Sproutological review of 2016

I started this site in Spring 2014 with the intention of cataloguing my collecting activities and learning WordPress a bit. No real ambitions beyond that, but as always seems to happen, the tale expanded in the telling and the original intentions vanished as the site became much more based around the idea of archival of material. Nonetheless, the inner sanctum of the collecting operation was revealed, one of the surprise hits of the year in terms of page views and kind, understanding messages from concerned well-wishers.

So at the end of 2016, we’re sitting at just shy of quarter of a million page views, which is staggering – as a point of comparison, at the end of 2014 there were about twenty thousand. Not bad for a geekish site about a defunct band who hardly ever releases anything. I think we’re keeping the flame alive into Paddy’s 60th year anyway. Whether he chooses to use it to set the world alight is anyone’s guess.

Looking back to this time last year, I was fairly convinced that new posts would start drying up in about March. There’s a finite supply of new material, and I was working through it very quickly. But somehow there always seems to be more arriving, and although I’m convinced I’ll run out of material in about, say, March, there’s plenty still to go up. Yesterday for example threw up two “new” audio interviews, and the excursion into Japanese sites this holiday has turned up a lot of things to follow up on, including one seriously interesting project.

It’s always a thrill when someone contacts you out of the blue with something interesting too, which happens every now and then – I’m currently waiting on a recording of the elusive Liverpool 2000 concert for example.

I guess in terms of absolute significance, you can’t really beat the photos of Paddy with Spike and Cinque Lee that were spotted in September. There is some sort of project there underway, and let’s hope it comes to something this year. You never know with Paddy, but it’s been a longish term affair already, so there are grounds for a little optimism at least.

There have been some very significant deaths this year: Bowie, Prince and George Michael in particular. You can’t help feeling that the loss of such iconic figures may have had some sort of effect on Paddy – a reminder that the chill wind of mortality blows a gale whether we like it or not, and it’s all too easy to end up with “plans, crafted and clever; fated unborn, unfinished forever.”

On a happier note, a personal highlight for me was talking at length with Thomas Dolby in the summer. Interesting process that, you’re very much on rails when you’re interviewing him, the answers are often very much pre-formed, and after dabbling around on my own terms for a long time, talking to one of the main players is a bit of a reality check in a lot of ways. So you have to work quite hard to derail him even a little. But I think we got some reasonable material – it became clear to me that a not insignificant part of Dolby’s role was to provide a completion mechanism to projects Paddy would otherwise have tinkered with endlessly and abandoned. Which led to what is I think my favourite paragraph I’ve ever written about Prefab Sprout:

“As regards Prefab Sprout, he adopted on Steve McQueen and subsequent albums what you might describe as a sort of Karl Faberg‎é role towards Paddy McAloon’s ready supply of farm-fresh golden eggs. There could be no better partnership: Paddy, labouring upwards towards his artistic vision, a man who hates completing anything for fear it fails to reach the exalted heights of his imagination. And Dolby, who from the moment he conceives a project enumerates the steps that must be followed to get to the ultimate goal, and works systematically until it is attained.”

I’m pretty sure that gets to the heart of why the relationship was important.

Some nice discoveries during the year too. An early, unreleased song. A stack of paperwork relating to a gig in Utrecht (if I could have a New Year wish it would be for more paperwork, there are, to paraphrase Powell and Pressburger, some people for whom Heaven is paperwork. And a slowing but still fascinating stream of videos, of which the prizes were a Danish version of Cars and Girls from 1992 and a Norwegian interview from 1984.

So here’s hoping for at least some more of the same in 2017. As ever, if you are sitting shyly on something interesting, let me know. Even if you don’t want it featured on the site, I’m happy to sort out restoration, digitisation and long term archiving.

And as it’s the morning of 2017 more or less everywhere, it only remains to raise a glass and gently slip a couple of Alka-Seltzer into it. Happy recovery.

9 thoughts

  1. Tim

    A very happy new year. Thank you for all your work on the site. As well as the new interviews I always look forward to your mailbag of collectibles. Here’s to new material in 2017.

  2. Happy New Year Tim, Sproutology is definitively showing how interesting digital archeology can be! Here’s wishing for more to be dug out in 2017.

  3. Just stumbled on this site via prefabsprout.net, all because my trusty iPod on shuffle picked a live version of “Carnival 2000” to play on shuffle yesterday. Outstanding site! I listened to two full concerts yesterday while working. Thanks for posting these great things. My only story about a brush with Prefab (from the American side of the Atlantic) is mentioning the band on Twitter a few years ago and gaining a new follower: Wendy! Happy new year, everyone. I’m happy to meet you.

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