A little while ago I posted a poor quality recording of a “meet and greet” at FNAC Bordeaux in 1997 which I’d found on my PC. I’d forgotten where it had originated from, and it wasn’t in my “restricted” folders, so I didn’t see the harm in posting it.
Very soon afterwards, I had a message from the person who had sent it to me and he reminded me of the story. He’d borrowed the tape and had done a bad transfer of the original before returning it, so I’d done a little work on it for him to remove some of the distortion. and then forgotten to file it properly. However because he’d had it in confidence from the guy who made the recording who had asked for it not to be made public, we agreed the best thing to do was to take it down.
The next thing that happened was that the taper, Jack, got in touch. Instead of being angry as I’d feared he might be, he was very nice about it. Firstly he produced a much better transfer of the recording, as well as some photographs. And he also agreed to write an article about the encounter. So despite the initial imbroglio, it becomes a much better and more interesting post about the sort of promotional activity Paddy was involved in as part of the marketing campaign for Andromeda Heights. And, incidentally, the lengths the furthest flung Sprout fans had to go to to follow the band back in the day. So over to Jack…
The day I met Paddy McAloon in Bordeaux, I couldn’t believe it!
I come from nowhere, a little rock lost in Indian Ocean, near Madagascar, called Reunion Island (L’Île de La Réunion), which is a French ‘departement’. The official language is French but we try to learn English at school.
In the 80’s, I was a teenager and I knew nothing about music until I met a guy named Hubert in my classroom. He and his older brother listened a lot to English Pop Music, so they introduced me in this kind of music. Thankfully they didn’t like Hard Rock or Rap Music!
Along with Wham!, The Police, A-ha, Tears For Fears, Simple Minds, Scritti Politti, Depeche Mode and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions there was Prefab Sprout, who crushed me with their Steve McQueen album.
Imagine a world without MP3, no CD, just vinyl and cassettes and… the Radio!
I remember long periods in front of my radio, waiting for the good song I wanted to record on cassette, and praying not to have any speech from the radio host just in the middle of the song! That was the fabulous 80’s!
In 1988, Bernard, another friend asked me one day what CD he should buy: he was one of the first among my friends to have a CD player, which was expensive at that time.
I told him: “From Langley Park To Memphis” and that’s the way I was able to have a copy of the third Prefab Sprout album soon after the release.
Then I could do my own ‘Best of’: the four first songs from ‘Steve McQueen’ with The ‘King of Rock and Roll’, ‘Cars and Girls’ and ‘The Golden Calf’, plus a bit of ‘The Venus of The Soup Kitchen’ to fill to the end of the first side of the cassette. On the second side I could have The Police or Tears For Fears! Cool!
A year later, as I was doing well in school, my father brought me a CD player, and I remember the two first CDs I bought: ‘The Seeds of Love’ from ‘Tears For Fears’, and ‘To Whom It May Concern’ from ‘The Pasadenas’. They are still in my record collection and they are still so good!
Then I left Reunion Island to study in Bordeaux: It was the first time I quit my native island, and Bordeaux was so huge! There were so many things I couldn’t find in Reunion: ‘Swoon’, the first Prefab Sprout LP, the other Tears For Fears, Christopher Cross…
And it was so cheap!
I was often in La Fnac, a big shop specialising in art and culture (books, music, movies, games,…), and also there was a big Virgin Megastore, it was amazing!
In Virgin Megastore, I remember seeing an advert for ‘Lloyd Cole Album Signing’ for the release of his LP ‘Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe’! Wow! Couldn’t believe it! There were a lot a people and it was the first time I met one of my musical heroes. I asked him about his lyrics and he answered, but unfortunately I couldn’t understand anything because my spoken English was so bad. (Fortunately I was able to ask him the same question on his blog years later, and I was able to understand this time!)
The concert was awesome!
Lloyd came once again to Bordeaux a few years later, with the release of ‘Love Story’, and this time I was able to take some photographs! Again, the concert was cool! And as he wore the same checkered shirt as on the sleeve album, it was very strange to see the picture (I used to watch in my apartment while listening to the album), moving on the scene just a few meters from me!!! What an experience!!!
Years later, on his blog, with the release of ‘Let’s change the world with Music’, he published generously the sheet music of ‘Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)’ – L.I.M.O.G.E.S. , a gift written by Paddy HIMSELF for Lloyd !!! Thanks so much Lloyd for sharing that gem !
One day, I went crazy when I saw in La Fnac, a ‘meet the author event’ with Paddy Mc Aloon for the release of Andromeda Heights. I bought a cassette recorder, and took my camera.
The D Day, I thought there will be a lot of people like with Lloyd Cole, but we were… maybe 6 or 7, and only one girl. While we were waiting for Paddy, I was thinking: ‘how lucky am I, I, probably the biggest fan of Prefab Sprout from Reunion Island, and maybe from Bordeaux…’
You must understand that in 1997, fans were not connected so easily as nowadays, I had no computer, no web, no Facebook, no Sproutology nor Sproutnet… so I felt really isolated, alone in the world: all my friends said Prefab WHAT??? when I talked to them about my favourite band.
Anyway, back in La Fnac in 1997 and before the arrival of Paddy (he was in late), I was sure that he wouldn’t come! That it would be a big false hope!
But he did come! YESSSSSS!!!
Accompanied by a very nice press guy from Sony (or Warner?), he looked like a doctor with his medical bag.
We took our places around a round desk with him in the middle, I pushed the record button on my cassette recorder and I did asked the first question (in English please!) for … Radio Fan!
A few days before, Les Inrockuptibles magazine had published a long and very interesting interview with Paddy, about his teen period, and also his projects, and the meaning of SWOON or LIMOGES, but when I listen to the recording nearly 20 years later, it seems that no one (not even the press guy) read Les Inrockuptibles before this meeting with Paddy.
What surprised me was the attention, the patience and the kindness, Paddy had for us, for all the questions everybody asked.
I didn’t pay attention at that time, but he has a very warm and pleasant voice, as you can hear in several interviews ! Listening to Paddy talking is very relaxing. Maybe more than when he sings!
He reminds me another star, a director: Georges – Mad Max- Miller: same patience in answering, same way of listening to the questioner. Humble people, great human beings.
A few words about Andromeda Heights: it is the Prefab Sprout album that touches me the most.
First because I had to wait sooooo long for the release (7 years! An eternity! Kitchenware Records wrote a real letter and warned me of the imminent release, I was totally mad!)
Second because after so many years, Paddy begins with ‘I’m a ghost to you now!’ and he seems to talk to me personally, and I wanted to tell him: ‘No No Paddy, I never forgot you!’
And also no one has described that feeling of Love as well as he does in WEIGHTLESS: each time, I’m in space with Yuri Gagarin, and there’s so much space in the beginning of the song!
He inspires me daily when I sing in my car:
‘And if the dead could speak I know what they would say to you and me: Don’t waste another day … Tell someone you love them!…
You’ll be surprised to find the weight that you can bear.’
‘Gotta do our best, there’ll be time enough to rest.
Because life ‘s a miracle! ‘
And what about ‘The Mystery of love’?…
Well next year will be the twentieth anniversary of the release of ‘Andromeda Heights’ ! What if Paddy makes us a surprise ??? It would be great !
At the end of the meeting he signed some autographs (very patiently again), and before we left, he did want to shake our hands. It was as if HE was thanking us for coming to see him.
Friends, this guy is from another time: nowadays, every artist has his facebook, twitter, instagram… but not him! Some people wonder if he even has Internet !!! Respect for that!
Lastly, I am very surprised that at least two guys in the world are interested by this nearly 20 years old amateur recording of this fans interview, at a time where the web can propose so many other interviews of one of the most creative author ever!
I’m really happy to share it with you, reader!
Jack, November 2016
Podcast Link Here