Prefab Sprout

When Love Breaks Down

Song Review by

"When Love Breaks Down" was the first single from Two Wheels Good (Steve McQueen in Prefab Sprout's native U.K.), and the only track on the album not produced by Thomas Dolby. Phil Thornalley, a former member of the Cure who had previously produced or engineered hits by XTC, the Psychedelic Furs, and the Thompson Twins, did the honors, and his production certainly keeps one eye on the circa-1985 pop charts: the song's opening, featuring bell-like synths over Wendy Smith's ghostly overdubbed wordless harmonies, sounds like it could herald any number of pop and R&B hits from that year, such as DeBarge's "Who's Holding Donna Now." Along with the radio-friendly production, "When Love Breaks Down" is easily the most straightforward and emotionally resonant song Paddy McAloon had written to that point in his career, and he delivers the soulful lyrics with a disarming directness, especially on the impassioned choruses. Rather than the standard remix, the U.K. single of "When Love Breaks Down" is actually vastly different from the album version, featuring an entirely new and less forceful vocal performance by McAloon; this version can be found on the 2001 double-disc anthology The Collection, while the album version graces the earlier single-disc best-of A Life of Surprises.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Steve McQueen 1985 Columbia 4:08
Two Wheels Good 1985 Epic 3:44
The Best of Prefab Sprout: A Life of Surprises 1992 Epic 4:09
Endless Love [PolyGram TV] 1995
Various Artists
Hearts Desire: 18 Classic Love Songs 1995
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 4:04
Untitled, Vol. 2 1996
Various Artists
Global 3:38
Fizz Pop Modern Rock, Vol. 2 1997
Various Artists
Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:43
The Collection 2001 Legacy / Epic 4:06
Simply Acoustic [Universal] 2002
Various Artists
Universal International 4:04
New Wave Hits of the '70s & '80s 2002
Various Artists
Immediate / Sony Music Distribution 4:09
Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground 2004
Various Artists
Rhino 3:44
Kings Of Rock & Roll: The Best Of 2007 Music Club Deluxe / Music Club Records 4:07
World's Best Dad [2007] 2007
Various Artists
Bmg Tv 4:09
World's Best Dad Gift Set 2008
Various Artists
Sony BMG 4:09
Essential 80s: Classic Eighties 2009
Various Artists
Sony Music 4:07
Anthems: Electronic '80s, Vol. 2 2010
Various Artists
Ministry of Sound 3:46
Essential: 80s Love
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:47