The clash between musician-producer Todd Rundgren and musician Andy Partridge during the recording of XTC's ninth album, Skylarking (1986), is legendary. "At the time I said it was like one bunker with two Hitlers. We were like rams butting our heads together," Partridge would remark. Both musicians have reputations for being difficult to work with so it's hard to know who to believe in how they characterize their fraught collaboration.
On this Jonesy's Jukebox, former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones talks to Todd about his experience of working on the record. I'd never heard that one big source of conflict was Partridge's propensity to remove all of the air from a track. Rundgren: "Usually [Andy's ideas were] to take out more air, to fill in some space with more sound. […] So if you were looking at it on a [spectrogram], it would be completely flat […] And you don't realize how hard it is to listen to that." As a big XTC fan, I can actually understand this criticism (see Big Express) and appreciate Todd's efforts to keep the air in Skylarking.
While the sessions might have been fractious, the result is undeniable, a record that's now widely considered to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
Thumbnail: Inset of album cover art, Skylarking, XTC