09-Mar-2020 | The Prisoners
In 1986 The Prisoners were the best live band in the UK, and apart from a small loyal following they were virtually unknown. Part of a DIY indie scene led by Billy Childish it was exactly what they wanted, but their music should have transcended that scene. A tight driving unit made up of Johnny Symons on drums, James Taylor on organ, Allan Crockford on bass and Graham Day on guitar and vocals, they were always more than a garage band. Graham had a soulful voice that never over-sang and Allan’s harmonies were heroic, and perhaps more than anything they had songs to die for. Graham mixed their obvious sixties influence – The Small Faces, The Kinks, Deep Purple, The Who – with soul and post punk tunefulness to create music that should be known the world over. It wasn’t to be.
They had recorded three albums and one EP each better than the last and 1985s ‘The Last Fourfathers’ had been rightly labelled a classic, when Eddie Piller and Maxine Conroy’s Countdown label signed them. With Countdown backed by Stiff Records this was to be that album that broke them through to the general public. They went into the studio with a stunning batch of new songs and producer Troy Tate – The Smiths / Teardrop Explodes – and came out unhappy. In interviews for the album they told their fans not to buy the album, and later on they reiterated the fact that they hated working with Tate and didn’t like the results (something that they said of at least three of their four albums!)
This badmouthing of their own product didn’t harm the record’s chances as they had already been destroyed by Stiff’s financial problems that would lead to its closure the following year. And the album has remained out of print on vinyl ever since.
In the meantime, its reputation has grown. From the opening blast of All You Gotta Do Is Say, to the closing Main Title Theme (The Lesser Evil) it is brim full of melody and energy. Ranging from the vibrant – The More That I Teach You, Deceiving Eye, Be On Your Way – to more reflectively soulful Wish The Rain and Mourn My Health, it is no surprise that Mojo journalist Lois Wilson described this as her favourite album by the band.
The Prisoners split later in 1986 but ever since their influence of UK music has held up. The Stones Roses, Noel Gallagher and Tim Burgess have all declared themselves fans, Steve Lamacq adored them and dedicated a chapter of his autobiography to them, and the NME in the midst of Brit pop declared that them to be one of the great unknown bands.
Countdown Records has recently been reactivated as part of the Acid Jazz Group of Labels, and the first release on the reactivated imprint is the long-awaited vinyl reissue of ‘In From The Cold’. Available in red vinyl and on all digital services.
1/ All You Gotta Do Is Say
2/ Come Closer
3/ The More That I Teach You
4/ Mourn My Health
5/ I Know How To Please You
6/ Deceiving Eye
1/ In From The Cold
2/ Wish The Rain
3/ Be On Your Way
4/ Find And Seek
5/ Ain’t No Tellin’
6/ Main Title Theme (The Lesser Evil)