Thursday, July 02, 2020

Song of the Day: 'Johnny Johnny' by Prefab Sprout

Confession: My obsessive-compulsive tendencies got the better of me yesterday, as I went through eight years’ worth of Song of the Day posts fixing videos that had expired or had been removed. (If my math is correct, that's 2080 posts.) Don't get me wrong, though. Although I'm not sure how many of my readers enjoy my music posts, I was in heaven remembering all of the songs I have selected over the years -- and the stories behind them. Although I didn't remember this, it turns out, surprise, Blondie was my first Song of the Day -- "Atomic" was posted June 4, 2012 -- and I haven't looked back, using the daily feature as a vehicle to share new and old music, concert memories and the like.

This week a reader sent me a article from the Guardian about the making of Prefab Sprout's "Steve McQueen" -- or "Two Wheels Good," as I knew it the summer I graduated from high school in the U.S. -- featuring interviews with singer/songwriter Paddy McAloon and producer Thomas Dolby.

I was completely blown away the first time I played it. Their debut EP -- my brother Bill brought home ""Lions in My Own Garden (Exit Someone)" from college -- and album ("Swoon") were quirky and intriguing. But the sophomore album was like nothing I'd ever heard before, so lush and anthemic -- who could write a song how bored angels must get?! -- with all of the wordplay and cleverness of Lloyd Cole, completely affected yet somehow less pretentious. (Perhaps inevitably for an 18-year-old aspiring pseudo intellectual, I foolishly tried to imitate McAloon's stream-of-consciousness writing style in a poetry class that fall that left my professor scratching his head. "This is truly awful," Kenny.)

I could have picked any of the songs from the album for today -- "Faron Young," "Bonny," "When Love Breaks Down" are all classics -- but went with "Johnny Johnny," which was what the epic "Goodbye Lucille #1" was renamed when the label decided to release it as a single.

McAloon says it was written in waltz time, but turned into something serious, which is an understatement to young lovers everywhere. (The lyrics "You're not the first, but it hurts/Life's not complete till your heart's missed a beat/And you'll never make it up, or turn back the clock/No you won't, no you won't" sure came in handy when Derek broke my heart three years later.)

"Most breakup songs were sad or accusatory," McAloon recalled, "but I straddled the viewpoints of both the intense guy and the girl breaking up with him." ('She’s a person too" probably seemed like quite a concession, even in 1985!)

Read Dave Simpson's fun piece HERE.

Read my 2009 ode to Prefab Sprout HERE.

“Steve McQueen” turned 35 on June 22. Remastered vinyl versions of Prefab Sprout’s albums are available on Sony.


Henry Holland said...

I love your music posts. I have different musical tastes than you --I'm more in to loud guitars, opera and jazz- but there's been a lot of really good songs I might have heard once years ago that it was nice to hear again. said...

>Although I'm not sure how many of my readers enjoy my music posts, I was in heaven remembering all of the songs I have selected over the years <

I live for all of them, as it's like a conversation between "twin sons of different mothers." Including this one.