Limoges – an historic and picturesque city of around 140,000 residents, located in west/central France. Not a place that I was ever familiar with until the early 80s by which time I was in my 20s. In fact, if quizzed, I’d have struggled to identify it as being in France. Things might have been different in the city had been home to a decent football side, plying their trade against the likes of St Etienne, Bordeaux, Strasbourg , Souchaux and Nantes, places that I would never have been able to pick out on any map but which I could tell you were located in France thanks to the exploits of their teams in the one or other of the three competitions played out each season by European club sides.
It all changed when Paddy McAloon came into my life.
One of the biggest legacies of Postcard Records was that it demonstrated it was very possible, in the UK, to build up a scene and a record label around the music being played in a particular locality. The north-east of England, and in particular the area around Newcastle, was particularly blessed with talent in the early 80s and it was no surprise that two locally based club promoters – Keith Armstrong and Paul Ludford – decided to start up Kitchenware Records to which they then signed a number of popular, locally based acts. One of these was Prefab Sprout, a band who were fronted by a superb wordsmith and musician who drew immediate comparisons to Roddy Frame.
The band’s first single for the label was in 1983 and it was one which, the previous year, they had self-released on Candle Records, copies of which are ridiculously rare and therefore very valuable. It was the strangely named Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone), a gentle mid-paced ballad built around acoustic guitars, soft drumming and a harmonica. It feels like and it sounds like a love song, but one in which love seems to have been lost and yet the protagonist remains hopeful. The lyric is remorseful but far from desperate. Indeed it is a song which carries an air of optimism and hope. But what, exactly was it about?
Limoges was the answer. Or to be more precise, the fact that Paddy McAloon was missing his girlfriend as she had left Newcastle and moved to west-central France.
Utter genius. And a helluva love song for Valentine’s Day.
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)
Kitchenware, in collaboration with Rough Trade, had two stabs at making this a hit single, trying again in 1984. It’s still beyond me that it was never picked up and given any sort of decent listing by BBC Radio 1 and was restricted to being played in the evenings. This should have been a huge hit.
It also came with a very listenable b-side.
mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Radio Love
It is a gem of a debut and there are times when, despite many subsequent superb releases, I often think Prefab Sprout never bettered it.