Steve McQueen (album)

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For other uses, see Steve McQueen (disambiguation).
Steve McQueen
Studio album by Prefab Sprout
Released June 1985
Recorded 1984–85
Studio Nomis Studios in West London
Genre Sophisti-pop, post-punk, new wave, indie pop
Length 56:03
Label Kitchenware
Producer Thomas Dolby
Prefab Sprout chronology
Steve McQueen
From Langley Park to Memphis

Steve McQueen is the second studio album by English pop band Prefab Sprout, released in June 1985. The album peaked at number 21 on the UK Albums Chart and number 180 on the US Billboard 200. The album was released in the United States as Two Wheels Good due to a legal conflict with the estate of American actor Steve McQueen.[1]

The cover of the album is a reference to Steve McQueen's lifelong passion for Triumph motorcycles and the 1963 film The Great Escape, starring McQueen and featuring prominent motorcycle chase scenes (with stunts performed by himself on a Triumph motorcycle).

On 2 April 2007 it was reissued as a "legacy edition" double CD, featuring a remastered version of the original album and a bonus disc featuring acoustic versions of the songs recorded by the band's frontman Paddy McAloon in 2006.


On an episode of the BBC Radio 1 program Roundtable, noted musician and producer Thomas Dolby, a panelist on the program, spoke favorably of Prefab Sprout's "Don't Sing", a track from their 1984 Swoon.[2] The band subsequently contacted Dolby, who met with their frontman and primary lyricist Paddy McAloon in the latter's County Durham home.[2] McAloon presented Dolby with a number of songs he had written, "probably 40 or 50" by Dolby's estimate,[3] some written as far back as 10–12 years prior.[2] Dolby then picked his favorites and asked McAloon to make demo recordings of them; these recordings served as the basis for Dolby's initial process of planning the album's recording.[3]

In the autumn of 1984, Dolby and Prefab Sprout began working on the album's songs in rehearsals at Nomis Studios in West London; after these sessions had commenced, they moved to Marcus Studios for proper recording.[4] The sessions were of a mutually-amicable atmosphere, with the band being respectful of Dolby's edge over them in recording and musical experience and Dolby himself keeping into account the band's wishes, knowing that McAloon "wouldn't want to be diluted" by his additions to the album.[4] Subsequent mixing was carried out at Farmyard Studios in Buckinghamshire.[4]

Music and lyrics[edit]

The bulk of Steve McQueen's sound is dominated by Dolby's lush, jazz-tinged production.[5][6] McAloon's songs touch on a number of themes, including love, infidelity, regret, and heartbreak,[5] and are lyrically "literate and humorous without being condescending in the slightest."[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[8]
Hot Press 11/12[9]
Mojo 4/5 stars[10]
Pitchfork Media 8.6/10[11]
Q 4/5 stars[12]
Record Collector 4/5 stars[13]
Spin 4.5/5 stars[14]
Uncut 5/5 stars[15]
The Village Voice B+[16]

Critically acclaimed at the time of its release, Steve McQueen reached number 4 in the 1985 NME end-of-year poll for best albums, as well as number 28 on The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll for best albums.[17]

Chris Heath of Smash Hits called frontman Paddy McAloon one of the best songwriters of "depressingly precise song about the joys, fears and disappointments of love" to emerge in the wake of The Smiths' rise and lamented his suspicion that "too many people" would be put off by the obscurity and complexity of Prefab Sprout's songs.[18] Richard Gehr of Spin cited Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Lennon–McCartney and Elvis Costello, among other figures, as some of the "many ghosts lurking" in McAloon's lyrics and wrote: "I confess that the usual sensitive singer-songwriter crap almost always makes me squeal with boredom, but McAloon delivers the bacon here."[19] Robert Christgau, writing in The Village Voice, called McAloon "a type we've met many times before—the well-meaning cad," and was reminded of "the justly obscure, unjustly forgotten Jo Mama—or of Aztec Camera if Roddy Frame were a cad."[16]

Subsequent retrospective reviews of the album have also been favorable. Jason Ankeny of AllMusic described Steve McQueen as "a minor classic, a shimmering jazz-pop masterpiece sparked by Paddy McAloon's witty and inventive songwriting."[5] Alex Robertson of Sputnikmusic praised it as "a nearly flawless convergence of gorgeous, smart pop songwriting and immediately pleasurable production that divides itself into eleven songs that are both distinct and also separated by a common thread of excellence."[7] Q's Gareth Grundy called Steve McQueen the most succinct expression of McAloon's skills as a songwriter,[12] while Will Hermes, writing in Spin, described the album as "elegant" and found it to be Thomas Dolby's supreme achievement as a producer.[14]


Steve McQueen has subsequently featured in a number of all-time lists of greatest albums, including number 47 in a 1993 poll by The Times, number 90 in a 1995 poll by Mojo and number 61 in a 1997 poll by The Guardian.[20][21][22] Stephen Troussé of Pitchfork Media cites it as "the defining record of 1985 sophisto-pop".[11] The A.V. Club's Noel Murray writes that Steve McQueen and preceding album Swoon "are considered classics of the mid-'80s post-punk/new-wave era, even though they don't sound like they belong to any particular movement,"[23] while PopMatters' Russ Slater describes them as "great indie pop."[24] Terry Staunton of Record Collector writes that "more than 20 years on, [McAloon's] dissertations on love, loss and uncertainty are just as affecting, the intelligence of the lyrics matched by the sophistication of the chord structures and the musical arrangements."[13] Steve McQueen was selected for inclusion in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[25]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Paddy McAloon.

  1. "Faron Young" – 3:50
  2. "Bonny" – 3:45
  3. "Appetite" – 3:56
  4. "When Love Breaks Down" – 4:08 (The UK and US releases have slightly different versions of the song)
  5. "Goodbye Lucille #1" – 4:31
  6. "Hallelujah" – 4:20
  7. "Moving the River" – 3:57
  8. "Horsin' Around" – 4:39
  9. "Desire As" – 5:19
  10. "Blueberry Pies" – 2:24
  11. "When the Angels" – 4:29
US bonus tracks
  1. "The Yearning Loins" – 3:38
  2. "He'll Have to Go" – 3:06
  3. "Faron" (Truckin' mix) – 4:45
Legacy Edition second disc
  1. "Appetite" – 3:57
  2. "Bonny" – 5:58
  3. "Desire As" – 7:08
  4. "When Love Breaks Down" – 4:24
  5. "Goodbye Lucille #1" – 3:54
  6. "Moving the River" – 3:39
  7. "Faron Young" – 3:47
  8. "When the Angels" – 4:08


Credits adapted from the liner notes for Steve McQueen.[26]


  1. ^ Keefe, Michael (6 August 2007). "Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen". PopMatters. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Barlow, Jason (14 November 2011). "GQ&A: Thomas Dolby". GQ. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Goodman, Frank. "A Conversation with Thomas Dolby". Puremusic. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Doyle, Tom (March 2014). "Prefab Sprout – Paddy McAloon: From Langley Park To Memphis (And Back)". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d Ankeny, Jason. "Two Wheels Good – Prefab Sprout". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  6. ^ Hutlock, Todd (1 September 2003). "On Second Thought: Prefab Sprout – Two Wheels Good". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Robertson, Alex (13 June 2011). "Review: Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-857-12595-8. 
  9. ^ Byrne, George (1 February 1985). "Steve McQueen". Hot Press. Retrieved 25 July 2015. (subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ Easlea, Daryl (May 2007). "Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen". Mojo (162): 126. 
  11. ^ a b Troussé, Stephen (29 August 2007). "Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen (Deluxe Edition)". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Grundy, Gareth (May 2007). "Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen". Q (250): 134. 
  13. ^ a b Staunton, Terry (June 2007). "Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen: Deluxe Edition". Record Collector (337). Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Hermes, Will (September 2007). "Reissues". Spin. 23 (9): 124. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  15. ^ Mueller, Andrew. "Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen". Uncut. Archived from the original on 20 April 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (11 March 1986). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  17. ^ "The 1985 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. 18 February 1986. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  18. ^ Heath, Chris (8–21 May 1985). "Prefab Sprout: Steve McQueen (Kitchenware)". Smash Hits: 20. 
  19. ^ Gehr, Richard (December 1985). "Prefab Sprout: Two Wheels Good". Spin. 1 (8). Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  20. ^ "The 100 Best Albums of All Time". The Times. 1993. 
  21. ^ "The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made". Mojo (21). August 1995. 
  22. ^ "The 100 Best Albums Ever". The Guardian. 19 September 1997. 
  23. ^ Murray, Noel (18 February 1986). "Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  24. ^ Slater, Russ (4 November 2010). "An Interview with Prefab Sprout". PopMatters. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  25. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. p. 534. ISBN 0-789-32074-6. 
  26. ^ ‹See Tfm›Steve McQueen (liner notes). Prefab Sprout. Kitchenware Records. 1985. KWLP3.