FORMED in 1978 by brothers Paddy and Martin McAloon, Prefab Sprout became one of the 80s most beloved bands with hits including The King of Rock n Roll, When Love Breaks Down and Cars and Girls. 

Their 1984 debut album Swoon was followed by classic collections of intelligent pop music like Steve McQueen and Jordan: The Comeback.

Sadly, since the early 2000s, Paddy, who was the band's songwriter and frontman has suffered from increasing ill health, meaning Prefab Sprout have effectively been on hiatus with fans left wondering if they would ever hear their songs played live again.

Thankfully for those fans, Martin, who played bass in the original line up, has now bravely stepped into the breach, embarking on his first solo tour, determined to keep Prefab Sprout's music and legacy alive.

"I did a 20 date tour last which was the first time I've sung and played with or without a band for 20 odd years," said Martin. "Is it brave or foolhardy? I don't know!

"It was a crazy thing to do because I'm not a singer and I'm not known as a guitarist. But the songs are great and I think that's what I put my faith in. I know that the songs work because I play them every day on my guitar."

Martin has been rewarded for his bravery with sell out shows with fans clamouring to hear songs they feared might never have been played again.

"I didn't know I was nervous until I played the first gig and then I realised my fingers weren't moving and had turned to sausages and that lasted for the first five songs.

"But it's been an amazing thing to do - I think I prepared for heckles more than anything else. I had a load of responses ready but everyone has been very respectful and supportive. 

"The songs take care of themselves even when I mess them up - there's so much warmth because it's everyone's memories. I've got lots of memories about them but it's crazy when you hear them sung back at you - you're not prepared for it and it's quite overwhelming really.

"They're all singing and are clearly moved but I take my glasses off so everything is in darkness. I think if I saw them I'd be terrified."

While Prefab Sprout's body of work is relatively small (ten albums in three decades), their music is beloved in the UK and like contemporaries The Smiths, New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen it's not hard imagining their songs soundtracking many a mid-80s student romance. 

Martin said: "The songs stopped being our songs the moment they were released - our memories are tied up in their production, their writing and rehearsal and all of those years before they got made. But to see other people take ownership of them...I'm thrilled by that because they get a new lease of life.

"For me I remember the environment we were in, the people who were there, the people you worked with, the studios you worked in and the breakfasts and the lunches you had. 

"I went years without listening to any of our records but then I listened to them again when they reissued them on vinyl and it was wonderful because you hear yourselves as young people. You hear the ghost of yourself as a wild teenager and that's great."

Prefab Sprout's music became synonymous with 80s production values through Thomas Dolby's use of keyboards and effects which gave Paddy's songs a sophisticated radio-friendly sheen. For Martin, however, it's the song's acoustic roots which he's trying to get back to on this tour. 

He said: "It only takes a couple of listens and they're back at the forefront of your brain, especially the stripped down versions because I try to bring out the lushness of the chords - the melodies are so rich but trying to remember the lyrics is the big one because I never sang them. I'm trying to learn them, then remember them and then try to remember the order of them - sometimes I'll make a mistake in a chorus or a verse and then when the next one comes around the mistake has been absorbed and I'm trying to make up rhymes on the spot!" 

It was important to Martin get his brother's blessing before embarking on the tour. The 66-year-old sadly now suffers from Ménière’s disease - a disorder of the inner ear characterised by vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss – which has no known cure. 

"He was surprised," laughed Martin. "He said, 'but you don't sing!' I think I replied with, 'yes, but I've got big balls' which he laughed at. I think my singing is improving - it took a while to realise that I can get close to the notes and I'm slowly getting more confident. 

"I think he's happy that the songs are out there again and that he doesn't have to do it. We haven't seen each other much since the pandemic really and the occasions we do meet are usually sad ones.

"The first few nights going out after the pandemic were terrifying - I had to drive over to Liverpool, did what I had to do that and thought 'I better get back' but I'm getting into it again now. I'm enjoying the driving and doing all the roadie-ing and selling the merch.

"I've done all the big tours with a crew and it's lovely but when we started out as a band I used to do all the logistics and I was the only one who drove. It stays with you - at heart I'm just a roadie!"

As for future plans, Martin hopes he can continue to remind people of Prefab Sprout's brilliance and his brother's timeless song writing. 

"I would love to tour every year," he added. "I'm in love with the open road and the toothpaste is out of the tube now and I can't see me getting it back in."

Martin McAloon plays St Helens Citadel on Friday, March 29. Tickets from