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A Conversation with Thomas Dolby (continued)

PM: Can you recall your very first meeting with Paddy McAloon, and would you share that story with us?

TD: Yeah. I mean, I can absolutely remember it. It came about because I had been invited by the BBC Radio to be a guest reviewer of new singles. They had a show called, I think, Round Table. And a couple of their DJs and a guest reviewer would listen to new releases. And I sat there for like an hour, and I hated everything. I was sort of the Simon Cowell figure of that particular show.

PM: [laughs]

TD: And this song came on which I just thought was really special, from the opening chords it was just really wonderful. And the other guys, the DJs, didn't get it at all. And I said, "This is really great. Who are these guys?" It was "Don't Sing." And it sort of opened with this guitar chord and this harmonica, and it was just magical to me. And so I said very nice things about it, and I got a call from Prefab Sprout's manager saying, "We were tuned in listening to you, and we were holding our breath, because we thought 'he's going to massacre ours'."


TD: And then I was the only one that said nice things about them. And they said, "It so happens we're actually looking for a producer right now. Are you interested?" And I said, "Absolutely, I'm interested." And so they said, "Well, we don't have many songs on tape to play you, but we'd like to invite you up to Paddy's house." I took the train up, spent the day there. And he lived on the top of a hill in an old Catholic rectory where his mom had looked after the church. And there were crucifixes on the walls. His Dad, who'd had a stroke, was ill in bed upstairs.

And Paddy took me to his room, and he pulled out this stack of songs. And we sat there for a few hours listening to them. That was the first meeting with him. He's a very interesting guy, very, very well read, but humble.

PM: And a soft-spoken fellow, or--

TD: Yeah, fairly soft-spoken. He's also got sort of an exhibitionist side, which comes out every now and then when he's got a few brown ales in him.


TD: He can be coaxed into letting rip every now and then. So one of my favorite things about the album is that you get these occasional primal screams.

PM: Definitely.

TD: The way he sings "Antiques," the opening line. And then later on in "Johnny, Johnny," which is this very sort of lush soft song, and in the chorus he just lets rip at the end with this scream. And I always liked that he did that on that album. In later years he tended to be this sort of breathy crooner, and you hear less of that raw side.

PM: Right.    




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