It’s no real revelation to say that this year is the year Sproutology started looking Eastwards for interesting material, and more specificallym to Japan. There are rich pickings for the likely lad armed with the latest OCR software, Google translate, and a desire to transcend bizarre and often highly amusing linguistic constructions in search of whatever grockenspeeds there may be lurking within.
And having looked at the early Sprout internet footprint in the West in the very early days of the site, it’s not unreasonable to do a similar scan of the early Japanese internet. I’ve passed the links by way of Google translate for simplicity.
The most important of the early sites was “Looking for Prefab Sprout”. Not specifically for content – although there is good content – but more in terms of it being the central space where the fans shared information. Given the difficulties the site owner faced at the site inception in early 1998 – early internet with low bandwidth (remember this was the era when the 14k4 modem was king), very little Japanese language content available anywhere, and no online editing of content, this is a remarkable effort. Sneeze, who can be identified as Kazumasa Miyako (宮子和眞) diligently translated English articles and linked to them, as well as maintaining a very early forum by repurposing the site guestbook, with entries sent via an online questionnaire. That – reasonably active until about 2002 – is an absolute goldmine, explaining for example the history of the legendary “Hidden Sprout” compilation, which is a story I’ll probably return to. Strip away the barrier of language and the Japanese fans are much the same as Sprout fans anywhere else – surprised to meet others who know the band, discussing releases and rumours and exchanging lists of their favourite songs and other snippets of information.
I would love to hear from 宮子和眞 or anyone who knows him/her.
Linked to from Sneeze’s site is another great early HP (or home page), “Mr Hisa’s HP”. This is sadly defunct except via archive.org, and the graphics and downloadable audio isn’t available. But it’s another hugely enjoyable site, with a lot of information – and incidentally was the source of the main account behind the Shibuya post recently, The links section is interesting in that it contains an article on what “serving dogs” make of Prefab Sprout (the link is broken, which is a shame), and a route to an early version of an early incarnation of Juli Goins-MacLean’s website. I also enjoyed the comment on the “Wendy Smith Webcorner” link: “Sugoi maniac site. It is a hat off too much maniac.” (you can’t deny it, Miranda…). All in all a lovely, well researched site, and in lovely unreconstructed noughties home page colours.
And the last set of links brings us more or less up to date. It’s a little more difficult to follow than the other sites, because actually it’s a set of connected threads on various incarnations of a bulletin board. It covers the period roughly between 2002 and 2014 and is general Prefab Sprout chat, with a lot of coverage of “I Trawl the Megahertz” as well as a lovely sub-thread (part 2 message 78 et seq) where Japanese fans express surprise at the state of Paddy’s teeth, lamenting that dental hygiene is not something the British take very seriously….
Should you fancy exploring further yourself, there are two key strings to bear in mind for searches: “プリファブ・スプラウト” is Prefab Sprout; パディ・マクアルーン is “Paddy McCullen” which is about as close as Japanese phonetics can get. It’s a lot of fun, and plenty still to discover I’m sure.