Don’t be fooled by the name By BRUCE CLARK
(appears to be a composite of other interviews by other people)
PREFAB SPROUT is the most unlikely name for a pop group. Steve McQueen is a most unlikely name for a pop group’s second long-playing album. Paddy McAloon is the name of the most unlikely sort of chap to be hailed as pop’s new hero. McAloon, bearded and impressionable, is the lead singer, guitarist and ace songsmith of Prefab Sprout.
A native Newcastle, England, band, they took their name from the line in an old song which he had misheard. They could have been called peppered Sprout. Their debut album Swoon was released to critical acclaim in native England on Kitchenware Records label. Steve McQueen, the title, came out of the blue, and draws on material from McAloon’s catalogue of songs dating back to 1978.
Steve McQueen is a fine record album. It will take only one listen to be convinced that all the talk, all the hype, about Prefab Sprout is true. Elvis Costello has hailed them as the band to watch in ’85. Judging by Steve McQueen, they don’t need watching, just listening. McAloon is one of the best lyricists in pop music.
“You’ve got to create cliches haven’t you? Imagine being able to do that _ to do something that is regarded as the perfect capsule of an idea, the form you’ve put it in, the general tone,” McAloon thinks.
“I’m a real perfectionist. I’m neurotic about things, but I want to be a great writer and make great records. There’s been a hundred years of bad love song writing, so you’ve got to aim for something that makes you shiver. The trouble with people like Barry Manilow is that you know they don’t mean it. Every line is a cliche,” McAloon says.
McAloon formed Prefab Sprout with his brother Martin. Ever since he was 14 he dreamt of being in a band. “It’s like a childhood thing which has grown. Me and Martin used to sit strumming our guitars and think . . . One day we’ll have the Sprouts . . . At the time bands had really odd names. They were called things like Electric Prunes, Moby Grape, which you thought must mean something, they sounded dead profound.”
But don’t be fooled by the name. Prefab Sprout is a bright light on pop’s dreary and colorless horizon.
“Most people are too bloody stupid to know that you can think and that doesn’t take the heart out of you. I’d love to have a string of No. 1 hits but I couldn’t do it if it was at the expense of my writing. You can do so much in three minutes with a good tune, though, you don’t have to bland out. The charts are crammed with people who just don’t try, who always take the easy way out.
“I say I wouldn’t write a “political’ song, but I’ve written loads of political songs, but in a way that I hope is useful. It isn’t journalism. Journalism is one thing, but a song is something else.
“There’s a higher purpose for a song. As soon as you refer to real life and emotion you’re political, unless you’re talking about some idealised emotion, some sanitised Lionel Richie type emotion.”
McAloon is a genuinely concerned young musician. He is genuinely inspired young musician. He has a genuine hope for his music and his future.
“People probably think I’m a muso because my concerns are musical. I would like to be a muso, but I just know I draw on other things in the pop world to make pop records.
“When I’m at home that’s all I do. I just work all the time. I’m not really paced, I don’t take much fresh air or things like that. But I love it. I go to bed and I’m so excited that I want to get up straight away. I’m not a particularly good Catholic, but every night I’m really grateful I’m doing something I love. I just get so bloody thrilled, you know.”
New Musical Express’ Mat Snow said of Steve McQueen: “Not only is it the album of the year, but also some of the most rewarding and beautiful music ever to be laid down in the name of pop.” So sprouts Paddy McAloon – a hope for the future of pop. Steve McQueen is an exciting album and Prefab Sprout is definitely a most exciting band.