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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > May-18 > PREFAB SPROUT

PREFAB SPROUT

FROM THEIR QUIRKY ROOTS TO COMMERCIAL BREAKTHROUGH, THE COUNTY DURHAM COLLECTIVE FORMED BY THE BROTHERS MCALOON HAVE COMBINED CLASSIC SONGWRITING WITH A MASTERY OF MELODY TO CREATE ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE BODIES OF WORK IN BRITISH POP

THE LOW DOWN

©LFI/Photoshot

The Prefab Sprout story is one of family, faith, bereavement, serious illness and partial pop stardom. Emerging from County Durham in the early 80s, brothers Paddy (vocals, guitar and keyboards) and Martin McAloon (bass), were joined by Paddy’s one-time girlfriend Wendy Smith (vocals) and Neil Conti (drums), before signing to local independent label Kitchenware. The group quickly built a reputation for smart lyrics and elaborate musicianship, echoing their peers Lloyd Cole, Green Gartside, Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame.

Their debut album Swoon was a wonderful mix of the band’s eclectic early influences, which included Television, Stravinsky, Simon & Garfunkel and T. Rex. Released in 1984, it was an immediate cult hit, reaching No.22 in the UK album charts. It ushered in a golden period for the band where their output was virtually flawless. The classic, Thomas Dolbyproduced Steve McQueen was released a month before Live Aid in June 1985 and Protest Songs, recorded in 1985 but not issued until 1989, saw the band explore their Northern roots and cover topics such as unemployment, mortality, childhood and Princess Diana…

Sandwiched between these two releases was 1988’s smash album From Langley Park To Memphis, which features notable appearances from Stevie Wonder and Pete Townshend. The landmark album, established Prefab Sprout as one of Europe’s biggest draws.

Jordan: The Comeback was a remarkable follow-up and another artistic triumph. A successful greatest hits collection titled A Life Of Surprises came two years later and marked Prefab’s commercial zenith, but then there was five years of silence during which both Conti and Smith moved on to other projects. Paddy returned in 1997 with Andromeda Heights, the long-awaited and well-received studio comeback. Since then, Paddy has continued to produce arresting and deeply personal music, including three Prefab Sprout albums and one official solo release.

THE MUST-HAVE ALBUMS

STEVE MCQUEEN

1985

Sophomore special

Thomas Dolby was, of course, a bona fide – if somewhat reluctant – pop star himself when he got the train up to County Durham in 1984 to hear 40 of Paddy’s new songs. With a view to producing the Sprouts, Dolby quickly selected his favourites for the LP that was to become their calling card. Steve McQueen – renamed Two Wheels Good in the US – reached No.21 in the UK and No.4 in NME’s albums of the year poll in 1985.

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About Classic Pop

In the new Classic Pop we celebrate 30 years of Kylie Minogue – from the PWL early days through to the iconic noughties classics and her new No.1 album, Golden. We also take an in-depth look at Kylie’s Fever for our Classic Album feature. As a special treat for Kylie fans, we have an exclusive limited edition special fan pack issue of the magazine available with four fantastic A4 glossy art cards of the star. Subscribers will receive an exclusive version of the issue with a collectable cover. Elsewhere, we are granted a rare audience with Scritti Politti's Green Gartside, we serve up our Top 15 sophisti-pop albums of all time and Prefab Sprout feature in The Lowdown. We chat to Kim Appleby about her new TV show and the prospect of new music; Sophie Ellis-Bextor talks to us about her new album of orchestral reworkings of her back catalogue and Daphne & Celeste return to the pop fray. Our album reviews section features Sting and Shaggy, CHVRCHES and Alison Moyet. This month’s reissues section includes John Foxx, The Human League and Brian Eno. On the live front, we check out gigs by Erasure, Morrissey, Paul Weller and Lloyd Cole.