Homespun: Brigadier Ambrose and Graham Day and the Forefathers


Despite having a written a book on the subject of music in Medway, I have a confession to make: until tonight I’d not seen Brigadier Ambrose (one of my favourite – if not my absolute favourite Medway act) or any of the component members of Graham Day and the Forefathers (Graham Day, Allan Crockford or Wolf Howard) perform live.

Fortunately all that has now changed. Read on to find out how I’m even more in love with Medway music than ever…

Brigadier Ambrose:

Brigadier Ambrose haven’t performed live for eight years. Or is it 10 1/2? Or is it 14 1/2? The length of time keeps changing as their set goes on. No. It’s not the longest gig in history. Just on stage banter. Or “bantz” as you crazy kids out there on the interweb probably call it.

The set is full of energy, even if the act barely move throughout the half hour they have allotted to perform. Included within the set list are crowd favourites like “helium” and new singles ‘Jambon Dandy’ (which we are told, by way of introduction, is the only song the BBC have played which mentions the Catford Gyratory system”) and ‘Buoyancy Aid’ (“If I was made from buoyancy aids, I’d jump into any lake”), due out in November this year.

There’s also an outing for one of the most important songs to come out of Medway (‘Moon and River’ with its line about “Medway you’re home/but I’m still confused by you”) and my own personal favourite Brigadier Ambrose song, ‘Mrs Peel We’re Needed’, which frontman Dave Goggin dedicates to the memory of the re entry departed Patrick McNee.

Famously nervous performers, nevertheless the Brigadiers settle comfortably into proceedings. Goggin even admits that he’s actually – say it quietly – enjoying himself.

By the end of their slot, they are clearly very, very much at home. With the finale “How Popular You Are” David Goggin is doing very little – nothing, in fact, to hide the fact that inside he might well be just a ball of rage.

When he yells about how they don’t care how popular you are, how you should eat more Special K to avoid inflicting flatulence on the innocent people of London, I wouldn’t blame you if you took it a little personally.

A magnificent set. Don’t leave it so long next time lads, eh.

Graham Day and the Forefathers:

The stage of Rochester’s Royal Function Rooms is hardly the biggest performance platform in the world. Nevertheless, the way Graham Day and the Forefathers have squashed themselves together – Graham Day and Allan Crockford huddled round Wolf Howard’s drum kit, the place dwarfs them.

Graham Day and the Forefathers are on electric form tonight. The place heaves with Mods of a certain age – haircuts suitably styled for the evening as they crash and thrash their way about what little space is available for dancing.

It’s a magnificent display of rock and roll energy. The band – a greatest hits act for all of Graham Day’s previous lineups: a The Prisoners, a The Prime Movers, The Solar Flares and Graham Day and the Gaolers – know precisely how to give the crowd the good time they came for. Tonight can be only a glimpse of the excitement that must have filled the air when The Prisoners played The MIC back in the day alongside The Milkshakes.

Later, on the return home, I’ll listen to The Last Fourfathers – one of the preferred albums of The Prisoners themselves. But even this is a picture of restraint compared to what emerges at The Royal Function Rooms. Graham Day and co – whoever the “co” have been throughout the last three and a bit decades cannot – and should not – be contained on a vinyl record, a CD or an MP3 file.

Many of the classics are present and correct. And despite Graham Day’s bands famously relying heavily on the presence of an organist (Jamie Taylor, Fay Hallam, Parsley or even Graham Day himself), the absence of an organ in this line up is barely noticeable.

At one point Crockford announces “we’re just going to try this one out” before the trio launch into ‘Whenever I’m Gone’, one of the highlights from The Last Fourfathers. It’s followed by ‘Thinking of You (Broken Pieces’) from the same LP.

And the fantastic tunes keep on coming: ‘Whenever I’m Gone’, ‘Reaching My Head’ and The Solarflares’ ‘Can’t Get You Out of my Mind’ . Day waves his guitar about throughout, pointing it at the audience, machine gun like – Wilko Johnson-like, or simply holding it out to let the feedback ring out and out and out. It is, at times, a very phallic affair.

The night closes with ‘I Drink the Ocean’, again from The Last Fourfathers before seguing into Deep Purple’s Hush, which The Prisoners used to cover back in the day.

It’s been a spectacular night. Nobody wants it to end. But end it must. And so, with the sound of lost Northern soul gems serenading the most determined of dancing gig goers, the rest of us leave content in the knowledge that it’s been a good night out.

More of the same: Brigadier Ambrose – ‘Jambon Dandy’ review.

Find out more about Brigadier Ambrose and the bands of Graham Day, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard in my book: Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway, published by Cultured Llama.

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