Of all the Atheist anthems floating around – this is my favourite.
I guess being such a massive XTC fan, has somewhat ‘blinkered’ my opinion but there is something about this song’s lyrics, that strikes a note with me.
It’s a song that I can play time & time again, without losing its appeal.
So I decided to research the song itself, dig deeper and find-out more about its origins, production etc and the video-clip you see below.
Here’s what I found-out about XTC’s ‘Dear God’.
· The song-writer Andy Partridge had first written a book by the same title, arguing against the religious brainwashing of children, in the form of letters sent to God. This formed the inspiration for the song.
· Partridge had pondered the existence of God and concluded there was none, figuring a child’s letter to God would form a poignant irony.
· The opening and ending verse is sung by the then eight year old Jasmine Veillette, the daughter of a friend of producer Todd Rundgren.
· Jasmine was frightfully shy, and Todd who produced the album ‘Skylarking’ insisted the group leave the studio whilst she sang.
· In the video a boy lip-syncs her vocals
· For such a powerful, popular song Andy Partridge didn’t want it even on the album in the first place. It was only when he heard the finished piece, he relented. As he put it “I didn’t want it on because I didn’t thing I done it well enough. I thought it had failed tremendously and I asked to have it nipped-off the album”.
· Partidge describes the songs added strings as “mock Gershwin”.
· The song was released (16th August 1986) as a B-Side to ‘Grass’ from the same album, but rapidly gained popularity. ‘Grass’ is another song worth checking out.
· The original track was recorded in the front-lounge of the sound engineer, Dave Gregorys, Swindon flat (January 1986)
· The original album Skylarking (October 1986) did not have ‘Dear God’ as the last song, instead it featured ‘Mermaid Smiled’. It was only after the popularity of the single, that the song was added to re-issues.
· Many retailers refused to stock the album with ‘Dear God’ or the single, and radio stations in the U.S by and large considered the song too controversial.
· One radio station in Florida that played the song in 1987 received a threat it would be firebombed. The band and the record company were inundated with adverse letters, and the occasional ‘physical threat’ from Christians.
· As they say ‘any controversy is good controversy’ , and the song is single-handily attributed for XTC breaking into the U.S market.
· One of the more bizarre reactions to the song occurred in Binghampton, NY when the then 18 year old Gary Pullis held the secretary of his school at knife point in the principals office one morning and demanded that Dear God be played over the school's intercom system. He was later arrested and taken away for psychiatric evaluation.
· For any Kiwi’s reading this, the single was released in New Zealand but never charted. XTC were a popular band here, having had a number-one hit in 1979 with ‘Making Plans for Nigel’. They also make it into the Top-Ten’ with ‘Generals and Majors’ (#2 19/09/1980 ) and ‘Senses working Overtime’ (peaked #3 03/05/1982) They toured New Zealand in September 1980. Because of Partridges bouts of stage-fright, the band toured only intermittently.
· ‘Dear God’ reached No. 15 on the Billboard Album Tracks chart and received the Billboard Best Video award for 1987. The song proved the groups most successful in the U.S. and was also nominated for the 1987 MTV Best Director, Best Concept, and Best Innovation awards.
· The album ‘Skylarking’ reached No. 90 on the UK album chart and No. 70 on the US album chart, which was a travesty. Most critics rank ‘Skylarking’ as XTC’s best album – infact it often crops-up in peoples ‘Best Albums of All Time’ – admiration I concur with.
· A skiffle version by the bands was released in September 2004 on Fuzzy Warbles Volume Five in the U.K.
"Dear God,hope you got the letter, and...I pray you can make it better down here.
Background to XTC 'Dear God' - Everything you wanted to know about XTC 'Dear God'
Note; If you have something to add to what I’ve uncovered, be sure to let us all know, in the comments section below.