THE MAN FROM ATLANTIS
In the turbulent seas of pop, Paddy McAloon has re-surfaced as a great songwriting talent. With their new single, ‘Looking For Atlantis”, PREFAB SPROUT look like netting one of their rare major hits. Nick Duerden dives in to find out why
After four albums spanning eight years of intelligently crafted pop songs, Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAIoon has come to be regarded in some circles as the finest British songwriter since Lennon & McCartney.
“Well, I’m OK, I’m alright,” he says, “and while it’s a lovely thing to say about me, it’s really a bit ludicrous. I have written some great songs, but I’m not a genius like they were.”
With such a reputation before them, Prefab Sprout are about to release their filth album entitled ‘Jordan: The Comeback’. A masterly collection of 19 richly emotive songs, it will doubtless be hailed as their finest yet. Included is the new single, ‘Looking For Atlantis’, and several more tracks that yearn for seven-inch release. So perhaps ‘Jordan’ will also provide that rare event for the Sprouts — a hit single. Though their LPs have been successful, 19 tracks could be described as a somewhat ambitious affair?
“Well, I didn’t start out with writing some great epic in mind,” Paddy explains. “See, I sometimes get these schemes and I have to push them as far as I can. This record has a wide range of moods, but all the songs are on similar themes, so they all got grouped together. If you’ve got something on your mind that you want to write about from several different angles, then it’s better to put it all on one record, than on two separate ones.“
Loosely speaking, the themes play upon the idea of having your time again — wishing you did things differently given the chance,” he says.
“The title track deals with the idea that Elvis Presley is still alive and living somewhere in Las Vegas. He’s in hiding, just waiting for the right song -to come around to re-launch himself. He feels he made a complete hash of things first time round, and he’s waiting to put it all right. “I’m a big fan of Elvis, but contrary to most, I prefer his more decadent, older stuff. It was the first time he dabbled in gospel music and l think that’s what he really liked. We called it ‘Jordan’ because his band were the Jordanaires, but also because there have been many gospel songs written about the River Jordan. We thought it would be a good enough image without being too specific.”
And the track is a surprising success. Surprising, because in it we find Paddy transforming his soft Geordie accent into a rather convincing ‘King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’ impersonation.
Jordan is a natural successor to Langley Park To Memphis’, but a quick glance down the Top 40 shows that they are very much out on their own. Will Prefab Sprout ever become an established chart act?
“I hope so,” says Paddy enthusiastically. “I really believe that one day we will. But it has to be on our terms. We’ll never be successful doing what Madonna does. l do think I write commercial, ‘chart bound’ songs, but radio hasn’t really picked up on us yet.”
And in the current climate, he is even toying with the idea of doing a dance record, but ardent fans needn’t worry too much.
“Now there’s something I’d like to try,” he says wide-eyed. “But I’m not too sure if we could. Dance records don’t have many chords and they have a really short melody. And I’m in love with longer melodies. So if we were to give it a go, it would have to contain all the elements that l love. I couldn’t just do one for the sake of it.”
This autumn heralds a rare occurrence for Prefab Sprout — a nationwide tour. Something Paddy has been reluctant to do in the past.
“I think it might be easier this time,” he says. “This time I’m more confident in myself as a singer than ever before. But I do panic when I have to perform, and I’m notoriously bad at remembering my own lyrics. One time we were onstage and as l stared out into the audience, I saw someone singing along and I went off into a dream world -— I tend to do that. I started to wonder where that person had come from and whether we were their favourite band — and by the time I woke up, I’d forgotten the words to the next verse! So I’d better start practising.”