XTC – Making Plans For Nigel ….Power Pop Friday

I got into XTC late into the game. I didn’t get to know them until they released I’m The Man Who Murdered Love. I liked this song right away because it has a nice power pop sound. The drums stand out on this song.

This song was XTC’s breakthrough single released in 1979. It was written by bassist Colin Moulding, who shared vocal and songwriting duties with guitarist Andy Partridge. It was on the third, breakthrough, album Drums And Wires.

The album peaked at #174 in the Billboard album charts, #15 in Canada, #34 in the UK, and #12 in New Zealand.

Making Plans For Nigel peaked at #12 in Canada, #17 in the UK, and #29 in New Zealand.

The lyrics are told from the point of view of parents who are certain that their son Nigel is happy in his work, affirming that his future in British Steel “is as good as sealed”, and that he “likes to speak and loves to be spoken to”. As a response to the song, British Steel reportedly gathered four Sheffield employees
named Nigel to talk about job satisfaction for the trade publication Steel News.

From Wiki: The first 20,000 pressings of the single came in a fold-out cover that created a fully playable gameboard of “Chutes and Ladders” adapted to details of Nigel’s “miserable life”, including the purchase of a scooter, job interviews, a holiday in Spain and an engagement to “a very nice girl.” There were two versions of the gameboard, one to be played by Nigel and the other to be played by his parents. As credited on the back cover, the illustrator was Steve Shotter and sleeve design was by Cooke Key.

Colin Moulding:

“Partly biographical, this one. My dad prompted me to write it. He wanted a university future for me and was very overpowering in trying to persuade me to get my hair cut and stay on at school. It got to the point where he almost tried to drag me down the barber’s shop by my hair. I know the song tells of a slightly different situation, but it all boils down to the same thing – parental domination.”

There were no Nigels at school. I wasn’t bullied, but I think I had a natural empathy for people that were. ‘Nigel’ was my song for the bullied, I suppose.

“British Steel was just a bit of naughtiness. What I hadn’t bargained on was the union boss later ringing me up and asking me to join the cause! I had the devil of a job to convince him it was an organization I chose at random.”

Andy Partridge: “Quite early on it had been decided that Making Plans For Nigel was going to be the single. We spent five times longer messing with that song than any of my tracks. At one point I was fuming because my songs were being ignored.”

From Songfacts

The Rembrandts, Primus and Robbie Williams all covered this. 

This was covered by Nouvelle Vague, a bossa group, and included on a chillout compilation album known as Breakfast Club: Milan

Andy Partridge told Uncut: “The things that sound like sheets of metal being struck, that’s a white noise patch on a monophonic Korg synth we had. We decided to do it with this industrial sound and glories, so it hinted that British Steel, which is where Nigel works.”

Making Plans For Nigel

We’re only making plans for Nigel
We only want what’s best for him
We’re only making plans for Nigel
Nigel just needs this helping hand

And if young Nigel says he’s happy
He must be happy
He must be happy in his work
We’re only making plans for Nigel

He has his future in a British steel
We’re only making plans for Nigel
Nigel’s whole future is as good as sealed
And if young Nigel says he’s happy

He must be happy
He must be happy in his work
Nigel is not outspoken
But he likes to speak

And loves to be spoken to
Nigel is happy in his work
We’re only making plans for Nigel

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

26 thoughts on “XTC – Making Plans For Nigel ….Power Pop Friday”

  1. I’ve never known anything about the individuals in this band, but I’ve loved them since early college. I’ve thought of this as one of their fun songs, but didn’t know the background story that isn’t so fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great single, one I bought early on, they were cool in ’79 and I was at Uni – which my dad wasn’t entirely keen on due to the cost of parental contributions (working class kids were expected to get a job in the coalmines like my brother, dad and grandad all had, or office work locally etc) but we worked it out (I worked in the holidays instead). This one appealed to my political views of the time and it’s still cracking. XTC had a lot of good tracks, Dear God in particular, but this one is still my fave.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another one of those bands that I read about in Creem but never heard until now. Great stuff dude.
    FYI we go live tonight at 7pm with Robert Lawson who has written books on Nazareth, Cheap Trick and The Guess Who.
    Should be a good one. We are always on rerun on Youtube! lol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A great song- I was lucky because it was a hit in Toronto (I think in our local market it was well above the #12 Canada-wide) so I became familiar with them then… depending on your definition, this might have been the first “new Wave” record I bought… other candidate would be Blondie’s Parallel Lines LP. As much as I have loved this song for over 40 years, I didn’t know a thing about the background or British Steel connection! Partridge flipped the coin a little later with the theme of bad parenting with the blissfully-unaware folks in “No Thugs In Our House” (no thugs in our house , are there dear? We made it clear – we made little Graham promise to be a good boy!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This band should have gotten play here. Heck I didn’t know about them until The Man Who Murdered Love and I heard that on our alt channel.
      The chutes and ladders cover really surprised me…that is cool that you actually caught on to them in real time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I still enjoy listening to XTC. But if you are not enthusiastic about albums like “Drums And Wires” and “Black Sea”, you will never make friends with XTC.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s funny how you got into them with a song from Wasp Star, although you still beat me to it. Making Plans for Nigel is really good – one of my favourite early songs although I’m more partial to the studio-based stuff from later.

    Liked by 1 person

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