The Prisoners

This mod-influenced 60s revival band originated from the UK’s Medway Valley in Kent. Chief songwriter Graham Day (guitar/vocals), Allan Crockford (bass), James Taylor (Hammond organ) and Johnny Symons (drums) emerged in 1982 with a rough and raucous debut, A Taste Of Pink, on their Own Up label. A contract with the Ace Records subsidiary Big Beat yielded The Wisermiserdemelza in 1983, a far more laid-back, considered effort that ranged from powerful, 60s-influenced rock (the single ‘Hurricane’) to tranquil ballads. The EP Electric Fit followed in 1984 and was notable for the excellent ‘Melanie’. The band was featured on UK television’s The Tube with other Big Beat acts, celebrated on the EP Four On Four: Trash On The Tube, the Prisoners contributing the awesome ‘Reaching My Head’. The band was unhappy with the sound on their second album and returned to Own Up for 1985’s The Last Fourfathers, a less slick production, but a more mature offering. It was enough to secure a recording contract with Stiff Records /Countdown, but from the start relations between band and label were poor. Although In From The Cold was an impressive album, it was far poppier and cleaner than the Prisoners had wished. Preceded by ‘Whenever I’m Gone’ (a re-recording from The Last Fourfathers), the album was badly promoted and the band, disillusioned with proceedings, split soon afterwards.

Aside from two live albums shared with the Milkshakes, an album’s worth of rarities was also issued. As to the Prisoners themselves, Taylor carved out a niche with his originally Booker T. Jones -influenced, and later rare groove-inspired, James Taylor Quartet. Crockford joined him for a while before reuniting with Graham Day (after his spell with Milkshakes offshoot Thee Mighty Caesars) in the Prime Movers. The Prisoners’ lasting influence can be detected in many of the later Manchester bands of the early 90s, notably the Charlatans and the Inspiral Carpets, who also utilized the Hammond organ to propel their quasi-psychedelic pop songs. The Prisoners reunited briefly in 1997 to record a new single.

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