad of' -- the ballad of somebody who's pretty much perfect.’ And the... Sign In to Keep Reading

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