20/12/15 – Prefab Sprout – The Best Jewel Thief In The World – 2013

Song Of The Day

Paddy McAloon : Preab Sprout 2013 colour picFormed in 1978 in County Durham, Prefab Sprout were something of an anomaly, easy pop on the surface running with deeper waters. I always thought they were ironically produced but it seems like the critics in the UK at least realized what they were, praising Paddy McAloon’s sophisticated songwriting and lyrical visions. Consequently they became much more popular in England than anywhere else although perhaps surprisingly they fared well in Scandinavia – must be the clean sound. It didn’t really work in America, what they were wasn’t obvious enough and ever dogged by first impressions, I think that the American public didn’t realize there was more to it than the Thompson Twins.

To those that bothered to look, McAloon was a witty fellow and sometimes attempted the impossible with his word games. Allegedly the first single”Lions In My Own Garden: Exit Someone” was so called because he had an ex girlfriend from Limoges. He did manage to successfully come across as a middle-class ex literature student let loose in the studio with a state of the art engineer that thought he might be capturing the contemporary sound of an average Pop band when in fact he was using modern tools to capture the ancient skills of a poetic and talented, sensitive and visionary songwriter. Add Thomas Dolby to this mix as a producer and one imagines that they must have been quaffing port in the library at least three times a week before the sessions started. Dolby produced or co-produced, Steve McQueen, From Langley Park To Memphis and Jordan The Comeback.

As far as personnel, the band took the unusual step of engaging Wendy Smith as backing vocalist – but that wasn’t really it. She wasn’t a lead singer and she wasn’t a backing singer, she was the icing girl – they used her like a human effect, sweetening McAloon’s lyrical and melodic points with her perfect perfumed tones. McAloon’s brother Martin played bass and Neil Conti became the permanent drummer after hearing them on the radio and ringing the record company – he got the job. But the whole idea behind Prefab Sprout was to be a vehicle for Paddy McAloon’s soul searching, positive romantic statements and sincere heartfelt yearning or observations or his light sixties sentiments that he somehow managed to sell as worthy virtue. I’m sure Burt Bacharach and Hal David would have loved McAloon if they ever got to hear him and it seems tragic that they never got to work together. In the Pop field I would say more appropriatly than Elvis Costello.

Like a lot of bands with silly names, they usually boast smart band members, like in comedy, Monty Python’s crew were high intellectuals of the absurd. In this case the name allegedly came from the song, Jackson, written by Jerry Lieber and Billy Edd Wheeler in 1963 and appearing on The Kingston Trio’s album in the same year. That wasn’t the version I knew, the song was released twice in 1967 once by Carter and Cash (No.2 on the Country chart) and once by Sinatra and Hazlewood (No.14 on the Pop chart) that’s the version I knew having had the record as a kid. “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout” was allegedly misheard as ‘Prefab Sprout’ an instance of this is called a ‘mondegreen’ look it up here :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondegreen

There have been ten Paddy McAloon/Prefab Sprout’s original recorded albums between 1984 and 2013 although I Trawl The Megaherz was released as a solo record and Let’s Change The World With Music was based on a 1992 demo. Although Crimson/Red was released under Prefab Sprout’s name, only Paddy McAloon remains as a band member.

1984 Swoon
1985 Steve McQueen (Two Wheels Good in the US)
1988 From Langley Park to Memphis
1989 Protest Songs
1990 Jordan: The Comeback
1997 Andromeda Heights
2001 The Gunman and Other Stories (Produced by Tony Visconti)
2003 I Trawl the Megahertz
2009 Let’s Change the World with Music
2013 Crimson/Red

The Best Jewel Thief In The World is the opening track on the latest album and McAloon continues with his vision and rave reviews in England. Although after reading some of those reviews not one critic mentioned the drum machine, the albums only flaw for me. It’s hard to understand how it warrants no comment and spectacularly shows that journalists aren’t musicians and like the public hear things in a different way. In the case of Kraftwerk electronic drums are the point, in the case of Prefab Sprout Neil Conti must have wished he’d agreed to do it for free for the sake of art.

McAloon has suffered some terrible health issues in recent years first losing his sight and then his hearing through Ménière’s disease and obviously struggling to make records. Apparently his sight is somewhat restored but for information on his condition I would suggest to check out his website here:

http://www.sproutology.co.uk/

Originally training as a catholic priest and maintaing a healthy distance from all that is cool by being really cool, Paddy McAloon deserves some serious listening time if for no other reason than for trying to make Pop Music more intelligent.

Masked and dressed In black,
You scramble over rooftops
Carrying a bag
A bag marked “SWAG”
You’re the best jewel thief in the world

Vigilance is lax.
Security complacent;
Adjacent to the gem,
The diadem, the pearl
Is the best jewel thief in the world

Watch your legend grow
The rooftops are for dreamers
You strike and then return Lucerne – Heathrow
The best jewel thief in the world

Down below, down below
What do any of those losers know?
Down below, down below
What do any of those assholes know?
Even so, even so,
Be a Buddhist, boy, and let it go
Even so, even so,
Be a Catholic boy and let it go
You’re the best jewel thief in the world

Sirens moan and drone. They groan,
But Interpol can’t catch you
Their cameras only show a screen of snow
Ergo –
You’re the best jewel thief In the world

Down below, down below
What do any of those losers know?
Down below, down below
What do any of those assholes know?
Even so, even so,
Be a Buddhist, boy, and let it go
Even so, even so,
Be a Catholic boy and let it go
You’re the best jewel thief in the world

Nimble as a cat
They hope your luck deserts you
They’re sharpening their knives,
But you’ve nine lives!
You’re the best jewel thief in the world

Watch your legend grow,
Watch your legend grow
Watch your legend grow,
You’re the best jewel thief in the world

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefab_Sprout

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paddy_McAloon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimson/Red

 

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