Prefab Sprout

The King of Rock 'n' Roll

Composed by Paddy McAloon

Song Review by

"The King of Rock 'n' Roll" is a mildly cruel song written from the point of view of a washed-up '50s pop star whose life consists of singing his one dopey hit over and over again to whoever will listen. (This song's gloriously dumb singalong chorus, "Hot dog/Jumping frog/Albuquerque!," is supposed to be the character's sole claim to fame.) In a delicious bit of irony only the most perverse novelist could make up, "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" quickly became Prefab Sprout's biggest hit single and the only one of Paddy McAloon's songs that the average pop listener in the U.K. is likely to know, even after a generation as one of the country's finest tunesmiths. That said, "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" is absolutely one of McAloon's most charming and instantly likable songs. Listeners usually have to tease meaning out of McAloon's lyrics, and normally his subtle, complex melodies need a few listens to truly sink in. But with Thomas Dolby's suitably gimmicky production (the synth bass burps in the verses subtly mimic the sound of a bullfrog, tying them into the chorus) and the cheerful simplicity of McAloon's lyrics and instantly catchy melody -- to say nothing of that fiendishly addictive chorus, one that will stick in your head for a week after hearing it -- it's not at all surprising that "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" ended up a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1988 Epic 4:23
The Best of Prefab Sprout: A Life of Surprises 1992 Klichenware 4:24
The Collection 2001 Legacy / Epic/Legacy 4:22
The Best Year of My Life: 1988 2009
Various Artists
Sony Music
Pure... Electronic '80s 2014
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:22
Synth Pop 2015
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:23
blue highlight denotes editor's pick