Paddy McAloon, singer, songwriter
I grew up in Witton Gilbert in County Durham and began Prefab Sprout with my brother [Martin, bass] and Michael Salmon, who lived down the road. Michael borrowed a drum equipment and Martin and I shared an amplifier. We rehearsed in my dad’s run-down wooden-framed petrol station. We have been as tough as could be, however we appeared like a band, not less than to ourselves.
I didn’t have music classes however I used to be drawn to music that I examine and devoured every little thing from T Rex to Stravinsky. It’s nearly embarrassing now, however I dreamed about influencing the course of pop. I’d been writing songs since I used to be 13, however after David Bowie’s Station to Station got here out, once I was 19, I began to check his strategies, likes and dislikes. He didn’t like nation and western, so I wrote Faron Younger from the worldview of somebody who disliked nation music.
Bonny was written across the identical time. Individuals suppose it’s about my father’s loss of life, however he wasn’t lifeless then – I imagined grief. Goodbye Lucille #1 began out as a 50s doo-wop parody – “Ooh, Johnny Johnny Johnny” – in waltz time, however become one thing severe. Most breakup songs have been unhappy or accusatory, however I straddled the viewpoints of each the extreme man and the woman breaking apart with him (“She’s an individual too”).
I’d all the time written on an acoustic guitar, however simply as we began making data I had a disaster and thought I’d exhausted the guitar and began writing as a substitute on a Roland synthesiser. I used to be too eccentric or nervous a songwriter to include an enormous refrain, however when When Love Breaks Down got here alongside I didn’t combat it. I wrote that, and Urge for food – over a hip-hop-type groove on a drum machine – after which Want As in the identical week in June 1984. “I’ve received six issues on my thoughts. You’re not one in all them” is so chilly. I wouldn’t wish to say that to anyone. “Want as a sylph-figured creature who modifications her thoughts.” I’ve no thought the place these items come from.
I’d used my most off-kilter concepts on our first album, Swoon, and I’d intentionally held again my extra business songs. The album title – Steve McQueen – got here to me in a dream. It doesn’t imply something, however I made a decision to make use of it and we shot the quilt utilizing a bike just like the one McQueen had in The Nice Escape.
The album went gold and has bought steadily ever since. I’m humbled that it’s turn into a basic and folks nonetheless uncover it, however I nonetheless bear in mind driving away from the studio within the snow considering we’d get loads of reward for one thing I felt I didn’t have a lot to do with. It was us enjoying the songs within the studio – Thomas Dolby and the group did a marvellous job of creating us sound grand and opulent. After we have been doing Johnny Johnny there was this embarrassing clunk, which was the sound of me hitting the microphone stand whereas singing. Thomas liked the take and wished to maintain it, so he went to the Fairlight sampler, regarded on the wave type of the sound and simply took out the clunk. I bear in mind considering, “Wow, in order that’s what pop goes to be like in future.”
Thomas Dolby, producer
I used to be on Radio 1’s Roundtable programme reviewing data, and the opposite friends have been raving about all these terrible Christmas songs. Then Prefab Sprout’s Don’t Sing got here on. I’d by no means heard something prefer it. Paddy’s concepts appeared indifferent from every little thing besides possibly a mid-20th-century American novel. The subsequent factor I knew their supervisor invited me as much as their outdated rectory in Consett. Paddy’s bed room was twice the scale of a single mattress. He sat with a guitar and performed me songs from sheets of paper. I recorded all of them, took them dwelling and whittled 40 all the way down to 12.
There was unbelievable aptitude and creativeness however the preparations have been onerous to take heed to, so we restructured the songs in a rehearsal room proper all the way down to the precise placement of a crash cymbal – Neil Conti was a tasty drummer. We recorded in an enormous London studio over three months, which as we speak would solely be an choice for a platinum-selling band. Paddy’s voice was heat and emotive, Wendy [Smith]’s was pure and pristine – they created a pleasant aura.
I performed Paddy’s chords on my synthesiser utilizing my very own sounds. The Fairlight sampler had simply come out so I might make orchestral preparations. The gunshot on Faron Younger got here from a BBC sound results disc performed backwards. I did issues like sampling Wendy’s voice and “enjoying” it on just a few songs.
I’ve by no means seen a band eat like Prefab. Wendy would say “Paddy, would you like a bacon sandwich?” they usually’d all go off for a fry-up. We recorded Horsin’ Round after a pub break. Paddy launched right into a swing model à la Frank Sinatra. I laughed my head off, and thought it would make an attention-grabbing fashion for the center part, so we stored it.
• Steve McQueen turned 35 on 22 June. Remastered vinyl variations of Prefab Sprout’s albums can be found on Sony.