Wild Horses by Prefab Sprout

Prefab Sprout‘s terrific 1990 album, Jordan: The Comeback, features a song named ‘Wild Horses’. It’s about an older gentleman’s unsavoury attempt to woo a young lady. Paddy McAloon is a brilliant lyricist, and he’s in full flight here, throwing in a plethora of witty horse metaphors. The first line is “Through the rails I spied/Your ponytail. I tried.”

John Key

25 years later, in 2015, New Zealand’s prime minister John Key embodied ‘Wild Horses’. He was embroiled in a small-scale, but bizarre, controversy where he was accused of repeatedly harassing a young Auckland waitress by pulling her pony-tail. Every time I hear Prefab Sprout’s ‘Wild Horses’, it recalls one of New Zealand politics’ more bizarre occurrences.

The waitress said Key would often visit the cafe with his wife and security detail, and “playfully” pull on her ponytail.

“In the beginning, the first time he pulled on my hair, I remember thinking to myself he’s probably just trying to be playful and jolly, seeing as the general consensus of most who meet him is ‘he’s such a nice guy'”.

The waitress said the behaviour began during the election campaign, but continued on for months through to March, 2015. She detailed a specific date, February 28, 2015, where she said Key approached her from behind, pulled her hair and then joked that Bronagh [Key’s wife] did it.

She claimed the Prime Minister approached her again at the cafe on March 13, but the waitress made her views clear.

During that visit, she said Key asked her manager: “she really doesn’t like me pulling her ponytail?” to which the manager said “well…no”.

The waitress said that on Thursday March 26, Key and Bronagh visited the cafe again, but while Key did not pull her ponytail, he joked around making gestures. The waitress said Bronagh told him to “leave the poor girl alone”.

from https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/67949918/prime-minister-john-key-pulled-waitress-ponytail

Wild Horses – Lyrics

Through the rails I spied
Your ponytail. I tried
With sugar cubes – And they’re O.K.
But I don’t think
I’ll catch you that way
I hate myself ’cause you’re so cool
With your mocking eyes
“Won’t you look at the old fool”

Look at you – Unflawed.
Now look at me – Plain overawed
Grace and looks take no credit for
Girl you’re young
And they’re part of the score
Like the chemicals at war in me
‘Til I’m a wolf with an eye for the ponies

I want extra time to play,
Afternoons in the hay
It’s a sorry way for a man to feel
But sentimental is part of the deal
I hate myself because it shows how
I’m a fool for your rodeo

Wild horses – I want to have you


  1. Funny but when I quickly read the title of your post, I thought it said John Kay, not John Key. Kay, you may well know, was the leader of the Sixties band Steppenwolf. As to Prefab Sprout, I know next to nothing about them so not ready to comment. What the hell is it with the ponytail? I get so tired of guys who think they can mistreat women, even in stupid little ways like this. Whatever happened to this wanker?

    • Despite the odd bizarre incident like this one, he was a very popular prime minister – he governed from 2008 until he stepped down late in 2016, so that his party had time to get someone new in place for the election in 2017. He had this boyish charm that got him through a few strange moments. At a tramping hut once, I saw someone paraphrase the Fall song “No Christmas for John Quays” for John Key.

      With Prefab Sprout you have to deal with a synth schmaltzy sound, but I think Paddy McAloon is a very clever guy – great lyrics, great voice, complex chord changes.

      • Powerful guys always seem to have quirky stuff, especially with the opposite sex. Bill Clinton was a pretty good president but he couldn’t keep it in his pants. What little I heard of the Prefab song I liked. Seemed fairly poppy but that didn’t seem like much for me to judge them on.

  2. That seems like a bizarre way for someone in that position to behave, eh? Harmless enough if you consider the rumoured behaviour of the likes of Berlusconi or Clinton, right enough.

    As for Prefab Sprout, I haven’t clicked with them yet. I appreciate there’s something great there, but I just haven’t found it.

    • It’s more weird than full on creepy. Like New Zealand’s low budget alternative to a major world power’s sex scandals.

      I love Prefab Sprout but it takes a little getting past the synths and the glossy production. Have you heard ‘The Best Jewel Thief in the World’ from their 2013 album?

      • I’ve heard Swoon and whichever was the most recent at the time of checking them out, so there’s a good chance I’ve heard that track but just don’t remember it.

          • 1985. I had this conversation with another blogger today. How is is that there are so many bands I have sort of heard of, know little to nothing about and go back so many years. I’ve heard the band’s name before. But if you had told me they formed in 2016 I wouldn’t have questioned it.

  3. Actually, I think I can answer my own question on why I’m so unfamiliar with Prefab Sprout. In looking at Wikipedia, the only album they had that charted in the US was Steve McQueen and that was at Billboard 180. (Which might as well be Billboard 12,000). Since then, nothing. For whatever reason, despite what appears to be massive popularity in the UK, they just have not resonated over here at all. Or at least nowhere near UK levels.

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