|Jamie Taylor, The Prisoners farewell gig, 100 Club, London, 18th September 1986|
This was written at the time for Something Has Hit Me issue 4 but has been stuck in a drawer ever since. Probably the best place for it but posted here as a reminder of a great night and to welcome back Graham Day and Allan Crockford (with Wolf Howard) now trading as Graham Day and The Forefathers.
My, doesn’t time fly? It’s over seven years since The Prisoners whiskey fuelled farewell gig at the 100 Club in September 1986, when I remember Graham Day saying something like “That’s the last song you’ll ever hear us play”. Yet, for allegedly one night only, they are back to receive some rather late appreciation.
In the intervening years, Graham Day and Allan Crockford more or less stuck to their guns and produced some almost Prisoners Mark II material as the Prime Movers but for whatever unfathomable reason, no one in the UK gave a shit so they spent most of the time playing to more welcoming audiences in the rest of Europe. Jamie Taylor started calling himself James, formed the world’s largest quartet, almost single handedly created the Acid Jazz scene, only to influence a host of artists that became more commercially successful (certainly chartwise) than himself; which is precisely what happened to The Prisoners. They spilt and a couple of years later every tin pot indie band was slapping chunks of Hammond on their records and having hits, The Charlatans and Inspiral Carpets being the two most obvious. Johnny Symons dropped out of view, only to be spied at a Booker T. & The MGs gig where he denied ever being in the band.
Bearing in mind towards the end of their original days The Prisoners were struggling to get 100 people to the 100 Club, tonight’s huge sold out over-capacity crowd took me by surprise. Long before show time the place was packed solid.
Their biggest hit that never was, the brick-in-the-face impact of “Hurricane”, opened proceedings swiftly followed by “Reaching My Head”. Naturally enough everyone lapped it up but to my ears they lacked that special spark. Mind you, a bit of stage rust was only to be expected and I was struggling to find a decent vantage point to witness this historic event which didn’t help my mood.
Crockford, always one for the sarcastic quip, announced “Welcome to the golden hour,” and that’s what it turned out to be. From “Thinking Of You (Broken Pieces)” onwards things really started to hot up. I’d nearly forgotten how good songs like that were. Day was loosening up, flopping his long hair about whilst trying to keep hold of his guitar as it took on a wriggling electrifying life of its own. “Deceiving Eye” was a major highlight, delivered with real passion and brought back memories of the Fulham Greyhound and that ridiculous dance routine everyone did to the chorus - “You’ve been running, you’ve been hiding, you’ve been sleeping all over this town…” . I couldn’t spot anyone doing the actions (you can guess them) but they must’ve been somewhere.
The further into the set, the better the heady mix of Medway garage punk, late 60s rock and Small Faces instrumental rip-offs got. Not surprisingly perhaps, Jamie appeared to relish the chance to play the wonderful old go-go tunes again rather than have some rapper prance around in front of him. As far as I can remember, also included in the set were (I think), “Revenge of the Cybermen”, “Be On Your Way”, “There’s A Place”, “Better In Black”, “Explosion on Uranus” and perhaps “I Am The Fisherman” but it all whizzed by so fast it’s hard to recall properly and there’s no way I was going to take notes. “Happiness For Once” was never one of their greatest songs but the sod-you attitude was fully understandable. Then, all too soon, they were gone.
The encore featured an explosive version “Melanie” and Deep Purple’s (yeah, okay, Joe South’s) “Hush”. A touch of self-indulgence crept in here with long jamming sections stretching the song out for ages. Neither the band or the sweaty mass of punters wanted this to end.
Reunion gigs aren’t usually a good idea as they can tarnish a band’s good reputation but somehow The Prisoners were different. There was a definite point to prove and prove it they did. Nobody, but nobody, sounds like The Prisoners the way The Prisoners do.
The Prisoners first reunion gig, Subterania, London, 16th December 1993. Filmed by Steve Duffield of support band Mild Mannered Janitors.