Special thanks for Roz for doing the main part of the translation of this. It’s a difficult one: the style is very mannered and opaque, and for once auto-translation didn’t get anywhere close to something usable. And even when done the hard way, it was a bit difficult to follow. So the approach I’ve taken was to rework it fairly freely from the basic translation in an attempt to get to get to the underlying sense if not the actual literal words. It’s still a little stilted, but interesting and I think worthwhile.
AN AMERICAN DREAM
PADDY MCALOON WANTED TO BECOME FAMOUS IN COUNTY DURHAM BY REPAIRING THE TIRES OF TRUCKS IN TRANSIT. THEN, ONE DAY, NEAR THE JUKE BOX, HE HEARD SOMEBODY SAY “ROCK’N’ROLL”, AND HE REALISED VULCANIZATION WAS NOT FOR HIM. PREFAB SPROUT OWE THEIR MAGESTERIAL BEAUTY TO A FAILED GARAGE MANAGER. THE POWER OF THE ROAD.
The truck returns to the garage after a test drive. The mechanic bends down to look under the belly of the vehicle to please the driver. The beast is seriously ill, and to fix it he’ll have to go to town. Balance, convergence, electronic tuning: all this needs sophisticated equipment, and Mr McAloon only has a small repair shop on the road to Langley Park. “We didn’t lack customers. My father was good friends with the truck drivers in the area. They said he had the demeanour of a priest. He repaired cars, he supported people, and also sought to save souls from the demon of alcohol. He drank too, but in moderation, like a serious person. He was a serious person”.
Paddy McAloon works for a while with his father next to the road. It’s a game, a pastime, a way to get his hands dirty with grease. In the evening, before returning home, some pleasant reading accompanies the fun of washing the black stains from his face, the smears of oil. When the weather is good, they return home on foot, trying to find out, from the farmers’ weather vanes, if the next day will be stormy. The garage, the petrol, the road. Paddy grows up like a boy in an American movie, sticking his nose into the engines of the cars passing through. “Miraculously, even after many identical days there, I still wanted to wait for the cars to see what colour they were. Once a guy arrived, with a lopsided thing that looked like a car. A great spluttering came out from the bonnet. Its colour, pale mauve, really struck me. I saw a car the same colour in an American film, years later. I thought I was lucky. I lived inside a film. I lived in a garage: what could be more cinematic than a petrol station and a road? “
County Durham (sic) is home to a thousand souls. Virtually non-existent population growth has left its appearance unchanged to this day.
“The place is microscopic. As a kid I felt protected by this desolation, by living in a place with so few people. There were rumours there were huge places in the world, full of people and lights. One day I would go there. America really looked like heaven on earth. But no-one knew anything for certain. I don’t remember the first time I heard about rock’n’roll. But it probably must have been close to the jukebox, from someone older than me”.
The third album by Prefab Sprout, a thing of indescribable beauty, is called From Langley Park to Memphis. Not many people know that the CIA established its headquarters in a place called Langley Park. Even fewer know that the Langley Park mentioned by Paddy is not the one that concerns the US Secret Services, but a small half-moon made up of houses (an almost perfect semicircle, they say) near Durham.
“In England, however, everyone knows where it is, by one of these accidents of place. Bobby Robson, the coach of the national football team, was born in one of those houses. He has the characteristic growl of the inhabitants of the area and not everyone respects him because of his, so to say, somewhat rustic origins. In the Northeast we have a rough manner of speaking. More down to earth, especially if you compare it to the embellishments in more educated English. We don’t use embroidery or ornament, presumably for some ancient reason of anthropology. This nakedness is an essential component of my language. If there is, as they say, a double truth in everything, it seems inevitable to me that different systems are chosen, depending on which truth you want to bring to light and which truth you want to support when composing songs. ln “King Of Rock’n’Roll”, for example, for an English speaker there is a very clear demarcation between the phraseology of the verses, in which I have adopted a very high linguistic tone, and the chorus, “Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque” where I let myself get carried away with nonsense, throwing out words and then choosing those that guarantee the best sound and the most convincing rhythm.”
But in the end, literature sprouts from the rubble.
“I distort phonetics, because I’d rather slow down my diction. I want to recite. See, you realize that I am doing exactly the opposite of what Dylan did at the beginning, trying to squeeze five hundred words in one line of a song. My accent is difficult. I would call it hybrid, like a Neapolitan’s accent to the ears of the average Italian. You must have an educated vocabulary to compensate for this linguistic gap. On the other hand, there are the unwritten rules of songwriting. People say that sadness is the key to artistic expression. They talk so much about confession, about intimacy. But do you know how many outlets are there to the soul? A billion and a truth passes through each of them. So it might be the case that desperation becomes the only feeling you can deal with in depth, in which case positivity appears as a really stupid, less incisive reality. But is that true? I really don’t think so. It’s the combination of these elements, the sudden exchange of these positions, of these psychic acquisitions, that produce the torment the intensity comes from. To take an example: “Hey Manhattan” begins with the wide open eyes of a boy who arrives in New York from the sea, say an immigrant. His heart beats in his throat, and he thinks, “Now look at that!” I wanted the wonder, the bewilderment of a sudden experience. Then I wondered whether the second verse had to have the same tone: ‘Shall I write it today? No, tomorrow.’ And the following day the second verse came out completely different. With more cynicism. It seemed as it forty years had passed. The boy is gloomy and melancholy, he knows all about America now, knows everything about what he sees , who his heroes really were, who died and who killed them. In his eyes we see concluded the fading of those things that once seemed to him full of promise. He wonders if being American really means to believe every single day in their new deal, in the trifles about eternal youth and the most unassailable freedoms. I remember the words of Donald Fagen: he said “one day we will dream of being forever young and forever free.” The real American dream begins when the curtain has already fallen. I don’t remember much about my first contact with America. It was probably playing cowboys and Indians. But no doubt before that there was a day when I realized that petrol and Coca Cola were elements of an imagination that would become ‘American.’ It was a microcosm of the Last Picture Show. ”
That way of living, a bit “lost”, between the rigour of the Jesuits and the dust of the road, corresponds well with Bogdanovich’s black and white vision.
From classy group to an undefinable reality, Prefab Sprout are a textbook example of the magisterial “statement”. Like Steely Dan, they play few live shows. Perhaps they will end up removing any appointments with the public at all from their diaries. Besides, their songs are no longer songs. The timing that flows into their rhythms is one where heartbeats skip. An ebb and flow of epic scale, to be accepted as a whole or abandoned.
Steve McQueen laid the foundations for the concept of From Langley Park To Memphis, in which a literary maelstrom is tempered by intelligence. When you hear him talk so much about this America, it’s natural to ask the smiling pageboy who guides Prefab Sprout’s Thespian Chariot to which world he belongs. He has a habit of qualifying everything, repeatedly, choosing the best starting point, the most appropriate notation, sometimes the intonation, refining his speech until he is sure of his perfection of expression. He sings of myths with educated intensity. The Venus of the Kitchen , the female manager (how many Nancys we would want to be like that, and how many women, how many faces we would like to see turn to the sound of that name), the Disney nightingales?
“There are a lot of American references in what I do because there are many, many of them in what I think and even in the way I live. America is the pop music factory, the factory of everything that belongs to the indefinable universe of popular culture, constructed of overlapping myths . These are the things you hear from childhood and you continue to live them when you grow up, as a reflex, when your perspective is no longer the same. I’m interested in myths, in possible myths . The dimensions of the heart, the expectations that must remain expectations, like the fairy tale monsters that shouldn’t be disturbed while they sleep in their caves. Those who love a certain America, the real one, may not have any desire to live there. And perhaps no need to see it. For someone like me who comes from the province of a province, ‘the America thing’ is about romance and mystery. Not a technical strategy, but a sentimental one. And it’s better not to accelerate the contact. The dreamer ‘s labours will never coincide with those of the reporter, especially for those who don’t even know what a reporter is. These operations, musical or literary, poetic in any case, always disregard the “what really is.” If this whole world of imagination is an arbitrary thing, it will also be authentic and reassuring. To protect and, at the same time, to enjoy the benefits of the American tide, maybe even to evaporate it a bit , you have to play cleverly, but against yourself. The myth is more real. Not going there is more concrete and necessary than the mystical pilgrimage towards which Jack Kerouac was pushing us. That isn’t everybody’s America. They are lines in a given book. What really works is not looking and not finding. The proof of this is that even the quintessential American, Herman Melville, brought into existence the idea of a search in which you suffocate your self. You have to fight your whale far away from the battlefield. It’s only this way that you can take in all of the Beach Boys’ albums. I don’t want to find out that Los Angeles emerges from “Barbara Ann.” I prefer to have the right to think it could be the opposite and that surf is only a four-letter word”.
A remarkable objective. A feeling of Los Angeles is worth much more than its streetmap tucked into a backpack. You have Los Angeles on a shelf, you have its smell. A heightened realism, excluding the discriminatory principle of what is real.
“The six weeks of work we spent in Los Angeles with Thomas Dolby completing ‘King of Rock’n’Roll ‘, ‘l Remember That ‘, ‘The Venus Of The Soup Kitchen’ and ‘Knock On Wood’, were a torment . I felt I was trapped in the middle of an episode of Starsky and Hutch, though it was less dramatic and disorientating than I expected . Good or bad, it was the landscape of my dreams and I was scared. American life is a kind of special case of modern existence. I’ve thought a lot about my non-contact with America and when I got back, I realized that the strength, so to say, the competing nature of the imaginary is even more crucial than I supposed “
Thus, the musician becomes the acerbic architect of a building constructed only of scaffolding. When in “Hey Manhattan” Paddy describes the enthusiasm of the newcomer, he becomes the spokesman for eager young people glancing eagerly through the pages of their favorite book. The orchestra in the background echoes the motif of the soundtrack of A Summer Place , which gave its author, Max Steiner, enough fame to become the symbol of a “not anxious at all and not poor at all” generation.
“If people don’t want to see something, it’s time to start writing about it. It’s time for literature, art, romance. I look for the great melody, I realized while writing ‘The Venus Of The Soup Kitchen.’ I want the melody to be long, extensive, far-reaching, to have an resonance. I wanted a unanimous outcome, but also religious, not just secular. The chorus expresses for me the emotional participation of everyone listening to it. I wanted to invent a “stolen” motif for my Venus , which was not completely unknown. As in the theatre, when a musical arouses the pleasure of knowing you’re a protagonist in a single, common story. At the end of “Venus” they all take a bow, half-undressed and with their stage make-up half removed. They ask the audience to join in their singing. “Venus” sums up all my work, from the terseness of the beginning to the energy of the ending. You could say it’s like going from ‘Bonny’ to end up sleeping on the floor’. ‘Venus’ travels along the road from Langley Park to Memphis. I have imagined it full of troubled people, people who need a Venus who can cook soup for them. Melancholy has always the same colour, the darkness. Those who haven’t yet had time to find answers can join in to the beggars’ banquet of Venus .”
And so we get to the road, to the idea of the road: From somewhere deep beneath the stage, a rusty pulley system brings to the stage an old Chevrolet. It could be a set created by Magritte and updated by Jackson Browne.
“I don’t approve of Browne’s cynicism; it’s never too late, for the sky or for whatever. What is that car waiting for? Probably for an owner, hungry for the road, who wants to break the bonds of anxiety. Memphis is the hypothetical connection. It’s a hot place, but in Europe it’s remained synonymous with Elvis, the spiritual centre of Graceland. And this is my Venus. A journey that starts and ends as a prophecy. What did Joni Mitchell call it? ‘Hejira’. Here is the Hejira. Mind you, as a boy I thought that was a French word, then I discovered my ignorance. There is nothing more spiritual than the road. In the imagination there is something about it that demands a huge lyrical effort“.
There’s something terribly calm about Paddy’s voice. Over a masterful power, he lets flow the charm and the unusual magic of falsetto. The effect is stunning, inconceivably new. He breaks up the phrases, he sings with taste, stealing beats from bars that would be too traditional if they were recited at the top of his lungs. He’s a real songwriter. He allows himself to use inexpressible hoarseness, not too different from the meditated whispers of Paul Simon. Thomas Dolby’s work has purified the message expressed in Swoon. He sparked an impulse for fun. He has replaced the “urban blues” with the wild poetry of the Fairlight, with which Dolby ensures a perfect imitation of Jerry Hey’s horn sections. The brass arrangement may come through as “nonsensical”, but it is the essential seasoning to take this music to the heavens. To the absolute limit of everything. They are the pins that hold the dummy together. On the other hand you just have to listen to that “dummy” of “l Remember That ” to understand that we’re in the middle of a thousand passionate voices. Romance lies, Paddy says, in using your intuition from an opposite point of view, for life “as it is”. This means giving up rock’n’roll. The traditional image that we have jealously kept close for so long was made from rough sketches, mechanical gestures, unnecessary objects. Beating on the guitar, pushing your body back, bending your legs until almost touching the floor with your lower back, gritting your teeth and deforming your facial expression. Is this, Paddy asks himself, indispensable baggage?
“Rock and roll has hardly ever told what may happen, but what someone has decided has happened. I’ve always thought it’s the rigorous selection of positive events, which make a story and become a trend, and the negative ones, which if you experience them, you end up in hell. I have studied a method to get out of all this. On the other hand, I used to repeat to myself, ‘Rock’n’roll must be fully rejected’, But even that was a convention. The real secret is to not remove any of the key components of the culture, but to merge them. Now I want a million things all at the same time “.
The risky road of contamination. Prefab Sprout are worshipped because no one has ever focused on their essence. Those melodies that break or are cut off, which ebb and flow, which console and then confuse, are confirmation of a music that pushes simultaneously in several directions. They touch, like seagulls, an infinity of places and yet remain unchanging themselves. By this analogy, Prince, Paddy McAloon and Joni Mitchell are on the same wavelength. If genius exists, and a there is a generous, discreet way to offer it, it belongs to those who naturally tend to the fragmentation of the crucial moment. “Condition Of The Heart”, “Paprika Plains” and “Enchanted” are branches of the same tree. Giacomo Puccini used to teach that the escalation of sentiment makes sense only when the musician anticipates the end, forcing the tears and emotion to burn out.
“Love must be upsetting and impure, never completely perfect. Indeed, it only becomes perfect if not fully lived. The melody is the orderly application of a feeling that is destroyed, even if it is with infinitesimal explosive charges, such as those of ‘Nancy,’ which represent the intrusion of a black element in a white structure. The black component is necessary, but it should be tempered, it must often be reduced to a quote. One day I wondered if the voices of ‘l Remember That’ and ‘The Venus Of The Soup Kitchen’ might not be what I wanted. Thomas looked at me for two seconds, right into my eyes, and screamed: ‘Yeeaah!’ And he ran from the studio , dropping coffee on the console. We had found the key. We added the voices of Andrea Crouch & The Disciples, the gospel group that sings “Man In The Mirror.” with Michael Jackson. We always work a lot with voices. This allows us to hide the fact that we are not great instrumentalists. Bacharach said that great talent always manages to isolate a vocal melody. You’re in the car, a song comes into your head and you sing it out loud. But without instruments, you realize when it doesn’t sound right, when it doesn’t resonate with you, when it has a distorted line; it has no reason to exist on its own, it doesn’t hold. A song should have a singable motif even in isolation. It must resonate as absolute perfection”.
Paddy’s timbre is warm and intense. Once he said he wanted to be like Marvin Gaye.
“I have a strong voice, in a sense, personally, but I wish it was bolder. Maybe it’s about its reach: perhaps a wider range would allow me to be more intense. Michael McDonald has something spiritual in his voice. Perhaps because he is a white man pretending to be black, capable of reasoned depth. I wanted to be in that world, with all the things around you that you know about rhythm and blues. When we recorded the chorus of “Venus” at some point Thomas said, “Hey, guys, you’re singing too white. Christ, we’re on Broadway, people! And you Paddy, please, I want you to sound blacker. Sing blacker “. And he did an imitation of my voice, of me singing white. Well, you know what? He was right, it was necessary to imitate. Now and then we should approach others by imitating them like parrots!”
Stooping to the level of a joke, Paddy translates his highly polished controversy with the poetic Springsteen by imitating the voice of the boss in a verse of “Cars And Girls.” The offending sentence is “pretty streamers.”
“People are inclined to think that we have a bad relationship with Springsteen’s music. That’s understandable but wrong. To play with the lives of others you need to know them, maybe love them a bit. There are a few of his songs I really love. But not all: he also did a lot of bad things, much more demagogic than they might appear to his audience. However, “Cars and Girls” is ultimately a tribute to his temperament, his “bossness”. He’s a coherent guy, for what he says, and maybe for how he says it. I just wanted to point out that if we take his mythology literally there are definitely truths that do more harm than girls and cars. Springsteen is a bloody sentimentalist, like those guys who complain about their girlfriend because she neglects them but when they are in front of her they soften and talk about love. To be sentimental you must remain lucid. I imagine him as a little man made of matches, his head burning. With ideas that light up. Springsteen is a fire that warms. Lucky guy, he can also afford to make mistakes “
“Cars and Girls,” “King of Rock’n’Roll” and “The Golden Calf” (the latter dates back to 1977) are the more linear, more immediate works. You can hear again the haunting regular pendulum beat of the drums, from the bass drum to the snare, from rock’n’roll to the ballad. “Appetite” had broken step with the beat. A story of hungry hearts and heavenly lovers and vagabonds, lyrically cynical. Someone remarked that we had entered the realm of distillation.
“Rules, rules, rules. We use this word to hold on to what we have achieved. But the things that will endure are obtained by ignoring the rules. Do we know what to expect from Michael Jackson? Sure. And what does he do? What everyone expects. I think the key to it all is to drive people crazy. The distillation apparatus should be refined all the time. But this involves the sacrifice of disowning your past. It’s extremely tiresome to wander through showbusiness trying to apply the philosophy of the eternally dissatisfied. A record company will not always come with you, especially if you ask them to follow you anywhere. You may happen to want to challenge everything, you may want to aspire to something absolute, perhaps it’s childish, but it comes from inside. It’s the total excitement in the uniqueness of something, that’s the measure of “grace” or thrill. There are no rules. If I love someone else’s music, I never wonder if my passion for it comes from the words or the music. Whether it’s the style or technique that brings me close to it. It is a complex, inexplicable thing. My aspirations are slipping gradually towards the pleasure of always being something different, like Alain Robbe-Grillet said about sex. It’s movement that expresses the physical and ideological futility of the centre”.
Seemingly delicate songs are vented in a carousel of escapes, of octave leaps, of fractures. Of unattainable wonders. Or very attainable ones, if you are ready to understand what these serenades really are, and what they have inside to keep us company for so long. Something that cannot be established.
“The break of the melody continuity in a song can in fact be imagined as a revolution. The managers are increasingly caustic. They’re the observers: ‘but what have you done? Why do you stop here? And this stuff? And here, why do you resume?’ When the ear begins to get used to the bossa nova of “Horsin ‘Around”, the rhythm stops and enters the swing … “horsin’ around’s a serious business, last thing you’d want somebody to Witness” and the pizzicato bass behind . Are we understood? Maybe yes, maybe no. Of course, the surprise more often than not disturbs the listener. The melodic mobility is exhausting, but it’s the only really healthy practice. For years, we’ve always talked about the same thing. Sweet music can’t address changes in place, so you keep only a part of the audience. The rest leaves. But that’s where you see the real strength.”
In the world there are ears to listen to every format. Let’s take the change in “Nightingale” between “tell we’re too busy” and “liv’ng through” How many would push it up as much as possible, with that “liviiiiin tru?” . The Beatles taught him to love a certain detached simplicity. When he isn’t writing, Paddy is a man who listens carefully, and judges, maybe a bit too severely, the intentions of his peers’. He passionately elevates the records of the Fab Four. He bought them in his teens, between 1970 and 1973, bridging the inevitable age delay that hadn’t permitted him to be “heart and soul” at the coal face when the pick strokes were digging out the gold of Sgt. Pepper. “Then I discovered the great underrated writers, like Jimmy Webb. We’re used to consider the songwriter a man of exceptional qualities , providing he’s above average, with revealing lyrics. We imagine them to be full of explanation and certainty. Webb bends more to the limits set by the complex task of distributing your talent. Much more “down to earth”. He never bothered to play to the slightly snobbish consumer mentality as a fixture in magazines like “Rolling Stone”. Some people – like Neil Young or Bob Dylan – are better suited to enhance the reality of what’s already there. Webb’s great misfortune has been to see his songs sung by artists who relegated them to “middle of the road” songs. He is one of the great, underrated songwriters. Damn, I wanted to write “Wichita Lament” [sic] myself. And Webb is not alone. Even Paul McCartney if you think about it. I think he has a far greater worth than he’s given credit for. But does the world know what this man wrote? They said that John Lennon was the rock ‘n’ roll, and so Paul was left with the crumbs. Maybe someday I’ll sing something by the Beatles. I hope to succeed in playing their music like Ray Charles does with ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘The Long And Winding Road’”
In ten minutes Paddy delineates a frightful scenario of the “underrated”. As if in his spare time he did nothing but list the most unfortunate artists in the history of pop music.
“Errors of planning. And Burt Bacharach is the most typical example. Despite having sold millions of albums no one considers him a seminal artist. Even though you can play any record and you’re very likely to find one of his songs, albeit sometimes badly done. In America, people have forgotten the past. In Los Angeles, in recording studios, artists like Bacharach are barely remembered: “ah, that musician who…” and Jimmy Webb “maybe that singer-songwriter of the sixties who …’ They have their minds stuck on Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop.”
Stevie Wonder’s harmonica, flying with the “Nightingales”, plays an Argentinian tango. Like Astor Piazzolla’s accordion, it seeks the feeling “que se baila” (“which you can dance to”) within which it’s no longer possible to isolate the desire to live and to remember. “The accordion is an instrument whose sounds are full of anxiety. It’s the tool of the Parisian existentialists. I wanted that sound and Stevie played four phrases, two upper and two lower. Thus, the modulation had the whole range of the accordion, the treble and the bass. It’s the song in which I tried with more passion to achieve the goal of simplicity, of essentiality. It may seem silly or hippyish, but every time I see a cow being milked I find myself enjoying the scene thinking about the fact that if it weren’t for the cow there could be no milk. The musician then wonders if by chance life is not his song, and lovers feel that, because of their union, they were meant to sing together, to search for that perfection that philosophy identifies with unison”
Many of the songs of From Langley Park To Memphis were written in the aftermath of Steve McQueen. They spoke of finished, pathetic, half shipwrecked heroes ,which are a little mocked, as Springsteen’s “Cars And Girls”, or watched with tenderness as the fierce forty-year-old of “King of Rock’n’Roll”. An invitation to savour your old age with less nervousness. The “King” is a wrinkled star who doesn’t want to give up.
“I thought about the insecurities of the successful in their twilight. I always think of the gestures fifty year olds with their forces declining make on stage. Gary Glitter had to hide his physical degradation. He moves with great embarrassment, but he retains a certain charisma. I imagined Elvis hiding in a hotel in Las Vegas, waiting until his nervous sweating stopped. In the evening he went on stage, bloated, singing the songs of twenty years before. In front of the stage there was a buzzing of nostalgia. The star says, “Now, a new song …”, but people want the relics, they want to hear “That’s Alright Mama.” And he’s about to die. Absurd. Beautiful. Mick Jagger and John Lennon at thirty marvelled publicly that they still were considered as rock’n’roll stars. Now that is taken for granted. The problem is for anyone older than ten or fifteen”. On the periphery of knowing the essence of things. The “controversy” related to Protest Songs surfaces again- that half self-managed and half-aborted project that should have been published a few months after Steve McQueen, as yet another reaction to the emotional torment of the album of BSA.
“Michael Brauer is looking at everything again. But it’s a rough album which I wanted to see in the stores in the summer of 1985. I needed to clear the decks. They’re not political songs, but only descriptions and scenes of life in the north, where life isn’t easy. Everything, however, is very “homey”, very domestic ”
He’s currently working on the soundtrack of a film called Zorro The Fox. “I’m rebelling at the ethos of the poetic songwriter who has to be intimate and reserved. I want sounds, sounds everywhere, absolute sound. I need strings. The sound of the cinema. Only when I’m playful do I feel the proof that I am alive. Most songwriters have forgotten the popular roots they came from. The name of Stephen Foster doesn’t mean anything to anyone. But he wrote seminal works like “Oh, Susanna,” or “Little Jeannie”. The modern songwriter is the link between the public and the popular art, but they often forget that. When music was made in a less commercial sphere, the technique was never separated from the simplicity of the message. The inspiration of Foster was transferred to the musical, and was captured by Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Sondheim. Foster was the archetypal cursed artist of modern America: he died poor without having received any benefit from knowing how to translate into songs the truth of the things he saw going on around him On the other hand, it’s now increasingly difficult to determine what is modern and what is not. Many people think theatres are a symbol of an outdated culture. And a theatre ticket is more expensive than Star Wars. Yet the musical is a cross between a rock concert and a good novel. “
Paddy explains what a good novel is before he’s even asked the question: “The Great Gatsby. In terms of contemporary writers, I follow Paul Auster, author of The New York Trilogy. Stephen Sondheim declared that he was obsessed with ambiguity and he took this to the stage, this innate, rooted uncertainty. He became the spokesman for an imperfect world. Fitzgerald wrote about the glamorous Gatsby but only to sing about the end of a world for which we could do nothing but contemplate the decay. Here, again, the ambiguity. Fitzgerald, Sondheim and any good songwriter are in the same situation: they’re men invited to a party who can, while they dance, step outside themselves and observe, to enjoy the party with their nose flattened against the window. People developing a double consciousness. To live but at the same time to comment.”
A lot has changed since the time of “Cruel”. The world has turned upside down. Strangely though, it hasn’t tipped over completely. Prefab Sprout are traveling so fast that they don’t even have time to buy themselves a beer on the way. The loving effort of singing their songs aloud is a constant reaffirmation. Just one more comma and we could catch our breath. We’re experiencing that rare and wonderful thing called exuberance, which resembles beauty. The mechanic’s son offers the hint of a smile, which comes out crooked. He meant to explain about the grace of Bonny, who decided not to leave home.