The Dukes of Stratosphear

The Dukes of Stratosphear was a pseudonym used by the British rock band XTC in the mid-to-late 1980s, concurrently with XTC's continued musical activities. The project was intended as a homage to 1960s pop and psychedelic music by groups such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Byrds, The Kinks, The Zombies, The Beach Boys, The Small Faces, Jefferson Airplane and The Pretty Things.

The band released two records under this pseudonym, the mini-album 25 O'Clock (1985), and the full-length album Psonic Psunspot (1987). The two releases were compiled onto a single CD under the title Chips from the Chocolate Fireball: An Anthology, which was released simultaneously with the vinyl issue of Psonic Psunspot. The Dukes were also mentioned in the credits of XTC's 1986 album Skylarking, where they were thanked for the loan of their guitars.

In 1991, Andy Partridge produced two tracks, "It's Snowing Angels" and "Then She Appeared", intended to be released as a hoax flexidisc attached to the cover of Strange Things Are Happening magazine. Although credited to fictional bands "Big Chief Cigar Choc Champion" and "The Golden", these tracks were a continuation of the Dukes recorded oeuvre in all but name. The magazine folded before the single could be pressed, although "Then She Appeared" would later be reworked for the Nonsuch album. "It's Snowing Angels" would be released in 1994 via John Flansburgh's Hello Recording Club (this time credited to the Dukes), and both tracks were included on the Fuzzy Warbles anthology.

Several sequels were proposed but ultimately abandoned, including the mock rock opera The Great Royal Jelly Scandal, an animated feature film of 25 O'Clock, a 'prequel' album as "The Mersey Dukes", and a glam rock parody as "The Stratosphear Band". In 1992, XTC proposed a spiritual successor to the Dukes in the form of The Bubblegum Album, a compilation of mocked-up one-hit-wonder 1970s pop singles. The album was half completed but rejected by Virgin. This rejection was one of the main contributing factors to the seven-year feud between the band and Virgin. Several of these tracks were reworked and released on various XTC albums and compilations.

The 2002 XTC rarities compilation Coat of Many Cupboards premiered a hitherto unheard 20-second section of narration recorded for Psonic Psunspot but not used. This does not appear on any other XTC/Dukes release.

The band briefly reformed in 2003, to record the track "Open a Can (Of Human Beans)" for the MS Society charity compilation album The Wish List. This track later reappeared on the Fuzzy Warbles anthology and the re-release of 25 O'Clock.

In 2008 Andy Partridge recorded a promotional single for Eurostar as The Dukes - "Tin Toy Clockwork Train" - which was given away free at railway stations. This, and a rejected earlier attempt - "Black Jewelled Serpent of Sound" - were added to 25 O'Clock for its 2009 re-release.

On 20 April 2009 both records were released on CD for the first time in their own right - along with demo recordings, bonus tracks and brand new sleeve notes from the band. These editions are credited to "XTC as The Dukes of Stratosphear" and were released on Andy Partridge's Ape House record label (they are also the first XTC recordings to which Virgin Records have relinquished the rights).

Read more about The Dukes Of Stratosphear:  Members, Discography