Who are Prefab Sprout – Christopher Heath, Smash Hits, 18-31 May 1988


And What is All This “Jumping Frog” Nonsense All About?

I wrote it in 20 minutes,” declares Paddy McAloon about Prefab Sprout’s new single, “The King Of Rock And Roll”, the song with the daftest chorus in the history of popular song i.e. “Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque”.

“I got off the bus one day, picked the guitar up and wrote it. I thought it was so funny that I couldn’t play it to anyone. It was so ridiculous that I thought we couldn’t record it so I was going to send it to David Bowie but then I thought he’d think I was being very cheeky because it refers to someone who is ageing and is singing the boyhood chorus that made him famous at 19.”

But what does it all mean?

“It means nothing. What’s happened is that ‘ he’s grown older, everybody’s left him, his contemporaries have got jo s and so he turns to his ‘old lady’ — he doesn’t call her a wife; those hippies always say ‘my old lady‘ — and says ‘I’m the king of rock and roll’. It’s a horrible joke, really. The opening line just popped out: ‘AII my lazy teenage boasts / are now high precision ghosts / and they’re coming round the track / to haunt me‘. l just liked the idea of his teenage boasts coming round on a track, this ghost train from the past coming to plough you down because your face has fallen and you’re fat around the middle. Later on in the song he’s a ‘high kicking dandy’ because he’s kicking up to the roof in his sequinned suit, splitting his pants. . .

So, viewers, now we “know”. . .

But who, the world wonders, are Prefab Sprout? The following facts are all true (apart from the fourth one, which is totally made up).

There are four of them — Paddy, his brother Martin, Wendy Smith and Neil Conti — and though Paddy used to pretend he got their rather silly name from mishearing a song that went “we got married in a fever/ hotter than a peppered sprout” because it was a good story to tell on the radio he actually thought of it when he was 14 because he thought all groups had to have “heavyweight names that meant nothing”.

Paddy’s quite annoyed that their last single “Cars and Girls” wasn’t a hit. “I’m livid. lf I had my way, heads would roll. . . it makes me wonder why I should friggin’ bother, to be honest. . . you’ve got to get angry about it. . . white anger.”

He’s 30 and still lives with his parents, except he doesn’t really. “I understand the impression people have got — the bookish songwriter: ‘mamma, I’m upstairs writing. . . mamma one day I’m going to London and we’re all gonna be alright’. It’s not like that. I still live at home but it’s a funny way round. Everyone presumes that l live with my parents whereas it just could be that my parents live with me. You have your responsibilities.”

He is hopelessly addicted to fig rolls.

A few Prefab Sprout fans are a little bit deranged. “You do get them. You get some who won’t let you go if they meet you alter a gig and they won’t let you go because they think you have the key to the universe and they know what you meant in a particular song — they say it was a message to them and they got it.”

He used to fancy one of dodgy terribly dressed two-times British Eurovision Song Contest entrants The New Seekers. “Yes l used to have a crush on Lyn Paul out of the New Seekers. I suppose it’s the same thing with Kylie Minogue. There’ll be someone out there who’ll die for her, and that’s all that matters. . .”