|Origin||Witton Gilbert, County Durham, England|
|Past members||Martin McAloon|
In 1977 brothers Paddy and Martin McAloon formed The Dick Diver Band. By 1978, the name had changed to Prefab Sprout, a name McAloon had created years earlier when, he has said, "all the groups had names like that". The band first played live in 1979, having been joined by drummer Michael Salmon.
The band recorded their first single "Lions In My Own Garden/Radio Love" on 25 February 1982, and self-released it on their own Candle Records. Songwriter Paddy McAloon wanted a song title where the first letters of the words spelled out Limoges, the French city where his former girlfriend was staying at the time. Music journalist Stuart Maconie described the track as "enigmatic, melancholy, tuneful and therefore perfect for a jobless literature graduate with girlfriend problems". Their lineup expanded shortly after to incorporate vocalist Wendy Smith, and they recorded a second single "The Devil Has All The Best Tunes / Walk On" that September.
Prefab Sprout were signed by Keith Armstrong's Kitchenware Records in March 1983, after Armstrong heard their music played in the Newcastle branch of HMV he managed. Their two singles were reissued by Kitchenware and attracted notice including laudation from Elvis Costello.
Their debut album, Swoon, was released on the Kitchenware label in March 1984. It was critically acclaimed, with several reviewers highlighting its unorthodox musical style and unconventional lyrics. and it reached No. 22 on the UK Albums Chart. The album attracted the attention of musician Thomas Dolby, who began producing a new batch of what McAloon would describe as simpler songs with the band. The resulting album, 1985's Steve McQueen, (released in America as Two Wheels Good after McQueen's estate expressed their displeasure with the title) was highly praised by critics and gave the band its first hit single on UK Singles Chart, "When Love Breaks Down".
The band's next project was Protest Songs, a sparsely-produced and quickly recorded album intended for a limited release in late 1985. The album was put on hold by CBS so as not to stunt sales of Steve McQueen, finally seeing release in 1989. In 1988, the band released their follow-up to Steve McQueen, From Langley Park to Memphis. The album gave the band their biggest commercial success in the UK with the single "The King of Rock 'N' Roll". The song is written from the perspective of a washed-up singer who had a one-hit wonder in the 1950s with a novelty song featuring the chorus "Hot dog, jumping frog, alberquerque". It reached No. 7 in the UK Singles Chart, their only single to reach the Top 10. From Langley Park to Memphis included guest appearances from Stevie Wonder and Pete Townshend, and used multiple producers including Thomas Dolby, who could not commit to working on the entire album.
In 1990, Jordan: The Comeback, again produced by Thomas Dolby, was nominated for a BRIT Award. Though the music was more accessible than their earlier material, the lyrics and subject matter remained characteristically oblique and suggestive. McAloon has alluded in interviews to several albums' worth of songs that he has written but are unreleased/unrecorded including amongst others, concept albums based on the life of Michael Jackson, the history of the world (Earth: The Story So Far) and a fictional superhero (Zorro the Fox).
Their greatest hits, A Life of Surprises - The Best of Prefab Sprout, gave them their biggest US hit, "If You Don't Love Me", which spent several weeks in the Top 10 on the dance chart. McAloon joked in the album liner notes about the band's lack of touring over the past decade.
Prefab Sprout released Andromeda Heights in the UK in 1997 and embarked on a short UK tour in 2000. This tour, and the subsequent album, did not feature Wendy Smith, who by this time had reportedly left the band. A double album anthology, the 38 Carat Collection was released by CBS in 1999 as the group was leaving the record label. Unexpectedly, the group's US label, Epic, belatedly reissued this set as The Collection in early 2001. Smith left the group during this period, after the birth of her first child.
In 2001 the band released The Gunman and Other Stories, a concept album themed on the American Wild West. The opening track "Cowboy Dreams" was a hit for the British actor-singer Jimmy Nail. Though critically acclaimed, neither enjoyed major commercial success.
After being diagnosed with a medical disorder that seriously impaired his vision, Paddy McAloon released the album I Trawl The Megahertz under his own name in 2003 on the EMI Liberty label (fifteen years later, in autumn 2018, it was announced that the album would be reissued as a Prefab Sprout record). As of 2006, McAloon had suffered another setback: his hearing had deteriorated, reportedly due to Ménière's disease. In early 2007 a remastered Steve McQueen was released in a two-CD package, containing new versions of eight of the songs from the original album, in different arrangements performed by McAloon on acoustic guitar.
Prefab Sprout's first album of new material since 2001, Let's Change the World with Music, was released on 7 September 2009. Reviews in the UK press were favourable (e.g. 5/5 in The Times, 4/5 in The Guardian, 4/5 in Record Collector). The release was also accompanied by a few interviews (e.g. Mojo).
In June 2013, a leak of ten previously unreleased songs on SoundCloud led to speculation that a new Prefab Sprout album was being recorded. Crimson/Red, consisting of developed versions of tracks from the vaults that was subsequently released on 7 October 2013 on vinyl and CD on the Icebreaker records label. A limited edition box set with an interview CD was also released. The lead single was "The Best Jewel Thief in the World." A video for this track (produced by Tylar Cornak) was originally posted to Vimeo. Crimson/Red also confirmed that Prefab Sprout was now in effect a solo project, with Paddy McAloon singing, playing and programming all of the music on the album on his own. In interviews at the time, McAloon explained that his health issues (in particular, the deterioration of his hearing and eyesight) now dictated the way in which Prefab Sprout music was recorded, making it impractical and even impossible for any other musicians to be involved, but that he remained fond of and grateful to his former bandmates.
On 3 March 2017, McAloon's manager Keith Armstrong, one-time head of Kitchenware Records, posted a short clip on Instagram of McAloon performing a new song "America" to a camcorder; operated by McAloon himself. A longer version appears on Armstrong's YouTube page. To date, no reason has been disclosed if this points to a new album or as the lyrics suggest, it is a commentary on the incumbent US administration and their policy on immigration.
On 8 November 2018, Rough Trade announced the availability of vinyl LP and CD versions of I Trawl the Megahertz, including a white vinyl special edition of 1000 copies. On the same day, Sony Music announced the release under their "Legacy" brand. The Sony press release notes that although this was originally a solo album, it is now fitting to classify it as a Prefab Sprout record. Paddy McAloon is quoted as saying: "I thought we could do anything. And Megahertz is true to that spirit. The music here is of a piece with everything I’ve ever written. It’s from the heart". Then on 10 December 2018, Paddy McAloon featured in an interview on BBC Radio 4 Today. During the course of this interview, he explained that Sony would be making further re-issues from the back catalogue, and that he was working on a new album, 'Femmes Mythologiques', slated for release in September 2019, playing a segment of a song called "Cleopatra".
According to the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums, the band's name was a mondegreen from the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood song, "Jackson", misheard by frontman Paddy McAloon. The correct opening lyrics for "Jackson" are "We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout", which McAloon misinterpreted as 'hotter than a prefab sprout'. However, Allmusic reckons that the prosaic truth is that "an adolescent McAloon had devised the meaningless name in homage to the longwinded and equally silly band names of his late 1960s / early 1970s youth".
- Current members
- Paddy McAloon – vocals, guitars, keyboards, programming, piano, harmonica, bass guitar (1978–present)
- Former members
- Martin McAloon – bass guitar (1978–2010)
- Michael Salmon – drums, percussion (1978–1983)
- Wendy Smith – vocals, guitars, keyboards, piano, tambourine (1982–2000)
- Feona Attwood – vocals (1982)
- Graham Lant – drums, percussion (1983–1984)
- John Hendry – drums, percussion (1984)
- Neil Conti – drums, percussion (1984–2000)
- Paul Smith – drums, percussion (1997)
|1988||From Langley Park to Memphis||5||18||–||–||–||49||–||–||34||–|
|1990||Jordan: The Comeback||7||17||–||–||–||69||–||–||–||–|
|2001||The Gunman and Other Stories||60||–||–||–||74||–||–||–||–||–|
|2003||I Trawl the Megahertz||54||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|2007||Steve McQueen (re-release)||155||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|2009||Let's Change the World with Music||39||28||16||–||46||–||–||92||–||–|
|1992||A Life of Surprises: The Best of Prefab Sprout||3|
|1999||38 Carat Collection||95|
|IRE||GER||NED||AUS||NZ||US Rock||US Dance||Album|
|1982||"Lions in My Own Garden (Exit Someone)"||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||non-album single|
|1983||"The Devil Has All The Best Tunes"||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||non-album single|
|"When Love Breaks Down"||88||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||Steve McQueen|
|"When Love Breaks Down" (reissue)||25||26||–||–||55||38||42||–|
|1986||"Johnny Johnny" (called "Goodbye Lucille No. 1" on the album)||64||28||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1988||"Cars and Girls"||44||–||–||–||41||–||–||–||From Langley Park to Memphis|
|"The King of Rock 'n' Roll"||7||6||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1989||"The Golden Calf"||82||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1990||"Looking for Atlantis"||51||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||Jordan: The Comeback|
|"We Let The Stars Go"||50||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1991||"Jordan – The EP"||35||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1992||"The Sound of Crying"||23||–||79||–||–||–||–||–||A Life of Surprises: The Best of Prefab Sprout|
|"If You Don't Love Me"||33||–||60||–||–||–||–||3|
|"All The World Loves Lovers"||61||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1993||"Life of Surprises"||24||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|"I Remember That"||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|1997||"A Prisoner of the Past"||30||–||86||–||–||–||–||–||Andromeda Heights|
|1999||"Where the Heart Is"||153||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||38 Carat Collection|
|2001||"Cowboy Dreams"||NR||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||The Gunman and Other Stories|
|"Wild Card in the Pack"||–||–||–||86||–||–||–||–|
|2009||"Let There Be Music"||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||Let's Change the World with Music|
|2013||"The Best Jewel Thief in the World"||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||–||Crimson/Red|
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