Sproutology Review of the Year – 2017

There’s something about the turn of the year that makes you feel the passage of time more acutely.

Maybe it’s also that there’s a period of pause over the Christmas period, and you can’t help reflect on the shadows of Christmas past, and how the delight and eager expectation you have as a child naturally fades over the years into nostalgia and bittersweet yearnings for who and what has been lost, and for what never came to fruition.

I feel that all the more acutely myself because I have a toddler, and there are more than 50 years between our respective ages. I look at him, and I know I’ll be one of the shadows of his past sooner rather than later. And that the years ahead are short, and that I’m not the thirty-something my imagination and ego tells me I am. I’m slowing down. I’m probably not the only one.

In June, it will be five years since “Crimson/Red” leaked. And we’re all gathered on the foothills of the volcano, sensing for little vibrations in the rock underfoot that might lead us to believe there is another spectacular eruption due. And just maybe, that is happening. And maybe it isn’t. Who knows which of expectation or nostalgia will hold sway?

At the end of 2016, I was of the opinion that I had maybe a month’s material left to post, and that Sproutology would start fading away, as this sort of site always does in the end. I still think precisely the same today. But what saved me then for a while was the riches of the Japanese fan community and the very many interviews that had sat ignored for want of translation. Initially I documented Paddy’s 1999 visit to Japan, but during the holidays I devised a system of scanning, correcting, and translating printed articles – mostly automatic but using real translators for the tricky bits – and the year has been pretty much marked by a succession of these. For me, the highlight was the encounter between Paddy and the authorĀ Banana Yoshimoto. I think it’s a unique piece, and I took extraordinary care in the translation of it.

However close I feel to the precipice of running out of material, something always seems to turn up.

There have been rumours throughout the year about what Paddy is doing. I’ve heard from what I would categorise as reliable sources that he’s signed up to a PR agency, that he has a two album deal with a major label, that “I Trawl the Megahertz” is definitely being released in “all formats”, and that something is happening with Spike and Cinque Lee that is far more than what eventually emerged in “She’s Gotta Have It”. There are, in short, rumblings underfoot. But as yet little that is tangible.

But then again, there has also been music. I was returning from a trip to China in March when “America” emerged – an unprecedented video of Paddy singing a protest song about Trump. I remember trying to get onto the wifi on the train back from the B & C gates at Heathrow and hoping someone had been able to grab it before it was pulled (which I thought was inevitable). But it’s still there, still sanctioned, almost as if he’s trying to maintain a public profile. Now the spoilsport in me says that it’s a slight and rather hackneyed song, tuneful, but not a patch (for example) on Duke Special and Boo Hewerdine’s “Spiritual America”. All the same you can’t deny the wonder of it being there at all. For a time it felt like the magma plug was just about to blow. It didn’t.

All went quiet, but there’s never one thing without several, and out of the blue, I was contacted by the wonderful Jane P who had a stash of off air video recordings from the late 1980s. I vividly remember receiving the package of videos and putting one of the tapes onto my S-VHS rig. It was suffering a bit from the effects of age and started out almost unplayable because of loose oxide on the tape, but with a bit of care and careful cleaning and recleaning of the heads, the resulting material was extremely good quality and was a bit like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls carefully hidden in a holy grail or two. My favourite part of this has to be “Nightingales” from “Daytime Live”, which I had long searched for, but it was a wonderful stash and quite my favourite discovery of the year.

And around the same time, when I thought things couldn’t get any more exciting at all, I was contacted by someone from the Rod Stewart fan club asking about a Paddy song Rod has slated to record, “Who Designed the Snowflake”. Which of course is part of the so far abortive “Total Snow” Christmas Album.

You need things like that to keep your enthusiasm going. But they are fewer and further between than ever, and towards the end of the year I was coming back to the idea from the previous year that I would be winding down the site pretty much. I have about ten interviews and translations left to post, very little incoming news, and had been travelling a bit – this will be continuing next year – so was feeling less and less compelled to make updates.

On one of my trips – to Toronto – I was at Niagra by the Lake when I got a DM from Bjorn W telling me that “Who Designed the Snowflake” had been included in Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It”. I got drenched at the falls, and then repaired to a Starbucks in a local hotel to use the wifi to try and hear it, which I more or less managed. When I got back to the UK I did a little work to extract the song from the spoken dialogue, and it’s a tantalising hint of what might yet be.

I feel that 2018 is the year where something must happen or nothing ever will again. Paddy does seem to be putting his head over the parapet a little bit – he had very surprisingly attended a London industry bash a couple of weeks before the Spike Lee broadcast. So as we sit at the hinge of the years, I’m unsure whether I’m a child in the glow of expectation or a jaded old man looking back with regrets.

But hope springs eternal. Happy New Year.


3 thoughts

  1. Lovely comments Tim. Can I be the first to thank ypu for your continuous work on our behalf. You are the ultimate disciple of Paddy’s music and you never, and I mean never cease to amaze me with your wonderful posts. We’re so grateful of all the work you do “between work” and I do hope you’ll continue to amaze us. Im sure you’ve songs that we’ve never heard (you probably just dont realise it) or interviews or articles we havent seen or read yet. Keep up the great work and to you and your (faron) young family have a wonderful 2018 and I plead with all members in this group, in your homour “tonight let’s raise a glass or two”.

  2. Dear “good taste” men

    I’m from Paris and even if Prefab Sprout seems to be forgotten here, i’ always kept the flame for one of my all times favourite music creator, just like you apparently.

    I like the children’s eyes and heart that remained in your body.
    I’m 52 and i feel 30 just like you, but when it deals with the discovery of a new PS tune , i become 18 even.
    I remember in 92 the best of cd announcing a new record to come soon ( paddy’s words in the sleeve ) and how happy i was for it, when in the end we only talk about songs.
    But i remember too how much i’ve been disapointed since then, waiting and waiting for not much in the end.
    I understand his health problems, of course, but then why always talking about his creative diarea on writing new songs and non releasing any ? What about this santa klaus look he got ? what for ?
    He’s like a doctor able to heal with his medecine songs and keeps on staying in his lab experimenting instead of spreading flowers and honey for the soul ! To me there’s a psychiatric problem in his head , if you can make nice things , why don’t you share them ? Picasso too was painting a lot an he was selling and exposing a lot, that’s the logic behind a creative gift given no ?
    I’m angry with Paddy, i waited too long for a real album to come ( i mean with a real producer and not warmed up demos ) , why don’t he gives his material to Dolby or any other he might like an gives a little trust to them ?? The output will always be better that ….silence.
    He has a family to support too, why don’t he works for them too and stop for a while writting and rewritting, instead of looking more and more like a tramp wandering in the city ??
    In fact , i would like to remeet the 30 years old Paddy’s spirit that enchanted me so much at the time, but the others too ( i like Neil’s beat that missed on the 3 last albums ).
    Like a kid i want to believe in santa klaus again, and getting taken away by discovering his new songs by surprise on the radio, but at this stage i prefer not to wait for….unless ?

    cheers and all the best for this new year !!


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