Before YouTube’s algorithm served up the XTC home video Look Look a few weeks ago, I knew of it only as the last line in the discography that concludes Chris Twomey’s fan bio Chalkhills and Children. The lone entry under “VIDEO,” sharing the book’s last page with Johnny Japes and his Jesticles’ single, “Bags of Fun with Buster,” its position in the band’s oeuvre is unexalted. But Look Look deserves better: it brings together all the videos (or “promo films,” if you prefer) XTC made between 1978 and 1982, the period of quality encompassing White Music and English Settlement.
I don’t remember seeing any XTC videos other than the one for “Dear God” when I was growing up, though I was always searching for them. MTV was too busy making our country stupid with a diet of shit and garbage. (Waiter, I can’t eat this shit—it tastes like garbage! But I did catch “Towers of London” maybe, once, late at night?) Released in PAL format in the UK and NTSC in Japan, never issued in the US, Look Look did me no good until it surfaced on the web.
The tape is about to turn 35, so I would not hold my breath waiting for it to come out on DVD. Anyway, its considerable charms are well-suited to YouTube. These low-budget videos are livened up with such props as bounce houses and banks of TVs, such special effects as rear projection and chroma key, and such unlikely characterizations as Andy Partridge’s evil clown in “Making Plans for Nigel” and Colin Moulding’s straitjacketed puzzle-factory dweller in “Ball and Chain.” Snippets from interviews with Partridge and Moulding set up a few of the clips. Oh, and look look for Richard Branson in the “Generals and Majors” video, playing one of the song’s villains.
This Is Pop (0:30)
Statue of Liberty (3:06)
Are You Receiving Me? (5:29)
Life Begins at the Hop (8:26)
Making Plans for Nigel (12:30)
Towers of London (16:36)
Respectable Street (20:42)
Generals and Majors (23:50)
All of a Sudden (It’s Too Late) (28:34)
Ball and Chain (33:25)
Senses Working Overtime (37:23)