In early 1988, it had been a long time since there had been any new Prefab Sprout material. Some two and a half years since the release of Steve McQueen with all sorts of rumours kicking around that the record label had rejected its follow-up as not being commercial enough (rumours that turned out to be true). All it had done was lead Paddy McAloon to go back and write a bunch of songs that would prove to be the most pop and radio friendly sounding of his entire career which in due course would provide the band with their only ever Top 10 single and their most succesful and biggest selling album.

The music press trailed the release of the new material by indicating that the lead-off single was a tribute to the life and work of Bruce Springsteen. This was a hard one to swallow….I didn’t have Paddy down as an admirer. Now don’t get me wrong, although I didn’t at the time (and still don’t) own any of The Boss’s records , it wasn’t down to any personal dislike or not rating his songs – he seemed (and still does) a very sound bloke and he was (and still is) very good at what he does – it’s just that the music he makes has never done anything for me.

It was therefore a bit of a relief that the song, once listened to closely, was actually spoofing much of what Broooooooce stood for:-

mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Cars and Girls

As I’ve written previously, I love Cars and Girls as much for the fact that having been subjected to that intense  pressure to come up with a catchy hit, Paddy delivered a blasting critique of the label’s biggest selling star without the bosses seemingly catching on.

It was as far removed from any of the songs on either of Swoon or Steve McQueen as could be imagined. It was almost AOR sounding and the sort of thing that wouldn’t have been out-of-place on the sort of compilations that you find in service stations the length and breadth of the UK. A perfect song to listen to as you accelerated your vehicle over the speed limit, preferably with the soft-top roof lowered as the wind whipped through your hair…with a lyric that took the piss out of such folk.

The single wasn’t a huge success, stalling at #44. But incredibly enough, Cars and Girls would become a staple part of those service station CDs over the next 20 years and as such helped boost Paddy’s bank balance by a fair bit.

Here’s the two excellent tracks that were on the b-side of the 12″

mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Nero the Zero
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Vendetta

Nero the Zero is a fine tribute to Paddy’s home area – akin to Raintown and its relationship with Glasgow – while Vendetta could easily be interpreted as sideways swipes at the folk at CBS for the rejection of the previous album.



  1. Terrific. ‘Cars and Girls’ is one of those songs that is an audio time capsule, I’m instantly transported back to 1988 every time I hear it.

  2. Cars and Girls is the best screw you track I know. The beauty of his lyricism is on full display in the subtlety with which the sarcasm and derision is delivered. The best part is that Prefab Sprout’s core audience got the irony loud and clear.

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