There are certain concert recordings that really stand out in my memory. This can be for many reasons: sometimes its because of the quality of the recording or the performance; sometimes it’s because of a lucky chance that dropped them into my lap. This particular one is special to me simply because of how unbelievably difficult it was to track down. A real study in dogged persistence.
When I started collecting Sprout bootlegs, there was a well defined canon of recordings. These were tricky to track down, but eventually you do tick them off the list, and you never quite feel you’re breaking new ground. The real excitement comes when somehow you locate something that wasn’t on the list, and every now and so again I google permutations of venue names and dates to see if somehow I’ve missed something. Invariably nothing turns up.
And so it was I googled something one day in May 2011, and it came up with this site, listing a 71 minute audience tape of Rouen Exo 7. And a fantastically exciting moment that was.
But that link was all I had, and as you can see if you look at it, it has absolutely no useful contact information and it’s hosted on an obsolete ISP. And so began a 6 month process of searching. I looked at archive.org for later versions of the site, I tried to email other users of the ISP to see what had happened to it. I checked Usenet archives, I searched for permutations of usernames and crossed off possibilities. The guy seemed to like Muse so I joined Muse forums and asked. And eventually, having drawn a complete blank, I contacted everyone I could find anywhere who had ever posted a recording of a gig at Rouen. Systematic carpet bombing.
Finally in November, I hit paydirt via a user at Dimeadozen: “Hello, it seems you are lucky: some friends of mine recorded this show in our town. it may take a few weeks/months before I get this show, but it’s on the way !”. In the event. it was actually to be February the next year before it turned up.
But very much worth the wait it was. A really great audience recording credited to “Pat and Fred”, the only Prefab Sprout concert recording I know of made in France. There’s a great bit in “Cars and Girls” where a blast of feedback causes Paddy to exclaim “fuckin’ hell” as if electrocuted (maybe he was?), some dodgy French, a little made up song during a guitar change exhorting the crowd to move forward, and although in general even if Indiana Jones has taught us that Holy Grails are simple artisan vessels, this one was a bit of a jewel encrusted wonder.
This performance followed the Alabamahalle Concert by a few days, and the set had changed slightly from the UK tour, omitting “Horsechimes”. Exo-7 is a play on “Exocet”, and a few years after the Falklands war was maybe a bit of a perfidious French dig at things English.
But we’ll forgive them for having had the foresight to record the concert for our listening pleasure…