XTC: The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
What would Jesus do? It’s a valid question. But here, XTC asked, what would we do to Jesus? Andy Partridge and Co had expressed their doubts about religion elsewhere. But here, they stated their case against the hypocrisy of the modern-day political and religious establishment. To do so, Andy Partridge created the character of Peter Pumpkinhead as a Jesus figure whose appearance threatens both governments and churches in today’s world. Peter seems more like a hippie than a minister. When the powers that be find that they cannot discredit Peter, he suffers the same fate as his predecessor.
I don’t know where Partridge got the idea for or the name of this character. But, I wonder if Peter might be related to the character Jack Pumpkinhead from The Land of Oz. Jack, as a character from a beloved series of children’s books, represents the innocence of childhood, and, as a magical creation, the belief that anything is possible. These ideas, Partridge would be saying, cannot endure in the face of the evils of the modern world. I find that this explanation for Peter’s surname adds resonance to the song for me. However, if anyone knows what Partridge was really thinking, please let me know in the comments.