Paddy McAloon – among the best By BRUCE CLARK
PADDY McALOON would never think of changing his name. He called his band Prefab Spout and he would never think of changing that either. Neither rolls off the tongue, but to Paddy it doesn’t matter. With a rare enthusiasm, he loves music and yearns to write songs. Prefab Sprout’s CBS album Steve McQueen is my favorite long player this year – Paddy McAloon the most likable chap in pop I have talked to.
The telephone line to Paddy’s home in Concert (sic), Newcastle, last Wednesday night was crisp. His voice, quiet but confident. The tone, enthusiastic. “I really am suprised to be talking to someone in Australia. Surprised but thrilled,” Paddy swoons passionately.
Prefab Sprout have featured in this column recently. It is no error that they feature again. Steve McQueen deserves the recognition, but it is not that for which Paddy strives. “The recognition is nice after so many years without it, but I would still be writing songs and playing music otherwise. Many times now I get embarrassed about being recognised personally. It’s not an ego thing, I don’t want to be analysed, but it definitely won’t affect me,” says Paddy.
Paddy longs to tour Australia. Next year, he thinks. The rest of 1985 will be taken up with an English tour and then there are talks of America, but Australia is high on the McAloon priority list.
As a songwriter, McAloon is prolific and with few peers. His deft skill with the English language is enviable, but moreover, refreshing in a pop world riddled with fads, fashion and insincerity. “I want to set the fads, change the fashions. Not with what I wear or what I look like but with words and music. I don’t listen to contemporary music because of the influences of fads and fashion. I am able to escape that falseness that besets pop bands and face things honestly.”
His greatest influences: Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David. “They didn’t conform to the fads of songwriting around them at the times. They did what they believed in and all were successful. I admire and respect them.”
Concert, Newcastle, is a quiet place, a place that keeps Paddy sane, a place where Paddy escapes the pop world he has been embroiled in. As a youngster Paddy had his sights set on a band. His mother played the piano, his father knew two songs on the guitar. Paddy taught himself. Younger brother Martin, Sprout’s bassist, belted away on a set of cardboard boxes. It was the birth of the Sprouts.
“We only played around Newcastle for the first few years. Our only trip outside of home was to a friend’s party in London. We recorded our first album Swoon, very quickly and very cheaply for an independent company who sold the licence to CBS and that’s when it all started.”
Paddy reckons he has enough songs for the next four albums, but he is undeterred. He keeps writing. There is nothing else he would do. “I know it might sound silly, but I really do love music, love playing and love writing.”
Silly – with a name like Paddy McAloon and Prefab Sprout, how could it sound silly? “I want to know that I have tried. To look back when I am older and think: “Well, was I any good?” ”
Not just any good, Paddy. Among the best.