Prefab Sprout Steve McQueen Production Notes

Sidebar: Production Notes

Steve McQueen had a more convoluted production history than most albums, being spread over four studios. The original version of 'When Love Breaks Down' had been recorded by Phil Thornalley at RAK, founded in 1976 by legendary producer Mickie Most [HFN Sep '17], in a converted Victorian schoolhouse in upmarket St John's Wood, London. The band were not entirely happy with it, but it was released as a single in Oct '84, and it also appeared on the American version of the album.


Once Thomas Dolby had been secured as a replacement, rehearsals began at Nomis Studios in West London where demos for the album proper were recorded. Then the final sessions, lasting around five weeks, were held at Marcus Studios, Bayswater, including a Dolby remake of 'When Love Breaks Down', which would appear on the UK album and become the hit version of the single.

'It's taken me decades to try to absorb what Thomas did,' McAloon has acknowledged. 'He had a great ear for individual sounds. He had a Fairlight and a PPG Wave synthesiser and he would use them sparingly. He had no time for the Yamaha DX7 synthesiser and the things everyone else rushed out and bought.'

Dolby was also instrumental in the decision to sample guitarist Wendy Smith's voice in the Fairlight to 'stack it up', creating ethereal layers of vocal texture which added much to the character of the songs.

Mixing was done at Farmyard Studios in Little Chalfont, Bucks. Resident engineer Mike Shipley has said, 'It was a total blast and we got creative with EFX, etc. I guess the band are an acquired taste, and very English, but I love 'em'. Of the 64 known versions of Steve McQueen, the most interesting are the earliest and the latest, but bear with me and I'll fill in some of the spaces between.