Hey, hey, another request from Rose.
I don't know when I first heard "Senses Working Overtime". I think it was just always there, shimmering at the edges of my ears in the midst of the post punk-new wave-psychobilly-synth pop-what have you music of the day. I know that's not really possible, but that's how I like to think of it. I can't remember the first time I heard it. I just feel like I've always known it.
Sitting in my parents' living room, the summer I was sixteen, putting albums on tape to get me through our upcoming family vacation.
"What is this?" my dad asked as he wandered through the room. "Some kind of Sesame Street counting song?"
"No, it's XTC."
"Oh. Oooookay." Which was—and is—pretty much his reaction to any music that I listened to.
That tape of English Settlement was probably my fourth-most-listened-to tape during that vacation. There was a three-way tie for first between XTC's Oranges and Lemons, The Dukes of Stratosphear's Psonic Psunspot, and, in an apparent stab at variety, Robyn Hitchcock's Queen Elvis.
Senior year of college, beginning of spring quarter. I'd spent the first two terms inching towards starting something with a friend of one of my housemates. Right before spring break, we actually seemed to be starting something, so it was kind of a surprise when he told me that he was leaving the country for a month. It was a long story, involving a reappearing ex and some personal stuff he needed to deal with, and was in no way meant as a blow to me. What could I do? I loaned him a sweater I'd purchased on the men's side of an Eddie Bauer outlet, and made him a mix tape. This was on it.
(What else was on it? Here's what I remember: "Secret" by Meryn Cadell. "Panic" by Carter. "You Just Haven't Earned it Yet, Baby" by Kirsty MacColl. "College of Ice" by Robyn Hitchcock. The music for the Macedonian dance Bufcansko Oro, quite literally one of my favorite pieces of music in the world. "To the NEA" by Jim Carroll. That hidden track from Crowded House's Woodface.)
(Now that I think about it, it might have only been on the tape he borrowed but never returned, the one I'd made myself for my twentieth birthday. I never got the books I loaned him back, either. At least I have the sweater.)
We lost touch after college, as happens. But I still think of him whenever I smell his cologne.
A Thursday or Friday night in Hollywood, the first time I ventured out to see my local XTC cover band. (If you live in or around a big city, you probably have one, too.) They'd worked out arrangements to about a dozen songs from Black Sea and English Settlement, including this one.
"I think I'm kind of in love with the guy who does the Andy Partridge parts," I reported to some friends. "I don't know if it's because I actually like him, or because he does such a good job of channeling Andy Partridge."
Replied someone: "Yes."
I never have quite figured that one out.
Tuesday afternoon, on Ocean Park in Santa Monica. I was driving back from lunch, pondering how to frame my request for this song, when I turned on 103.11—and there it was, right in the middle of the first chorus, where the song's underpinnings start sliding around and I get this big grin on my face, every time. I don't have to justify my love for this song. I just love it.
So, really, when you get right down to it? This request has been an exercise in self-importance, with the possible motive of hoping that the guy in the third section will recognize himself and drop me a line. I'd love to hear from him, and I kinda want that tape and my books back.