Lesser-known purveyors of the “Medway Delta” sound, Graham Day’s Prisoners/Prime Movers, alongside Billy Childish’s myriad combos, butted their way into prominence through sheer persistence in the ’80s Chatham (the city between London and Canterbury where the Medway River meets the North Sea) chapter of the Great Garage R&R Manifesto. Less spontaneous than Mr. C and considerably more of a popsmith (in the Jeff Conolly sense), Day’s songs are uniformly well crafted, with fully dynamic backing as opposed to Billy’s headlong drunken bashing. The sixteen-hours-in-a-studio extravaganza A Taste of Pink! comes closest to a melding of the two Medway styles, both raw/immediate and hooky/heady.
Thewisermiserdemelza hones the Prisoners’ unique blitz, emphasizing Jamie Taylor’s atmospheric trash-pop organ and Day’s appealingly raspy vocals. (The 1990 CD issue adds an EP and a 7-inch for an hour of fun.) Revenge of the Prisoners pulls the best tracks off Wiser, adding 7-inch and unreleased songs for the apex of studio Prisonhood. The Last Fourfathers (back on their own label) sounds dangerously like Deep Purple just prior to metal ascension: humor withdrawn, keys all broody rather than bracing, the overall tone quite serious and enervated.
Briefly signed to the renamed and fading remnants of the Stiff empire, the Prisoners cut a niftily retro EP (Whenever I’m Gone) and then made their last studio album, In from the Cold, a dreadful kitchen-sink mess that sounds, by turns, like everyone except the Prisoners. Rare & Unissued rebalances the scales a bit, with several songs rescued from the last LP but done in more traditional Prisoner style, surrounded by noise and trash and ephemera. Recorded in January and September of ’84, both of the live LPs shared with The(e) Milkshakes echo the snot, raunch, abandon and crisp sonics (snort) of Got Live If You Want It.
Subsequent to his term as pseudonymous drummer for Thee Mighty Caesars, Graham Day once more allowed his own undiluted musical vision full vent with the Prime Movers (not to be confused with imbecilic West Coast synthsters of the same name, nor Boston’s amazing late-’80s amphetamine acidheads), playing garage Hendrixia backed by the Prisoners’ bassist and the drummer from the Daggermen (short-lived little-brother Medway band with Prisoners/Milkshakes ties), both of whom had also been in the original James Taylor Quartet, the ’60sish all-instrumental combo led by Prisoners organist James Taylor.
Sins of the Fourfathers, originally released as a return-to-basics early-Prisoner-style LP, was quickly remixed with added keyboards by Graham’s new wife Fay Day (aka Fay Hallam of the excellent beat-soul combo Makin’ Time) and re-released in Germany.