Elephant Fayre, Port Eliot Estate: July 27-29th, 1984

“Now that camp was precariously but expediently established we finally went off to explore the festival grounds. I was particularly keen to see a new and promising band called Prefab Sprout who’s album ‘Swoon’ I’d been playing non-stop since seeing them earlier in the year at a local gig in Brunel University’s Union Bar.

“The Sprout’s set was very impressive and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest by my second exposure to their quirky and loose live sound, even making allowances for Paddy McAloon’s and Wendy Smith’s shaky vocals in this less than intimate of environments. Frequent listening to their recent album had already proven to me that they were more of a force to be reckoned with in the studio anyhow, and that the real gems in their repertoire lay in the sublime eloquence and outstanding poetry of McAloon’s lyrics. With lines like “Words are only trains, for moving past what really has no name” and “Man made the neon and he learned how to fly, but God made the stars when he fashioned the sky” he’d caught my imagination in a way very few other songwriters could.

“Prefab Sprout were on early I remember, probably Friday night headliners. We’d just arrived after a marathon overnight hitchhike, which took up most of Friday and I was very tired. The Sprouts were my main reason for going to the Elephant Fair though, so I was determined to see them at all costs. They actually played really well, a short set of about 35-40 minutes but they seemed to lack confidence. Either the on-stage sound wasn’t right or they were nervous because I remember the vocals were a little shaky, especially Wendy’s backing vocals. The songs were all from the album Swoon except Lions in My Own Garden and Cherry Tree which I distinctly remember because I didn’t hear it again until very recently. Despite playing well they didn’t go down too well with the festival crowd though, who didn’t quite know what to make of them. They were very quirky for those post-punk times. Something which attracted me to them but may also have had the opposite effect on other ‘less adventurous’ types.”

Rudi Somerlove (from his excellent blog )


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