IT seems like 2017 is a great time to be an XTC fan.

OK, the band doesn’t exist any more. And some members are barely on speaking terms with each other. And your average One Direction fan is likely to ask “XT who?”

But all the same, there seems to be a lot of XTC ecstasy going around at the moment.

For a start, Sky Arts is showing a documentary about the band tonight at 9pm. Called XTC: This Is Pop, the programme focuses on a band whose influence is still being felt far beyond the confines of their Swindon hometown origins. Featuring band members and collaborators, this is a long overdue celebration of pop’s unsung heroes, who brought us the likes of Making Plans For Nigel, Towers Of London and Senses Working Overtime.

And if that wasn’t enough, a book has been published this week that delves deep into XTC nostalgia, and will bring lumps to throats and tears to eyes of anyone who played Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me) at full volume in the confines of their 1980s bedrooms.

The XTC Bumper Book Of Fun For Boys And Girls is produced by die-hard fan Mark Fisher, who back in the early 1980s thought it was about time devotees of his favourite band had an outlet for their love and affection for Swindon’s finest.

The result was Limelight – named after an XTC song – a crudely assembled (we are talking 1982 here - PCs and word processors were barely glints in the eyes of Dixons and Currys) but lovingly put together fanzine that was just about as comprehensive as anything you would expect to see and read about the band. There were interviews and articles, reviews, letters from fans, even XTC-related wordsearch puzzles.

And what Mark has done is to reproduce 10 years’ worth of Limelights into one bumper addition for the XTC Bumper Book – plus other highlights, including interviews with band members Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory and Terry Chambers. Plus interviews with celebrity fans, including comedians Phill Jupitus and Kevin Eldon.

The book is a delight, a treasure trove of the fascinating and the silly, the revealing (the snippet about what Andy did with a rubber shark while on tour in Australia is mind boggling to say the least) and the trivial. Dip into any of its 256 pages and you’ll pull out an XTC plum.

For a start, I loved the piece written by a fan called Graham who undertook a pilgrimage to Swindon. It mentioned the wonderful Swindon celebrities’ wall, a Ken White mural that adorned the end of a row of terraced houses in Old Town and featured depictions of Swindon’s most famous faces - there’s Dr Desmond Morris, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Diana Dors, footballer Don Rogers, musicians Gilbert O’Sullivan, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues and Rick Davies of Supertramp.

And of course XTC.

A documentary broadcast on Channel 4 in 1984 - it was part of a series about bands in their home towns - showed Andy and Dave inspecting the wall, with the former remarking that Justin Hayward’s hair appeared to be “carved from butter”, and that his own head seemed to be “resting on a dog’s penis” (it was actually his own index finger).

If you are thinking of seeking out the wall, you’re out of luck - it was obliterated several years ago and is now covered in pebbledash.

Graham was complimentary about the town, on the whole, and he seemed to admire the architecture.

It would be nice to know, 35 years on, what the likes of Graham and other fans are up to now, like letter writer Wendy Gregory from Birmingham, who gushed: “Last year’s gig was out of this world. Andy wore black trousers, black frill tie, black shirt and white trainers or shoes. I don’t know what the rest of the guys were wearing as Andy had my full attention.”

Now that letter was fun for me because I’ve been a fan of the band since 1981 - I bought my first XTC album, Black Sea, in March that year and a couple of months later, May 24 to be exact, I saw them live, at the Birmingham Odeon, and I think it was the same gig that Wendy was at. As much as I remember it being a brilliant show, one thing I do recall was that black frill tie that Wendy from Birmingham was so taken with.

See what I mean about the Bumper Book tickling the old nostalgia button?

Another letter writer, Paul Edwards from South Wales, was not as lucky as Wendy and me in seeing XTC live. With tickets in hand in 1982 he set off for the Hammersmith Odeon, only for the gig to be cancelled due to an illness that has prevented Andy performing live ever since.

Paul had missed out on seeing the band live on two previous occasions - one when he was snowed in in the Valleys; and the other at Cardiff’s Top Rank club, “but I was at Her Majesty’s pleasure,” Paul bemoaned. Hope you’re on the straight and narrow now, Paul.

XTC first sprang to fame in the late ‘70s, surfing in on the punk/new wave movement, and hung around while many less talented bands disappeared up their own bondage trousers.

While they never seriously bothered the upper reaches of the pop charts, they toured extensively in the early years, and recorded some outstanding albums, packed with memorable, catchy, thought provoking songs - their love songs were fresh and original, and their political ones packed a punch (Melt The Guns from 1982’s English Settlement has, sadly, never been more relevant).

It may all sound very rock and roll, but really XTC are anything but in terms of lifestyle. They still live locally - the lesser-spotted Partridge can occasionally be seen strolling the streets of Old Town - and a pint of 6X and a peck on the cheek from the Mrs/girlfriend is about as far as the sex and drugs go.

Indeed, the interviews with the band back this up. Asked by his interviewer: “Do you have a normal life?” Andy replies: “I just like normality. I don’t like any of the artificial world of showbusiness or rock ‘n’ roll. The amount of A&R men that I’ve p*ssed off because they’ve gone and bought cocaine for you. ‘Hi Andy, welcome to the Big Apple. I’ve got you some blow, man.’ ‘No, sorry mate. Not interested.’”

And there’s a joint interview with Colin and Terry, the latter back in Swindon after 30 years in Australia. They’ve been working on a music project, and as described in the introduction: “They’ve been putting in regular hours from 9am to mid afternoon when Colin picks up his granddaughter from school.”

So how about that for 21st century rock ‘n’ roll?

  • The XTC Bumper Book Of Fun For Boys And Girls costs £17.99 (free UK postage) and is available from