I thought it might be interesting to do a top ten list of Prefab Sprout collectibles as we move into what is hopefully going to be a period of Sprout activity in 2019, and interest in the band increases.
The items I’ll feature are those that had a reasonable level of production and aren’t impossible to find, though as we go further up the list it becomes quite challenging. Now there are obviously desirable items that are one-offs or stupendously rare – the 1985 Protest Songs test pressing being a good example – but getting those is really a question of keeping your eyes open, and thereby being in the right place at the right time, and it’s not something you can just tick off a list.
But I think all of the items I’m going to list are interesting and have a story to tell. If you buy one, or have it already, why not check in below in the comments section?
So let’s start with something fairly easy to get hold of, but nonetheless pretty significant in the history of the band. This is the original version of “The Devil Has All the Best Tunes” with “Walk On” as the B-Side, released in October 1983, just at the point at which the band had taken “Swoon” to CBS and been signed. So originally it was a Kitchenware production, and the early posters have it as being distributed by “Rough Trade and The Cartel”.
To quote from Wikipedia:
“The architect of the Cartel was Richard Scott of London’s Rough Trade.
“Tony Kostrzewa (always known as “Tony K”) of York’s Red Rhino label, who had a long career in music retail and publishing, had started Red Rhino as a record shop in 1977, then made its first release as a label in 1979. By this time Rough Trade were already operating as a distributor which included supplying Red Rhino’s shop. Tony became the General Manager of the Cartel, amongst his vast number of other projects.
“The Cartel regional distribution structure included Backs (Norwich), Fast Forward (Edinburgh), Nine Mile (Leamington Spa), Probe (Liverpool), Revolver (Bristol), Red Rhino (York) and Rough Trade (London), together with Jungle Records (London) who supplied the nationwide Our Price Records chain until 1986.”
I always think this single is overlooked in comparison to “Lions”. For one thing, it’s a great single, and “Walk On” is a classic. But in the historical context of Kitchenware and Prefab Sprout it’s very significant as being the first truly collaborative production. Kitchenware repackaged “Lions” of course, but this was the first real fruit from the relationship. And East Orange designing the sleeve, so all the classic early elements are there. There was even a promotional badge and T-shirt.
The single was mastered by the French company, Mayking, which is handy because there are two pressings of the commercial release and until I saw that I had no idea which was the first pressing as there is no indication on the sleeve or labels. The first pressing can be identified because it has “mpo” scratched into the run-off area (and I believe has a card rather than paper sleeve).
There was a later release, I believe only issued as part of a double pack with “When Love Breaks Down”, which was re-cut, presumably by CBS. I believe this had a paper sleeve rather than card, and has a wider run-off area than the earlier pressing. Both pressings have “SK7 A1/SK7 B1” in the run-off area, so you’re looking for “mpo” for an early one. The double pack was usually split, so you find quite a lot of the later pressings around.
Expect to pay anything up to £10 for a good copy. As this is reasonably common, it’s worth looking for “mint” or “near mint” and paying a little extra.