The crucial ingredients of The Prisoners, Prime Movers, Solarflares and The Gaolers extracted and squeezed into one stripped down power trio…
Graham Day, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard have been intermittently blasting out their muscular version of “Medway garage-rock” ™ in various combinations and guises over a period of more than 30 years, releasing dozens of albums between them. Graham and Allan were in The Prisoners (1982-86), before forming The Prime Movers with Wolf in 1988, releasing three albums before they split in 1993. The trio was re-united in 1999 as The Solarflares, releasing another five albums until once again calling it a day in 2004. They also found time to play in various pairings over that period in the original line-up of The James Taylor Quartet and Goodchilde (Allan and Wolf), and Billy Childish's Buff Medways (Graham and Wolf).
The three re-united as a live band in 2013. The Forefathers formed around the idea that the time was right for rifling through the “Graham Day Songbook” and delivering a “best of...” set: stripped down live versions of the best of The Prisoners, The Prime Movers, The Solarflares and Graham's most recent band, The Gaolers. Recent gigs have proved that time has not dimmed their fire, energy and passion. If anything, these live performances have been more ferocious than ever. One school of thought says that The Forefathers are essentially a “tribute act” – a tribute to themselves and their shared musical history. If that is true, they are the purest and best tribute act in existence – no one delivers a Graham Day song like Graham Day, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard.
After a stunning debut single on State Records (‘Love Me Lies’/‘30-60-90’), here’s the album: an album that proves, no, old dogs can’t learn new tricks; but then why should they? Good Things packs six Solarflares’ tunes, three from The Prisoners, two from The Gaolers and one from The Prime Movers into its short and sharp running time. “There was no real thought behind [the choices]”, says Graham Day of the selection. “I just picked some of my favourite songs from the back catalogue. I knew they would work because we’ve been playing together forever. Although it might seem like we’ve got a huge back catalogue to choose from, it’s actually not that easy as there are songs which never worked live, some that need an organ and some which are simply not good enough.”
Recorded in the back room of a mate’s print shop, using a couple of old mics, the backing tracks were bashed out in one take, raw ’n’ alive. “I did the lead vocals in my bedroom singing into the computer,” laughs Day, “and I emailed the files to Allan who put his vocals and a track of organ on one song before mixing it on his computer. All very modern, but exactly the same spirit and attitude we used to use.”
Good Things has the same edge of the seat, impassioned fire of The Prisoners’ crowning achievement, The Last Four Fathers (1985) – and is indeed released on the reborn Own Up label, which issued The Prisoners’ A Taste Of Pink (1982) and The Last Four Fathers and Wolf Howard’s teen sensations The Daggermen’s Dagger In My Mind (1986). “I don't think there was ever a chance of [Good Things] not hanging together as an album,” adds Day’s sparring partner and longtime cohort Allan Crockford. “It's all recorded in the same way, it's all the same songwriter and singer, and the songs are sort of timeless, no matter which band first played them. There's 25 years separating the writing of some of these, but if someone was coming to them without that knowledge, I don't think they'd be able to tell which ones. Some might say that was evidence of a lack of development... I'd say that is proof of years of quality control!”
It’s that classic Medway distillation that make The Forefathers undeniably timeless – as Day attests: “I’ve always liked the same old stuff; The Pretty Things, The Kinks, punk, Hendrix, some soul, ’60s garage, puppet show themes… I call them ‘tunes with attitude’.”
And that’s what Good Things displays in spades. As a latter day dose of garage-punk (or call it what you will) these elder statesmen – that to many were saviours from the mediocrity of ’80s pop – play these honestly crafted tunes with the energy and conviction of their former selves. “I can say confidently that me, Graham and Wolf,” closes Allan, “are doing exactly the same as we've always done, with the same gear, same attitude, same energy, same songs... just a few more wrinkles. It's easier now. Pretty much all so called 'cult' (or heritage!) acts these days realise that the people who are interested in them don't want to see their heroes trying to be contemporary or revamping songs. Just do what you do!”
For new and old fans-alike Graham Day & The Forefathers (like their long time chum and ally, Billy Childish) are the “real deal”. This 12-track tribute to themselves adds a spin and twist here and there on 25 years worth of “tunes with attitude”. Good Things also works as a hard-hitting album in its own right and may well turn on a few new ears that need awaking.