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The End of the Affair by Prefab Sprout – Great B-sides

Prefab Sprout Andromeda Heights

There are b-sides that are of high quality, that should never have been left off their parent albums. And then there is ‘The End of the Affair’, from Prefab Sprout. If forced to choose between the b-side ‘The End of the Affair’ and the entirety of its 1997 parent album, Andromeda Heights, I’m taking ‘The End of the Affair’. It’s one of Paddy McAloon’s best songs for his sophisti-pop band, and having it buried on a b-side is ridiculous.

Despite some members of the class sneaking in with punk and new wave, there was a new generation of English pop songwriters in the 1980s who adeptly juggled sophisticated chord structures and lyrics. Alongside McAloon, XTC’s Andy Partridge, Elvis Costello, and Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside were other members of the fancy chords club.

Prefab Sprout’s early work is indie guitar rock in style, but ambitious in structure; debut album Swoon is stuffed with crazy chord changes and cryptic lyrics. Their third album, 1988’s From Langley Park to Memphis, showed the group flirting with the show-tunes that were always part of McAloon’s musical vocabulary; it’s not hard to imagine him as a Tin Pan Alley writer if he’d been born in an earlier generation.

‘The End of the Affair’ comes from the show-tune end of McAloon’s repertoire. It’s easy to imagine it in a romantic comedy, with its weeping strings and piano, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great song. There’s a terrific middle eight, a feisty and beautiful vocal from McAloon, and the sophisticated chord changes make it fun to play on piano, although I have difficulty finding C#7sus4/G# quickly.

It’s not quite the end of the affair, but it makes sense to feature this song the week that our prime minister’s partner, famous for his work as a fishing show host, resolved to make an “honest woman” of her and proposed. Aphoristic Album Reviews offers New Zealand’s first couple our heartiest congratulations.

In bed beside you with the curtains drawn
For an hour at least I can pretend we’re born
To be together and fate alone is keeping me from you
But there’s a price we pay when we live a lie
And you find it hard to meet my eye
When you start to dress as we kiss goodbye
And I know we’re coming to

The end of the affair
The end of the affair
I could love you for eternity
The fact remains you don’t belong to me
(The end of the affair)

I could tell the story of my love for you
With a detailed list of every rendez-vous
Discreet hotels we’ve checked into
How and when and where
But a cold recital of the facts would miss
The poetry, the way you kiss
The sense of loss now as come to this
The bitter sweet despair

The end of the affair
The end of the affair
I could love you for eternity
But the fact remains you don’t belong to me
(The end of the affair)

Well I’m old enough to know right from wrong
So I tell myself I should be strong
In time I’ll learn to get along
Without you being near
But I know I’m living when I’m by your side
You’re a rollercoaster, a fairground ride
My conscience and desires collide
Like rockets in midair

The end of the affair
The end of the affair
I could love you till the stars don’t shine
But I’m not yours and you’re not mine
(The end of the affair)

It’s over, it’s over, it’s over

The end of the affair
The end of the affair
I could love you for eternity
The fact remains you don’t belong to me
(The end of the affair)

The first few days are gonna drag real slow
I’m gonna think I see you everywhere I go
These are routine symptoms ex-lovers show
The battle scars they share
I already miss your worried smile
Guilty secrets weren’t your style
But you had me fooled for a little while
That makes it hard to bear

The end of the affair
The end of the affair
Now I could love you till the stars don’t shine
But I’m not yours and you’re not mine
(The end of the affair)
It’s over, (it’s over), it’s over.

13 thoughts on “The End of the Affair by Prefab Sprout – Great B-sides Leave a comment

  1. I was very impressed by this. It’s very cleverly put together…good melody and good lyrics…ambitious is a perfect word to describe it. Are the rest of their songs like this?

    Like

    • His lyrics are often pretty interesting – lots of musing about God and celebrity, particularly on 1990’s Jordan: The Comeback. No idea if this particular song is personal or designed for a movie or something.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I too am a fan of quality B-sides. The best of them opt for a more ambitious (less commercial) approach than the A-side. I go back to the Beatles’ “Yes It Is,” with beautiful three-part harmonies, and a better song than the poppier A-side “Ticket to Ride” (which isn’t so bad, either).

    Prefab Sprout seemed a classier band than most of their synth-pop peers. I agree, McAloon would have succeeded well in an earlier era. It’s all about the writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like Yes It Is a lot – I actually heard Don Henley’s version before The Beatles, on a Neil Young Bridge Street school fundraiser album. I’ve already covered Rain, but I have been thinking about breaking the one bside per artist rule as some clearly have more good ones.

      Liked by 1 person

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