Ok, so, over the years I’ve been present for some pretty amazing things that have happened on a stage. (See earlier post about Green Day playing CBGB.) Many times I’ve had friends tell me that I should write all of these things down. Part of me wishes I had done so at the time because as the years go by and I tell the story another time I’m afraid that I’m getting some detail wrong. Wrong location, wrong date, wrong person…some detail, however insignificant, may have been changed or lost over time. But, I’ll give it a shot anyway…
The date was 15 November 1993 at the Bottom Line in NYC. Aimee Mann was on tour supporting her “Whatever” album. It was released by Imago Records and someone there had invited me (and a guest, I believe I was there with my friend Glenn) to the show. As an aside, my dear friend Michael McDermott and his band were the support for this show. Though, at the time, I didn’t know him.
It’s important to know that Aimee’s touring band for this tour included XTC guitarist Dave Gregory doubling on keys. So, we’re all sitting at those remarkably uncomfortable tables the Bottom Line had. So narrow that your legs would be intertwined with those of the person sitting across from you. As I recall, it was either before the show started or between sets, I turn my head towards the door to see Andy Partridge of XTC enter and grab a seat at one of the back tables. “That’s interesting. I wonder why he’s in NYC, but it’s cool he’s come out to support his old bandmate” I thought. You see, XTC were and still are one of my all time favorite bands. But I’d never had a chance to see them live as they’d stopped touring in 1982 after Andy had a breakdown on stage in Paris. It was long believed he had extreme stage fright. Now we know it was only partially that and primarily trying to stop a long addiction to Valium cold turkey that put him off touring and performing.
Aimee and her band do, as expected, a great set. When they retreat after the last song I notice Andy get up from his seat and head to the backstage area. I think to myself, “Nice. He’s going back to say hi and whatnot, congratulate the band on a great show.” We’re all applauding waiting for the band to return for the encore. It’s seemingly taking a little longer than it should. “Could they be trying to convince Andy to come out for the encore?” When they finally reappear through the back of the stage (the way on and off stage was, oddly, upstage center) they actually have convinced Andy on stage! “What the hell?!?!?!” Now, I have to presume that Aimee and her band had been doing the song “Collideascope” by The Dukes Of Stratosphear (a band that was actually XTC using pseudonyms) because there is no way on god’s green earth that they would have known that song off the tops of their heads. But, sure enough, after an introduction that I think went something like “We’ve convinced a friend to join us…” they break into “Collideascope,” Andy sharing the vocals with Aimee. No guitar, but shaking a tambourine and smiling broadly. Even if he did seem to forget his own lyrics almost immediately. “That does not look like someone who is deathly afraid to be on stage.”
After the show there was one of those industry meet & greets, so I’m hanging around for the band to come out and say hi to us radio and label dweebs. So after getting to say a brief hello to Aimee and her band I head to the door to leave. My friend Glenn was behind me by some distance and was still saying hellos when I turned around at the door. As I did, one Andy Partridge was heading out. So I held the door open for him and said “Hi” or “Good to see you” or some other pleasantry.
Some years later, I’m outside Arlene Grocery in NYC waiting to go in and see my friend, Irish singer and songwriter, Mundy. We’re out front chatting, I’m saying hello to the all-Irish members of the band that he’s playing with. I don’t remember how it came up, but I started to say “So I’m at the Bottom Line to see Aimee Mann…” and one of the guys stops me, grabs me by the shoulders and exclaims “You were at that show?!?!?!?!” It seems, even in the pre-internet days, that night at the Bottom Line had made it’s way into rock and roll lore. At least among XTC fans. “Yes, yes I was there.”
“One encore was a pop rarity. Ms. Mann’s band included Dave Gregory, a member of XTC. Up from the audience came XTC’s Andy Partridge, whose stage fright has made XTC a reclusive, studio-only band. But Mr. Partridge shared a microphone with Ms. Mann and belted “Collideascope” by the Dukes of Stratosphear (alias XTC), with tambourine in hand and a big grin on his face.” Jon Parales/New York Times (18 November 1993)
“It only looked impromptu when XTC’s Andy Partridge leaped onstage during Aimee Mann’s show at New York City’s Bottom Line to sing “Collideascope.” Says Mann: ‘I figured once he heard me sing it and not do a very good job, he’d push me out of the way and start singing, which is pretty much what happened.’” Jancie Dunn