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Shop Around Ö part 23
Everyone Alive Wants Answers by Colleen is in my opinion one of the great records. And its successor The Golden Morning Breaks is as lovely. Every review I read says itís more natural than the first, more emphasis on acoustic instrumentation than impeccably assembled samples. But to me it sounds very like Colleen, and should be the perfect soundtrack for unwinding on a summerís evening. Yet sometimes itís not possible to unwind, and then such soothing sounds serve only to annoy.

Thatís when you need something sung through clenched teeth, neck muscles bulging, fists furled. And recently that need has been perfectly fulfilled by the Prime Moversí Sins of the Fourfathers, which was salvaged a few years back by Detour. Itís possibly the angriest record I can think of right now, and I very much regret missing out on it the first time around. But that was my own personal prejudices coming into play.

The first time around was 1989. Refugees from the James Taylor Quartet, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard, had chivvied Graham Day into action, and they had captured the spirit of the moment on a rapidly-recorded set at Red Studios, Rochester, with Graham Semark at the controls. Musically, the set is stripped-down garage blues which howls and roars. Thatís no real surprise. What is astonishing is Day, the venom of his performance, and the vituperative nature of his songs. In sleevenotes, Crockford notes Dayís songs ďwere just short angry vignettes about living in the Medway Towns. A quick gob of provincial bile then gone.Ē

He also notes these were probably Dayís first songs since the demise of the Prisoners, when major label interference had damaged a dream ≠ and significantly that was also the case for Dayís partner (our own adopted goddess) Fay Hallam with Makiní Time. Somehow pouring out came anger at life at the end of the Ď80s. He should have been a contender but was stranded in self-exile in the often grim, occasionally violent, but sometimes special Medway Towns. The towns heíd grown up in and sort of loved but could now see changing, with new housing developments springing up and people pouring out of London in search of cheap property. And he was just stuck indoors licking his wounds, wondering what to do next, and like a lot of us at the time feeling superior because by being poor and minding our own business we were not destroying the world with greed and hate. Sentiments shared by people like the Jasmine Minks, and I am haunted by the idea that the Prime Movers recorded the set the Jasmines should have been forced to capture at that time. Thereís a lost Jasmines song called 'the Landlord' which would have worked a treat here.
The Prisoners were never my favourite group. I do, however, have a very vivid memory of buying their A Taste Of Pink debut over the Easter weekend of 1983 in a clothes chop somewhere upstairs off Carnaby Street. And if you donít know that record I urge you to pick up a cheap copy of the Big Beat salvage set if you have the slightest interest in raw Ď60s ríníb/garage sounds. They look so ridiculously cool and cute on the cover like so many of us did then having been through the punk thing and traced our mod roots back to a point where we wondered where to go next.

I confess my own personal prejudices stopped me taking any further interest in The Prisoners. For one thing they came from the Medway Towns. Itís a geographical thing. I was from the very North West part of Kent that was really South East London, and you looked towards the Capital, not towards the Medway Towns. And I associated the Medway Towns music scene with the philistine beat of the Milkshakes, and this boy has long harboured an irrational hatred of the works of Billy Childish. I cannot understand the appeal of that man or any of his works. And he and his accomplices have always been very close to the Prisoners, which has been incredibly distracting. The Prisoners also signed to Big Beat, which again I was rather snobby about because that was all a bit close to the trash aesthetic and the garage/psychobilly scene. The old thing, you know, about context being everything. We should have rescued The Prisoners and aligned more to a North West Kent beat/punk heritage which also embraces the Stones and the Pretty Things.

But then people can also be prejudiced about some of the music I like a lot. Detour have been involved in some other important salvage operations, some of which have been covered here like the Purple Hearts and Small Hours. I would also point you in the direction of salvaged sets from the Killermeters and The Name. To some these would be second division mod outfits from the late-Ď70s/early-Ď80s, but for me they created some classic pop music. What Detour has done which is really important is dig up lost demos which are a million times better than these groups unfortunate liaisons with larger labels would evince.

In particular the Killermeters from Huddersfield produced a lost setís worth of wonderfully punchy and plangent power pop gems that stand the test of time. Somewhere along the line they evolved into Soldiers Are Dreamers, developing classic beat/mod influences into more sophisticated West Coast ones. At the time the great Dave McCullough lauded the new adventuresomeness in Sounds, and the surviving demos demonstrate just why he praised them so. You just donít see Paisley button-downs around now do you?
If Dave McCullough barely figures in pop history now, I guess the Killermeters have no chance. History gets rewritten all the time though. I keep reading about the songs Johnny Rotten played on Capital Radio in 1977, and the socio-significance of these. Well, he also played songs by The Creation and Gary Glitter, so you canít entirely discount debate about Rotten endorsing punkís glam stomping roots and links back to mod uproar. Even this week Mick Jones in Time Out talks about using tapes of mod noise to fuel the White Riot tour.

A more explicit example of the link between hard mod pop and footstomping glitter terrace anthems is provided by the wonderful Jook compilation on RPM. Up to now for mod heritage heads Jook has always been an elusive part of the great mod continuum in the early-Ď70s, rather like Bronco Bullfrog and its influence on Pete Townsendís vision for Quadrophenia and the photos that came with that record. Listening to Jook now The Who were clearly a huge influence, but there is the link to all those Sweet and Suzie Q records that so shaped my musical youth. For years I remember seeing that one picture of Jook sitting looking all moody and thuggish with wonderful feather cuts and Jack the Lad boots, and I knew Rudi had pinched their name from a Jook song, but itís only now the story and the songs are properly heard. How these songs werenít hits Iíll never know, but if I can miss out on that Prime Movers record anything can happen.

Now if your dream band is one that provides the Bay City Rollers with their look, comes up with songs that are like Slade doing 'Wonít Get Fooled Again', has haircuts like Adam Faith in Budgie, and sings about Crombies and being all tooled up, then check out the A Different Class compilation. If, however, that all sounds frightfully uncouth and low-brow then donít be such a stupid snob. Only a true genius could come up with a song called 'Bish Bash Bosh' that rips off The Creationís 'Biff Bang Pow!' And itís no more daft than calling your record The Golden Morning Breaks and sticking a unicorn on the cover in 2005.

© 2005 John Carney

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