The Apotheosis of Cool

puppetLife as a Sprout fan in the 1980s was always a tough and lonely gig. It was a hard and uncompromising post punk period full of angular hard sounding guitars and massive drum sounds, and despite a great start via Peel recommendations and strong indie credentials from Kitchenware around Swoon and into Steve McQueen, Prefab Sprout was never quite a comfortable fit into anything approaching cool.

In particular by 1988 and with Langley being released we were into positively muffin top territory. It was possible to “get” the glassy and knowing irony of Scritti Politti, but with Prefab Sprout you always felt you were on dodgy ground if you tried to introduce the band to your cool Smiths loving mates. You’d just about manage to convince them after weeks of trying, and then they’d turn up on Saturday evening TV introduced by a glove puppet.

Of course it’s all different now. At a certain point in the noughties, Prefab Sprout became cool by common assent, and you’ll literally have to fight bearded hipsters for vinyl in the pop up charity shops of Dalston now. But at the time we kept ourselves to ourselves and meeting a fellow fan was something of a surprise.

To commemorate that period. here are three video relics, in transfers just a little better than you’ll find on Youtube or circulating elsewhere, mostly from a wonderful first generation tape someone gave me a year or two ago: “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” partly busked in Newcastle, “The Golden Calf” complete with live vocal on the “Hippodrome Show” introduced by, well, a glove puppet and with Wendy miming a tremendously convincing guitar part, and the Ku Club Ibiza “Cars and Girls”, also with a live vocal.

I always find this last clip wonderful. Firstly it’s a sort of snapshot of an imaginary version of Prefab Sprout as a tremendous pop group thundering along a bit like a sort of low rent Chic (shabby chic, if you will). But also because even if in “How Soon is Now” the Smiths had one of the best guitar riffs ever devised, you’d never ever EVER see Morrissey squeezed into a latex mini skirt quite like that one…

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