Side by side: XTC ‘King For A Day’ CD singles UK/US

When looking out these CDs to photograph for this post, and looking back on previous VersionCrazy posts for XTC… I was surprised to find nothing other than a passing mention in the ‘Machines’ 1980 compilation album on Virgin! How could I have managed not to feature this wonderful band in any detail in the 14 years of the blog so far? Anyway, what was exercising me was the various versions of a later period single, from when the band’s star was much higher stateside than in their native UK – ‘King For A Day’.

XTC 'King For A Day' UK and US CD singles front cover designs
^ XTC ‘King For A Day’ UK and US CD singles front cover designs

Lifted from 1989’s glossy album production, ‘Oranges and Lemons’, it seemed a fairly surefire selection from the album’s tracks as a radio-pleasing drive-time number in much the same style as Tears For Fears has scored a few years earlier with ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ – it has quite a resemblance to that track. What’s interesting here is that there were major differences between the UK and US releases – the American release also saw fit to procure some radically changed remixes of the song for its outing.


UK CD single: Virgin VSCD 1177

XTC 'King For A Day' UK 3" CD single front cover design
^ XTC ‘King For A Day’ UK 3″ CD single front cover design

This was clearly the era of the 3” CD single as format of choice for Virgin Records as not only were all three of XTC’s singles lifted from ‘Oranges and Lemons’ issued on that format but the album itself came in a limited edition 3 x 3” CD pack – plus there had also been a 3” CD re-issue of ‘Senses Working Overtime’ too the previous year. Crazy for it! Virgin Records were famously also indulgent of elaborate and quirky packaging for XTC releases and this extended to ‘King For A Day’, coming in a die-cut crown-shaped cardboard sleeve for this UK release.

XTC 'King For A Day' UK 3" CD single rear cover design
^ XTC ‘King For A Day’ UK 3″ CD single rear cover design

The UK CD single contains two mixes of the track – the ‘7” Version’ and the ‘12” Version’. The 7” Version appears to be identical to the album mix as far as I can tell. The 12” mix goes on quite a diversion with extra synth bass and drum machine elements as well as some quite dated digital synth brass stabs and frankly awful jerking around in a sampler with some of the vocals. It has not aged well…

The two home demo tracks are interesting but you can see why they weren’t promoted towards the ‘Oranges and Lemons’ first eleven, let’s say. They were originally exclusive to the 3″ CD single, since the 7″ and 12″ vinyl editions instead included ‘Happy Families’ as B side fare instead.

XTC 'King For A Day' UK 3" CD single disc and disc holder
^ XTC ‘King For A Day’ UK 3″ CD single disc and disc holder

Tracklisting:

  • ‘King For A Day’ (7” Version) (3:39)
  • ‘King For A Day’ (7” Version) (7:15)
  • ‘My Paint Heroes’ (Home Demo) (3:31)
  • ‘Skeletons’ (Home Demo) (2:35)

US CD single: Virgin / Geffen DIDX005188

XTC 'King For A Day' US 5" CD single front cover design
^ XTC ‘King For A Day’ US 5″ CD single front cover design

Going with the familiar 5” CD format and standard jewel-box case design, this release dispenses with the mixes used on the UK equivalent as well as the B sides. Instead, two all new remixes that strip down the track and rebuild it altogether are presented, much to the horror of the band themselves judging by comments subsequently made in the book XTC: Song Story: The Exclusive Authorized Story Behind the Music by Neville Farmer.

XTC 'King For A Day' US 5" CD single insert rear
^ XTC ‘King For A Day’ US 5″ CD single insert rear

To my ears. while obviously a product of he fashions of the time, they have aged better than the UK 12″ Remix. The ‘Czar’ mix goes for it with a four-to-the-floor kick drum and manically weird time signature bass sequence synth and then layers up vampy, dancey piano on top as well as more of those synth brass stabs so beloved of the late ’90s. The ‘Versailles’ mix is a gentler update and keeps most of the fixtures and fittings from the regular album mix but treated and again with drum machine and bass synth sequencer aplenty.

XTC 'King For A Day' US 5" CD single disc design
^ XTC ‘King For A Day’ US 5″ CD single disc design

For the B sides two tracks that had originally appeared back in 1983 on the double pack 7” of ‘Love On A Farmboy’s Wages’ were dug out from the archive – I guess since they had not previously been issued in the UK.

XTC 'King For A Day' US 5" CD rear case design
^ XTC ‘King For A Day’ US 5″ CD rear case design

There is another remix out there from the time, but it looks like it remains exclusive to vinyl – a five-track US 12″ Promo from Geffen Records (PRO-A-3522) includes ‘King For A Day (I Dub Thee Sir Mix)’ is remixed and produced once again like the two mixes found on the US CD by by Ivan Ivan.

Tracklisting:

  • ‘King For A Day’ (Czar Mix) (6:30)
  • ‘King For A Day’ (Versailles Mix) (5:07)
  • ‘Toys’ (4:20)
  • ‘Desert Island’ (4:47)

2 Replies to “Side by side: XTC ‘King For A Day’ CD singles UK/US”

  1. I got both of those, back in the day. But not the US promo 12″, which I just found out about it now! I used to collect XTC, and the elaborate packaging was always there with Virgin. Shaped foam core sleeves were pretty unique for CD singles! I’ve got several of them but not all of them were on Virgin. Polydor did it too. I always thought that CD format never got the love is deserved from short sighted vinyl snobs for what could be done with it as opposed to vinyl formats in terms of creative packaging.

    This was a good period for XTC. The last one for me, in retrospect. Had they bagged it after “Oranges + Lemons” it might have been a better outcome than the dire album that followed. And then that senseless recording strike against Virgin that did them no favors, either.

  2. I hadn’t made the move to CD when Oranges and Lemons was on release – I used to see that 3 pack CD version of the album and be tempted, but it was the following year before I made the leap to the format – so the XTC CD singles are ones I slowly went back and bought up as time went by. The very first CDs I did buy were both non-standard, card not plastic packaging – it wasn’t deliberate, it’s just they had the bonus tracks I wanted – Wire’s ‘Manscape’ album and the US ‘pop-up’ edition of Peter Murphy’s ‘Deep’. It was always there that the packaging could be more than just the standard jewel cases, a pity it took so long to become the norm. Other than a handful of tracks, XTC’s ‘Nonsuch’ was disappointing for me too. ‘Apple Venus 1’ I like a lot, have never been been able to get into ‘Apple Venus 2’ at all though.

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