By Charles Olafare
I never, ever play basketball now
My favourite band are a group called Prefab Sprout. They hail from County Durham and are the brainchild of a man named Paddy McAloon. You might half remember their one-hit-wonder, King of Rock and Roll, or maybe you’ll have heard that same song’s absurdist refrain: Hot dog / Jumping frog. / Albuquerque!
I couldn’t tell you what that chorus is all about, but the rest of the song is kind of a treatise on getting older. If you sit to listen, you can hear it in the very first line: All my lazy teenage boasts / are now high precision ghosts / and they’re coming round the track / to haunt me.
To me that lyric is all about catching glimpse your past self in the rear-view mirror and the dread that comes from witnessing all the stupid things you’ve said or done catch up with you.
There’s canny universalism to that, isn’t there? Everyone’s getting getting older, all the time. And we’re all haunted by the ghosts of roads not taken or good decisions made bad by the non-stop passage of time.
A lot of Prefab Sprout songs tackle this subject matter. Over the course of 40 years, Mr McAloon has elevated lamentful pop songs into an artform. The song I never play basketball now is yet more proof of this artisanship.
There’s no non-sequitur choruses in this one, but it’s a screamer nonetheless. Again, it deals with the idea of the past catching up to you. The sudden shock of the future becoming the present and the tinge of grief you feel for all the things you gave up to get there.
Here’s a verse that’s always stuck out to me: After the last unholy row / I never, ever play basketball now / It joins a list of things I’ll miss / Like fencing foils and lovely girls / I’ll never kiss.
So, exactly why am I banging on about this fucking band? It’s simple, really. Up until about two weeks ago, I still hadn’t completely made my mind up about starting at SCA. The choice between staying where I was and coming here left me with a pretty perilous fork in the road.
It sounds stupid to say out loud, but part of my decision making process involved consulting the collected works of Prefab Sprout for advice. Trust me when I say that this band have a back catalogue full of life lessons. I guess the lesson I got from these particular songs (among plenty of others), is that you live and you die with your regrets. The path not taken can haunt you something crazy.
It’s the end of my first week at SCA and I’ve not felt even the faintest hint of apprehension. Coming here is one of the few times in my life I’ve made a decision that I don’t feel haunted by. And that’s great, obviously.
But anyway, ignore all that flowery emotional stuff. Do yourself a favour: open up Spotify and throw on one of the following Prefab Sprout albums:
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