[19] Prefab Sprout, ‘Billy’


“We had this song at home,” points out Junior 3 as we try this out in the car. She’s right. Prefab Sprout have been part of my staple musical diet for nearly 30 years so the girls are never going to get away with it. ‘Billy’ – probably the most immediately lovable track on surprise Paddy McAloon comeback Crimson/Red – does all the right Sprout things: a fanciful story, a succession of shivering catches (if not hooks, which might explain the lack of hits) and a woollen warmth.

There’s a song on the album (‘The Songs Of Danny Galway’) that plays out a meeting between McAloon and Jimmy Webb, but ‘Billy’ is where Webb really looms. A melody of tear-choked comfort, imagined wide vistas, harmonica taking us to the prairies – it just needs McAloon to leave the house for once and go and find a string section. “I like the harmonica,” says Junior, which would please Paddy. He’s letting his feelings show.