Tributes have been paid to Jonathan Perkins, the first keyboardist to be part of Swindon legends XTC.

History writer, author of 'Moonies, Movers and Shakers', and long-time fan of the band Noel Ponting penned this moving piece about the loss of the talented musician.

Songwriter, recording artist, performer and, latterly music lecturer, Jonathan Perkins - whose death was announced on April 13 - will be a name unfamiliar to many people in Swindon.

However, to those of a certain vintage, he will be fondly remembered as a local musical tour-de-force - one of a number of highly talented individuals to emerge from the local music scene in the early/mid 1970’s.

One of the youngest of this cohort, Jonathan was born in Swindon in 1958 and spent his childhood in Old Town.

He joined his first band, the rock’n’roll revivalist Teenage Polecats, aged only 14 in 1972, before being recruited by Andy Partridge in 1975 to join the fledgling XTC - just as the band was throwing off its glam rock alter ego, The Helium Kidz.

Jonathan’s Fender Rhodes electric piano and, in particular, his Davoli synthesizer would later become vital in crystallising an exciting new (and more frenetic) direction for XTC - embracing more quirky, futuristic sounds - complimenting the sci-fi comic book and imaginary dance craze themes of Andy’s clever, scattergun wordplay.

Having slimmed down to a four-piece, XTC (by now ‘rocking’ the monochrome boilersuit aesthetic) undertook extensive gigging throughout 1976, both locally - and more importantly - up in London.

Indeed, watching the band myself at the Brunel Rooms on July 23, 1976, my eyes were irresistibly drawn to both Andy (stage left) and Jonathan (stage right) - both of whom were already well on the way to becoming captivating frontmen.

The following month, XTC recorded a six-track demo at Sun Studios in Reading, ultimately signing a management deal with Ian Reid of The Affair nightclub, and having record company A&R men vying for their attention. And then, as if out of the blue, Jonathan opted to leave the band.

Both Andy and Colin attempted to persuade Jonathan to stay with XTC - but to no avail.

It later transpired that Jonathan had been ‘moonlighting’ with another local band, Stadium Dogs, and as a consequence, was asked by Andy and bass player, Colin Moulding to make a straight choice.

In the book Song Stories by Neville Farmer & XTC, Andy is quoted as saying, ‘he got his own band who were going to do what he said as opposed to him doing what I said'.

Jonathan’s own take on the situation came up in an interview with Sounds music paper in 1983, in which he stated: ‘Andy Partridge got me into singing, which I’ll always thank him for. Then I started to write songs, and when record companies started getting interested in us I wanted a share in the group’s writing, but that wasn’t how XTC functioned at that time…’

And Jonathan himself would later tell me: ‘I had a wonderful, amazing, crazy, inspirational time with Andy, Colin and Terry [Chambers, the drummer] - we were friends for a while and I was a lucky guy. Andy was quite simply a genius and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. Colin and Terry were the bricks and mortar that gave Andy the security and confidence with which to fly.’

XTC, now with new keyboard player, Barry Andrews on board, eventually signed to Virgin Records some 9 months later, releasing the 3D EP on October 7, 1977 and their debut album White Music on January 20, 1978.

Interestingly, Jonathan had previously either performed live or recorded demo versions of two out of the three tracks on the 3D EP and at least three tracks on White Music. This might have been a matter of regret for some - but seemingly not for Jonathan.

He told me: ‘They leapt forward when Barry joined - he was [a] real wild card and perfect foil for Andy. His organ playing was unparalleled. I simply left because I wanted to write my own music. Andy, rightly, held a firm grip on the band’s musical filter and without that direction and control it may have taken a lot longer to get a deal.’

Jonathan went on to spend around three years with Stadium Dogs, releasing two singles, Easy Beat in 1977 (including the exceptional XTC-like B-side Android Rocker) and the radio-friendly Love On The Airwaves in 1979 - the latter getting reasonable airplay by John Peel. An album, What’s Next? appeared in 1978. They also toured the UK as support for The Kinks.

What was next for Jonathan was a spell with Liverpool new wave act, Original Mirrors (featuring Ian Broudie) which spawned four UK singles and two Albums in the period 1979 to 1981. He even found time to contribute a track to Brian and Brendan Hamley’s, Swindon compilation, Songs From Pigland.

The 1980s would find him fronting his own bands, notably The Silver Spurs (which included former Stadium Dogs bandmate, Kevin Wilkinson) and Jonathan Perkins and the Flame.

One of his most successful periods, however, was when he joined the post-Eurythmics, Dave Stewart & the Spiritual Cowboys during which time he co-wrote their first single Jack Talking which received widespread airplay.

Although only denting the lower reaches of the UK chart, it did however make the top forty in France and The Netherlands. He also played keyboards on the band’s eponymous debut album which reached no 38 in the UK.

The 1990s saw Jonathan devote much of his time to fronting his new band, Miss World, recording and releasing three albums and two singles - and touring the UK and the USA in support of Shakespeare’s Sister.

His talent as an able songwriter was further endorsed when later credited as a co-writer for the single Untouchable by Britpop 5-piece, Rialto, which made its way into the UK top twenty in 1998.

Looking back, though, on his time with XTC, Jonathan once told me: ‘I have the happiest of memories of my time with them and feel blessed to be asked by Andy to join in the first place - for a sixteen year old having played with the other coolest band in Swindon beforehand [The Teenage Polecats], my own music since was definitely shaped and informed by two musical giants from the Swindon scene ie Pete Cousins & Andy Partridge.’

We mourn Jonathan’s passing and honour his contribution to Swindon and music.

Condolences are extended to his family, all of his former bandmates, the wider Stadium Dogs ‘family’ still living locally and all those who held him dear.