‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.
There was one band who wanted to keep everything authentic: to recreate the sounds they had heard on recordings by The Small Faces and The Nice and put their own spin on. And there was the second band that craved commercial success – of MAKING IT.
Sadly, as this was the 80s, the era of Duran Duran, The Style Council and ABC, it was unlikely both bands could co-exist harmoniously. There would have to be give and take. And eventually, the fight between the two sides of The Prisoners destroyed them.
The Prisoners’ albums reflect this tale in an all too neat way. Album one, A Taste of Pink, was recorded on a budget, entirely self funded; album two, The WiserMiserDemelza, saw The Prisoners signed and having real money thrown at them (while creative control was removed); their third album, The Last Fourfathers, often regarded as their best, sees them go independent again – and win back their creative control; and their final album, In From The Cold, finds the band trying their luck with a label again.
It could only end in tears.
‘Pop Star Party’, to be found as a bonus track on In From The Cold, finds the band at its bitter end.
The song was recorded as a parting shot to their record label who, they felt, had let them down. And although, on signing to Countdown, a subsidiary of Stiff Records.
The Prisoners had had to make compromises they were none too happy about, but things weren’t helped by the unfortunate timing of In From The Cold‘s release: Stiff went under around the same time as the release date – so there was little that could be done to even promote or sell the album. For some time it was just a “lost” record.
Against this backdrop, out of a sense of utter frustration, The Prisoners decided to call it a day.
‘Pop Star Party’ commemorates the end in spectacularly vitriolic fashion. Never known as a particularly happy bunch – DJ and music journalist Steve Lamacq remembers them specifically for their grumpiness: ‘the most sullen, angry, embittered and endearing four-piece I’d ever heard’, he writes in his book, Going Deaf for a Living – this song more than any other shows just how grumpy they could be:
You’re the biggest load of fakes that I’ve ever seen.
This is a farewell to your lies.
You’re finished taking us for a music whore…
It was a spectacular way to go out: a band at their peak as a group, regaining complete control of themselves and their music for one final bridge burning hurrah.
Find out more about The Prisoners and many other Medway bands and artists in my book, Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.