|First posted 11/18/2019.|
Writer(s): Andy Partridge (see lyrics here)
Released: August 16, 1986
First Charted: April 4, 1987
Peak: 37 AR, 99 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales *: -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)
Radio Airplay *: --
Video Airplay *: 2.6
Streaming *: --
* in millions
XTC’s “Dear God” was originally released as the B-side of “Grass,” the lead single for the new wave band’s ninth album, Skylarking. The album was a loose concept about cycles, such as the cycle of life or of the seasons. “Dear God” was initially left off the album because Virgin Records was concerned about the effect of its agnostic message. Andy Partridge, the songwriter and XTC’s lead singer, was also dissatisfied with the lyrics and didn’t think the song represented his views on religion. WK He eventually became an atheist, but was, as he said, “wrestling with the tail end of my belief” when he wrote this. SF
After college DJs started playing the song, listeners started contacting Geffen Records (the U.S. distributer) to ask how they could get the song. Geffen added it to the Skylarking album, bumping the song “Mermaid Smiles.” SF It was then also released as a single on its own.
The song was inspired by a series of books with the same title which Partridge considered exploitive of children. The song is built on the idea of an agnostic writing letters to God questioning his existence. Partridge saw it as a commentary on “the need for humans to believe the stuff they do…I’d struggled with the concept of God and Man…since I was a kid.” WK Producer Todd Rundgren had the idea to bring in eight-year-old Jasmine Veillette to sing the opening verse and closing line. WK
The anti-religious message provoked hostile reactions, including a bomb threat to a Florida radio station and a student who held a faculty member hostage at knife-point at Binghampton High School in New York and forced the school to play the song over its public address system. Partridge also received lots of hate mail because of the song. He said he felt sorry for the people he upset, but that “if you can’t have a different opinion without them wanting to firebomb your house, then that’s their problem.” WK
Sarah McLachlan covered the song on a 1995 XTC tribute album (A Testimonial Dinner: The Songs of XTC) and Rundgren recorded his version for his 2011 (re)Production album.
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