PADDY McALOON has ditched Steve McQueen, he’s into Miles Davis now…
Paddy McAloon’s last high-profile contribution to the world was ‘A Life Of Surprises‘, the 1992 Prefab Sprout retrospective whose sleeve notes – written by Paddy himself – were couched in a noticeable air of finality.
Since then, he’s been hibernating in Consett, County Durham, composing scores of songs for dozens of conceptual projects. In the course of a 15 minute telephone conversation, he speaks about them with an enthusiasm that’s startling.
“Well,” he begins. “I’ve accumulated a number of albums. with different titles, about different things…”
“OK. God knows when it’ll see the light of day, but one of them’s called ‘Behind The Veil’ and it’s about a black singer who was a child star who grew old and changed his face and sold billions of records — so it’s about someone not a million miles removed from another artist. And I have another LP called ‘Total Snow’, which is a Christmas album. There’s also an album called ‘Knights In Armour’, which is very romantic.
“And I have an album called ‘Let’s Change The World With Music’; lots of songs about music, playing on that horrible thing where you listen to a song like ‘We Are The World’ and the sentiment is great but it’s such a cliché that it sticks in your throat. It plays on that edge between that kind of thing and real sincerity. And the big one, what I’ve been working on for the last two or three years, is an LP called ‘Earth: The Story So Far’.”
Gulp. Elaborate, please…
“Well. in pop song form, it’s a history of the world, drawing parallels between different characters. It’s not nearly as progressive as it sounds, not nearly as pompous. I hope that it’s very moving.
“For example, I take the idea, for dramatic purposes, of when Adam and Eve meet each other. I‘ve got a love song about that. And however many years later, when another couple comes along, like John Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, I use the same music and the same chorus, but it’s gone through a billion revolutions since then.
“And some of it is a bit more fun. Some things are drawing parallels between people who were adventurers, and who were mocked for it – like Columbus and Picasso. It all looks a bit serious but I think it swings along…”
It‘s ‘Earth’ that’ll be the next Prefab Sprout album. Paddy knows it sounds ludicrously ostentatious, and it’s bound to be light years away from any of music’s governing fashions, but he says that being out of phase has always been an integral part of his art.
“I think you can made a virtue out of it.” he says. “Actually. I’ll tell you one thing that made me laugh. I think it was in NME. It said, ‘It’s hard to believe that Madchester was happening when ‘Jordan: The Comeback’ was out’. When I was promoting that record, everyone was eternally asking me what I thought of Happy Mondays. And I suppose I’ll have to go through that again when we surface. whatever the new thing will be…”
Has he made any effort to keep up?
“Not really. I’m a stranger to it. I’ve bought a lot of things from areas that I was ignorant of. I’ve bought records by Miles Davis and Sun Ra. and a lot of classical music. There are odd things that impress me, but they’re far away from what I do. I quite like the Stereo MC’s, actually.”
To ensure that he can afford to continue composing at his own measured pace. Paddy has been writing for other people – most notably – Jimmy Nail, with whom he appeared on Top Of The Pops. looking rather like an English Grizzly Adams. The motivation, partly founded on his interest in the idea of the reclusive aesthete writing songs for the Geordie bruiser. was also ﬁnancial.
“The thing is.” he muses. “I don’t get paid. I’m under contract to Sony, and I’m going for a meeting with the head of the company next week, but it’s been years since I actually dealt with anyone. You know, I did Top Of The Pops with Jimmy, and apparently they were passing round videos at Sony. saying, ‘That’s what he looks like’.”
Some last questions, anyway. When does he foresee ‘Earth: The Story So Far’ being released?
“Heheheheheh! Some time before the next century! I’m hoping it might be out next year.”
And what’s he doing for the rest of the day?
“I’m seeing Wendy (Fellow Sprout and ex-girlfriend – Prefab Ed). I haven’t seen her in ages. She‘s coming over, and I’ll play her a couple of things I’ve been doing. And I‘m working on a song called ‘Columbus Dreamed America’.”
With that, he bids a breathless farewell and goes back to his studio.