At the Huddersfield Town Hall 1978.
|Paul ‘Poss’ Strickland - Vocals||Mark Lawton - Guitar & Vocals|
|Chris Ellis - Bass & Vocals||Gary ‘Horace’ Westwell - Drums|
Not the Medway pop-psych Prisoners, or various American R&B-based bands, but Huddersfield’s first generation punk rockers, formed in early 1977. Huddersfield was a large town with a vibrant rock scene at the time, and famously hosted the final UK gig by the Sex Pistols before they set off for America and graceless dissolution. The Pistols were certainly one influence, according to Strickland, but then so too were “major 70s rock acts such as David Bowie, Mott The Hoople, Alice Cooper and T-Rex. But we found great inspiration in the new punk bands emerging in the capital. Of these, Wire were probably the most important, but also early Ants, the Clash and, of course, the Sex Pistols, were firm favourites.”
The Prisoners quickly became the town’s premier punk band, regularly filling local venues and building up a following throughout West Yorkshire, drawing over 1,000 to their appearance at Huddersfield Town Hall in 1978. There was also a series of local supports to visiting acts, including Adam And The Ants on their Dirk Wears White Sox tour, Penetration and Generation X, all at the local polytechnic.
The band played several times in Leeds, and recorded five tracks there “live” at Brannigan’s Club for inclusion on an album release showcasing Yorkshire punk bands. Unfortunately the promoter, John Keenan, was unhappy with the quality of the recordings made that night (of all the bands due to be featured) and the project never saw the light of day. Strickland: “Whilst working in a local recording studio several years later, Mark Lawton managed to purchase a master tape of the Prisoners tracks – despite a very good performance, having listened to the sound quality, it’s understandable that the album was never released!”
Instead the Prisoners recorded their own self-financed cassette EP, named simply ‘Release’, which sold well, principally in Huddersfield and the Yorkshire area. Eventually it would clock up over 1,000 sales, requiring two extra production runs. When John Peel turned up to DJ at Huddersfield Polytechnic in the summer of 1978, he had a copy thrust into his hands, and duly played tracks on his show. A second collection of original songs under the title ‘Laugh’ was again released on cassette only.
There was interest from Sounds (in February 1979), a brief UK tour and an appearance on BBC TV, but, according to Strickland, “as the first wave of the new wave became no wave, the band changed direction towards a more ska-influenced sound." The band splintered and the members moved on to sundry offshoots. The Prisoners reformed a few months later, initially under the name Divan Japonais, adding a keyboard player and with Lawton handling lead vocals. When that fizzled out, Ellis moved off to play bass with Deadpan Tractor, and Westwell drummed for the Killermeters, once a Huddersfield punk band who subsequently became popular on the Mod Revival circuit of the early 80s.
The Prisoners reformed in 2005 with their original line-up re-recording five of the songs from the Release cassette in January 2006. Lawton is now based in Atlanta, but made the journey back to Blighty to finalise the recordings.
Release cassette (Rebel Records no cat March 1978)
Blackshirts/Charades/Walking In Time/Capturing The Colours In Light/I Spy/Countryman/Ticking Over/Boy In A Village/Phases 1 & 2/The Girl With The Light In Her Eyes/Concrete Jungle
Laugh cassette (db 1991 Records February 1982)
Laugh/Autolock/Faith Healer/Frontier Days/Sand To Sea/Incredible Art/Serious/Life To Life
Re-Released CD (Not Just Anyone NJA 1064 July 2006)
Boy In A Village/Countryman/I Spy/Blackshirts/Charades/Ticking Over/Soldier/The Girl With Light In Her Eyes/(Capturing) The Colours (In Light)/Walking In Time/Concrete June/Phases I & 2
(Check their website (www.prisonersband.com) for details)
The above text was due to appear in the book "No More Heroes" but sadly had to be dropped due to lack of space" Thanks to Alex Ogg for letting us use this piece.
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