“My voice is the only part of me that hasn’t aged”
Even when he’s going for a walk or shopping, Paddy McAloon is always thinking about music.
On October 4, Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout released his new album “Crimson/Red”. In this interview he talks of his days in the English provinces, of songs stored in dusty boxes, his fear of not being good enough, and his daughters.
Between 400 and 1,000 unreleased songs, according to Paddy McAloon’s rough estimate, lie sleeping in his house in the English countryside. Every now and then the only remaining member of Prefab Sprout opens one or other of the boxes and peers inside, critically. “If I have a song that I’ve finished, I’ll leave it to the time that passes to decide whether it’s any good,” he explains. “It might take a few months, it might be ten years.” A good example of this is the 2009 album “Let ‘s Change The World With Music”, written in 1992 and 1993 with which McAloon emerged once again after years of hermit-like existence. Last Spring, when ten previously unknown songs slipped like phantoms onto the Internet under the title Crimson/Red”, the whole world wondered not only whether it was a new Prefab Sprout album, but also how old the songs were, leaked as they were against McAloon’s wishes.
On October 4, “Crimson/Red” will be officially released, and the 56 year-old who appears in the most recent set of photographs as a grey-bearded artist, with frock coat and carrying a walking stick, sounds as soft and voluptuous as the young man in the 80s with million selling records; who was thanks to albums like “Steve McQueen” and hits like “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” England’s most important pop songwriter.
He selected the songs only a year ago. McAloon is clear however that although he can no longer see well, and has problems with his hearing, his voice was still in good order: “My voice is the only part of me that hasn’t aged. And I’m very happy about that.”
This man with a youthful voice is also happy that he can continue to make music, even if he can’t play live any more because of his health problems. Music is still the determining factor of his life. As Paddy McAloon describes a typical weekday, you start to doubt that there are only 1000 songs gathering dust in his home in County Durham. It must surely be many more. As soon as his wife has left the house in the morning with their three teenage daughters, he begins to brood over his songs. He composes , muses , discards and rummages again. “My working day is very long,” he says. Actually, he works all the time, but every now and then he’ll take time for a walk. “I’ve just completed a song,” he says. “I hope I’ll record a new album very soon.” He doesn’t know how much time will pass before that happens: “The songs are much more gentler than on ‘Crimson/Red’ I’m afraid people will be disappointed… ”
It’s good that “Crimson/Red” has been subjected to McAloon’s strict quality control. On the album be proves he’s still a relentlessly good composer, as well as being the grandiose storyteller of old. Almost all of the songs deal with songwriters. “I wish I had another topic I could write about.” he says. But he hasn’t. And so the Jewel Thief of the opener, “The Best Jewel Thief In The World”, is symbolic of the songwriter, sitting with self-doubt in front of a blank sheet, yet arrogant, because he must be. In “The Songs Of Danny Galway” McAloon tells of a meeting with his childhood hero Jimmy Webb. And “Mysterious” is a short biography of the Bob Dylan of the 60s.
For a spiritual man such as Paddy McAloon, only occasionally does real life intervene. “Adolescence”, written ten years ago and then abandoned in the archives, was woken from its slumber because the father of three realised it was now the right time for it: “It’s about the time when you feel insecure and want to be lost in the crowd, a time when you feel afflicted with joy and morosity and swing back and forwards between them,” he says. “Last year I pulled the song from a box and looked at it. Since then I decided to dedicate it to my daughters .”
Let’s see what more of his remaining oddities he conjures up next from his dusty store.