Monday, May 19, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 12)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

12. Prefab Sprout - "Lions in my Own Garden (Exit Someone)"

Other Contenders: "The Devil Has All the Best Tunes," also from 1983, is the only other single eligible for this list, but it's not quite up to the standards of "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)."

Chart Entry: June 4, 1983

Peak Position: No. 16

Comment: No, I don't quite go all the way back to Prefab Sprout's first single and the fourth ever 7" from the folks at Kitchenware, but I have enjoyed its charms for about 25 years. My copy comes from a 1988 limited edition 7" of "Nightingales." The flip side is dubbed "The Early Years E.P.," and it contains the A-sides of the band's first two singles. The photo above is the inside of the fantastic gatefold sleeve, and the words are Paddy McAloon's thoughts on these first two efforts. Here is what he had to say about "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone):"

On the 25th of February and the 11th of March, 1982 we recorded our first single "Lions"/Radio Love." The Sprouts lineup at the time was a threepiece: myself on guitar, my brother Martin on bass and our friend Michael Salmon on drums.

I'm specific about the dates because they were hard earned. Martin saved his wages from a job on a building site for the trip to a local recording studio. The main thing I remember about that time was receiving the test pressing and being disappointed. It sounded just like the tape we'd sent away. I really believed that the transformation to vinyl would make it sound like a record. (By that I mean someone else's record, preferably Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel" or The Beatles' "She Loves You").

Funnily enough it now sounds like a record to me, probably because it brings back a sense of the time in which we made it.

When it was released, D.J.'s John Peel and David Jensen picked up on it and we were written about. That was the first time we came face to face with a picture or image of the group that wasn't our own and we were shocked to be thought of as "acoustic" and part of a Northern/Scottish movement.

We thought, if anything, "Lions" was like "Love Me Do". I still do.

Even more than "Devil" or just about anything on Prefab Sprout's first album, 'Swoon,' "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)" illustrated a potential realized just a short time later with the band's masterpiece, 'Steve McQueen.'

You can buy an original copy of "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)" on ebay for about $35. The song also appears on the highly recommended 'Scared to Get Happy' box.


Echorich said...

LIMOGES - as I have always called it, or at least since I read Paddy's explanation that it was about his girlfriend who had left for that famed city - is a piece of pop brilliance. I have to admit that I did see early Prefab Sprout through "Postcard" eyes...Kitchenware seemed to be the Geordie equivalent for quite a while. The track sounds like something from a seasoned vet rather than a young gun.
I can see what Paddy means when he compares it to Love Me Do or Heartbreak Hotel. The song sounds/is accomplished and perfect pop.

Brian said...

I have always bought the LIMOGES tale... otherwise, what a ridiculous title!

I'm with you. It may have come as a surprise to Paddy, but this sounds oh so part of the Northern/Scottish movement. So happy you like it. If you have time, any thoughts on the rest of PS's work prior to Steve McQueen?

Echorich said...

Brian, I can write pages on my love of Prefab Sprout. There really isn't any album which McAloon has released that I don't hold dear.
Swoon is an album that you know is going to be special and not necessarily easy listening right from picking up the album cover. Opening with Don't Sing, Paddy brings a sort of angry dissonance to what could well have been a sweet pop song. Flourishes of harmonica, stabs of synths and that strumming guitar create and edge that kicks off the proceedings.
Cue Fanfare brings us the wonderful vocals of Wendy Smith and those "Swingle"-esque harmonies. A song about fighting for what you believe in all in the guise of Bobby Fisher and Boris Basky's chess match is just brilliant.
By the time you get to Green Isaac and Here On The Erie (a song I could easily have imaged Edwyn Collins falling all over himself to sing) the listener knows he's found something more than just pop. This is literary, reflective and confident music.
I love the rawness of Paddy's vocals, especially on Cruel and Don't Sing. Couldn't Bear To Be Special is like a foreshadowing of the monumental sound of Jordan, with it's jazzy backing vocals and storytelling style.
I Never Play Basketball Now should have been a No.1 replete with dodgy video and the band wearing basketball jerseys on Top Of The Pops...opportunity missed Kitchenware...
Ghost Town Blues has that political edge mixed with some fun-fare melody and funky bass.
The penultimate track, Elegance, is perhaps the shining star of Swoon and the track which informs what Steve McQueen would have in store for fans.
Ending the album with Technique is a great example of what makes Swoon such a singular album. While it has a certain finality to itself, it also encapsulates all the sounds that came before it on the album. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the track that Dolby heard that convinced him Prefab Sprout had that something special in them.

Brian said...

Thanks for that, Echorich. I'm not sure how many Swoon fans there are out there, but perhaps there will be a few more after your nice words. Truly an underrated record.