“When love breaks down, the lies we tell…
They only serve to fool ourselves.
When love breaks down…
The things you do to stop the truth from hurting you.”
Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Paddy McAloon, Prefab Sprout was one of many promising pop groups to emerge from the UK in the late seventies. What set them apart was a wealth of quality songs and a great sense of melody coupled with quirky-for-the-time lyrics predating the alternative rock revolution by several years. Using unusual instrumentation and ethereal background vocals from Wendy Smith, McAloon created a sound that influenced many of the Britpop bands to follow in the early nineties. The band gained initial traction when their homemade demo was played by legendary DJ John Peel and CBS Records quickly signed them. The album “Swoon”, 1984’s debut, was not the hit many expected, but it set the stage for their sophomore effort.
Their second album is regularly hailed as a commercial and critical breakthrough. Produced by digital music pioneer Thomas Dolby, the 1985 CBS Records release “Steve McQueen” featured what would become some of the group’s most signature songs. ‘When Love Breaks Down’ was a minor hit for the group and propelled them to some status and acclaim in the US music press. The song benefitted greatly from the expert production values of Dolby and it sounded very different from the rest of the mid eighties pop groups, embracing not only synthesizers but also folk based musical traditions. While the song did not become their biggest hit, it certainly highlighted their strengths and comes across as relevant some 25 years later.
Prefab Sprout had their biggest hit a few years later in 1988 with another Thomas Dolby production, ‘The King of Rock N Roll’ from “From Langley Park to Memphis”. They have continued to record albums in their native England, with Paddy McAloon releasing solo concept albums in recent years. While some band members have left the fold, McAloon keeps the music alive while battling several illnesses limiting his vision. “Steve McQueen” was recently released as a 2 CD legacy edition from Epic/CBS Records, establishing the album as a true classic worthy of attention by discerning fans of all pop genres.