Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Prisoners

The Prisoners were the best garage band ever.. but never reached the star status that they rightfully deserved.

Formed at the tail-end of the ‘mod revival’ or early- doors of the ‘new psychedelic revival’ scenes (depending on which shirts you wore) of the early eighties in Rochester, Kent, despite being perfect for both genres, the group remained largely unknown. 

The final- full band line-up: Graham Day - guitar and vocals, Allan Crockford – bass, Johnny Symons – drums and James Taylor - organ, only appeared on many peoples radar some time later when they inexplicably emerged at the heart of the ‘psycho-billy’ scene. 

Regular stage-mates with The Stingrays and The Milkshakes (Bruce Brand from the Milkshakes featured in an earlier line-up), they later appeared on flagship Channel 4 music program The Tube (dressed in Start Trek uniforms) with these quiff-haired rockers. The garage band nature of the group’s sound fitted the rough and ready slap-bass rattle of this scene, the Prisoners were finally noticed. 

After a couple small number pressings (A Taste of Pink in 1982 and TheWiserMiserDemelza 1983) Big Beat Records released the single, ‘Hurrican’, a fast riffed, Pretty Things inspired, mighty soulful pop rock record that everyone who ever heard it loved with a passion. The album The Last Fourfathers followed and established the band as the sixties- inspired band of the 80’s. 

 Graham Days strong song writing, a vehicle for his soulful, Marriot-esque, voice, backed by the solid rhythm section and screaming Hammond organ, (replacing the cheap cranked-up Casio of early recordings), won the band a loyal fan base and fearsome live reputation, eventually being asked by The Ramones to support them on their UK tour.  

Unfortunately, despite 10/10 reviews in the N.M.E, chart success evaded the group. When Stiff Records subsidiary Countdown decided that the band should take a more ‘produced’ commercial sound on the 86 album, In From The Cold, tensions eventually flared and the band split. An alternate, preferred, mix from this session features on Sugarlumps 3.

Since splitting up the members of The Prisoners have featured in a wide range of bands. Taylor and Crockford formed Acid Jazz band JTQ in 1986.
Day and Crockford formed The Solarflares, who released four albums before splitting up in 2004,
Day formed Planet, plus other various groups, currently Graham Day & the Gaolers.
Crockford, again, played with The Stabilisers, again on Acid Jazz, and currently The Galileo 7.


  1. Hmm. If they'd reached star status would they still have been considered a garage band?

    No matter, they *were* criminally underrated. Diggin' the blog, keep up the good work.

  2. I always consider 'garage' to be a style of music (Psych-mod) rather than the literally meaning (from garage roots).

    Many successful US sixties garage bands started from garage rehearsals/gigs, some going on to greater things, Love, The Doors.

    One of my favorite UK bands,who I always think of as a garage band, is The Rolling Stones. To me Get Off Of My Cloud is the zenith of garage punk. And many US garage bands sound like they are trying to emulate the Stones sound, The Electric Prunes, The Music Machine.

    Garage bands used to be in the pop charts all the time, from the 60s (The Standells) through to the 90s (Kuler Shaker), unfortunately those days seem to have gone, unless you include Beady Eye.

    The Prisoners had a big enough fan base to get them near the edges of the charts back in the 8os, despite having relatively little radio play. Ultimately I think The Prisoners were not the stars that they could have been simply because they didn’t want to be.

  3. 26th May 2012 will see the return of this wonderful group for a one off reunion concert in London

  4. So what has actually happened to Graham and the Gaolers..? No new vinyl or gigs for some time.

    I've followed the Prisoners since 1984 and have been a collector of their vinyl (plus related bands). But emigrated to NZ 7 years ago so unable to keep up the UK scene.

  5. I met Graham at The Goodwood Vintage festival a couple of summers ago(I was djing the Soul Casino stage all weekend)and spent the day getting waisted with him and Dave from defunkt Acid Jazz garage band Jarvis Humby. He'd been gigging with the Gaolers, so thats around 2010. Haven't heard much since then. Lots of Gaolers releases available though. Google and ye shall find.

  6. Hello people
    yep, The Prisoners nearly did a one-off gig back in May but it all fell through. We just couldn't get it together for reasons too complicated to go into.
    However I'm still playing with my own band The Galileo 7 and we've just put our second album out. Find out more and maybe even buy it at www.thegalileo7.co.uk. Out on vinyl and CD as well as those horrible download things.