Saturday 14 June 2014

Graham Day & The Forefathers, The Len Price 3 and The Galileo 7 at Retro Man Blog Night, Half Moon Putney June 06th

The Forefathers: Graham Day, Wolf Howard & Allan Crockford by Paul Slattery
I remember a couple of years ago back in an early episode of our Retrosonic Podcast, Episode 3 to be precise, we bemoaned the fact that Graham Day was not involved in music any more since he disbanded The Gaolers. Then about a year later the news came like some sort of divine intervention that he had decided to get back and play live with a new band called The Forefathers featuring his trusty bass playing side-kick Allan Crockford from The Prisoners and The Solarflares, and drummer Wolf Howard. This time round there was no new material though, it was a band set up purely to celebrate the best of a quite remarkable back catalogue. When we recorded that Podcast we would never have believed that one day we would be here, at The Half Moon, hosting Graham Day & The Forefathers at one of our Retro Man Blog nights, a dream come true and an honour indeed. 

The Galileo 7 by Paul Slattery
We decided to base the night around the recently released book about the Medway Garage Rock scene, "The Kids Are All Square" by Ian Snowball and Bob Collins, and invited along our pals The Len Price 3 and then persuaded Allan to do a double-shift with his own band The Galileo 7, as it tied in perfectly with the release of their excellent brand new album "False Memory Lane". There was a real buzz about the gig in the days building up to June 06th, and although it sold out weeks in advance, we weren't able to relax as the pleading for spare tickets reached fever pitch right up to doors opening. And when those doors opened it was encouraging to see a healthy number of people getting into the venue early to see The Galileo 7. It's always a slight worry when putting on three bands as the opening act has to start probably a bit earlier then they would like, a time when most people are still getting the beers in, but there was no need to worry tonight. With "False Memory Lane" building on the previous two albums impressive body of well crafted Psychedelic Pop songs and picking up some excellent reviews and feedback along the way, it wasn't surprising that people wanted to catch the band. We were treated to a perfectly plotted set-list where the new numbers fitted in seamlessly amongst those more familiar songs. The opening track of the night "Not Gonna Miss You" takes R.E.M.'s "Pop Song" riff and twists it through the blender and then we get a track from the new album "My Cover Is Blown Now" which starts off slowly with a great keyboard riff from Viv Bonsels and suddenly takes off with a powerful and catchy chorus. 

Viv Bonsels of Galileo 7 by Paul Slattery
The Galileo 7 by Paul Slattery
One of my favourite tracks "Orangery Lane" has a great Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd chorus and bass player Mole (ex-Mystreated and State Records boss) also chips in with some nice vocal harmonies. The excellent guitar riff intro to "Anne Hedonia" heralds the opening track from the "Staring at the Sound" album, and there's a touch of Blur's "Modern Life Is Rubbish" album in there somewhere. Next track "Nobody Told You" from "False Memory Lane" has a whimsical harpsichord sounding intro and features some great drumming from Russ Baxter. One of the highlights of the set is the tuneful "Don't Know What I'm Waiting For" with Viv on lead vocals which reminds me of The Primitives. For me, the new album's centre-piece is "I'm Still Here" and tonight it's really great, proving that Allan is much more than that trusty side-kick and can compose some excellent songs under his own name. "The Only One You're Hurting (Is You)" is next and then it's "Don't Follow Me", the excellent opener to the new album which you can hear in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 13. The band end a well received show with "Are We Having Fun Yet?" Yes, we most certainly are!

The Len Price 3 by Paul Slattery
The Len Price 3 always seem to save their best for The Half Moon, in fact it has become a kind of second home for them away from their Medway roots and tonight, with the marker laid down by The Galileo 7 and the thought of playing before Graham Day, they seem to up their game even more than usual. They take the stage, a crunching guitar riff, a barked "2,3,4..!" and slam straight into a crazed "Girl Like You" that almost takes the roof off the venue. Singer and guitarist Glenn Page is strutting around with crazed eyes. The impossibly tuneful "You Tell Lies" is next and it's probably the catchiest song about infidelity ever written. The moving tribute "My Grandad Jim" is one of the most popular tracks from the latest album "Nobody Knows" and people sing along at the top of their voices. "Swing Like a Monkey" from the new movie "Pubmonkey" is next and it does suffer slightly from the lack of the recorded version's wonderful keyboard riff. Glenn dedicates the song to the "Pubmonkey" writer and big Len Price 3 fan, Jamie O'Hara, who is in the crowd tonight. 

Neil Fromow of The Len Price 3 by Paul Slattery
We went along to see the first screening of the film at the BFI and will be releasing a very special edition of Retrosonic Podcast which features Jamie and Glenn talking about the making of the movie and of the band's involvement with the score and soundtrack. I can promise that any fan of The Len Price 3 is going to absolutely love "Pubmonkey" so keep and eye out for the Podcast. The band's signature track "Rentacrowd" is next and highlights drummer Neil Fromow's great backing vocals perfectly. Neil's harmonies are as much a vital part of The Len Price 3's sound as his Keith Moon styled drumming. On "Preying Mantis" Steve Huggins treats his bass as an offensive weapon and swings it wildly about, lost in the music, it's a dangerous place to be at the front of the stage! 

The Len Price 3 by Paul Slattery
"The Girl Who Became A Machine" racks up the energy even more but "Lonely" slows the pace a bit and we get a slight breather. That doesn't last long as "Pictures", "Words Won't Come" and "Billy Mason" get the adrenaline pumping again. The band's only cover version "Comanche!" sees Glenn leap into the audience but make it back in time for a raucous "With Your Love". The last track of the night is the fantastic "The London Institute" which has sort of evolved into an unexpected crowd favourite. The band come back for a well deserved encore with the now traditional audience participation sing-along of "Shirley Crabtree", Jamie and Andy from The Past Tense can't hold back and jump up on stage to join in the fun and dance along, prompting Glenn to comment that this was "the rehearsals for the new series of Strictly Come Dancing!" Some in the crowd later commented that this was one of the band's best ever performances and it would be hard to disagree. Let's see if they can better this when they headline the Half Moon in their own right on September 26th.

Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
It's quite difficult to review the Graham Day & The Forefathers set, mainly as I was right down the front and totally immersed in the quite stunning selection of songs that the band played. It's never easy to review your own gigs, not just because it's hard to be completely objective, but usually there's so much work to do on the night making sure everything runs smoothly that it all just flies past so quickly. However, tonight I was determined to make sure I really enjoyed and experienced the Forefathers and not have any regrets about missing out on the fun. So I managed to get front and centre as Graham, Wolf and Allan took the stage and launched into a stunning version of The Solarflares "Mary" from the brilliant "Psychedelic Tantrum" album. Tonight's set was heavy on The Solarflares and Gaolers songs, they certainly played less Prisoners material than they did at their previous two London gigs, and there was nothing from The Prime Movers at all. But with such a strong back catalogue of material from all four line-ups, something's got to give. "You Want Blood" was immense, a swaggering classic that prompted the crowd to get right into the action.

Wolf Howard by Paul Slattery
The Small Faces style strut of The Prisoners "Be On Your Way" caused many a lump in throat and it's testament to the band that you forget about the huge chunks of James Taylor's mighty Hammond that are missing. "I might play guitar, but don't ask me to play something that you know..." sings Graham on The Gaolers wonderful "Just a Song" and he goes on to add "Don't judge me, begrudge me, it's just a song...". This might explain the lack of Prisoners material, but it's also an honest plea, there's no deep meaning or message in the lyrics but there is a real heart and passion behind the song-writing. I might have to disagree though, to me these are far more than "just" songs", and looking around me and noticing the sheer joy on people's faces, I don't think I'd be the only one! When you get back-to-back classics such as "Inside of a Dream", "Lost Without My Dignity" and then the timeless "Whenever I'm Gone" you have to say that Graham Day must be one of the U.K.'s best ever songwriters. The Gaolers "Something About You Girl" shows that he might not think his lyrics have enough deep meaning to be analysed but this modern day update of The Kinks "Lola", proves he has a wicked sense of humour in his writing. "Love Me Lies" from The Prisoners "Wisermiserdemelza" album is great and has just been re-recorded by The Forefathers and released as a limited edition clear vinyl 7" on State Records, copies of which were on sale at tonight's gig.

Allan Crockford with Galileo 7 by Paul Slattery
The soulful groove of my personal all time favourite Prisoners track "Deceiving Eye" gets a huge reception and the "mosh pit of 40 somethings" as Allan dryly notes, goes even wilder. Allan's fluid bass lines and backing vocal harmonies and Wolf's superb drumming really bring these songs to life. "Sucking Out My Insides" is a fuzzed up beast and grown men are thrust against monitors in the well mannered "frenzy". With it's strap line of "If it thrills me that's alright" it kind of sets the tone for the whole evening. The band close the set with a rousing version of "Get Off My Track" by The Gaolers, the other two of whom are actually in the crowd tonight which was a nice touch. Of course the band are called back for an encore and "I'm Coming Home", segues into the great bass intro to "Begging You" then Allan announces it's "jukebox request time" and it's The Prisoners "Till The Morning Light" from "A Taste of Pink!". "I know I nicked the chorus to that song, but it's nice isn't it?" says Graham and then there's a nice touch when he picks out an ex-pat who has travelled from Arizona for the show and asks what his favourite song is. The delighted fan replies "I Am The Fisherman" and the band end on a marvellous version of the song that leaves us all exhausted but satisfied and very, very happy. As I said earlier it's difficult to be objective, and even if I was I would have to admit that this was indeed one of those very special nights where you just had to have been there!

Graham Day by Paul Slattery
With many thanks to Carrie, Joe and Anthony and all the staff at The Half Moon, Eric for the poster design, Allan and all the bands, Paul Slattery for the photographs and of course to everyone in the crowd who came along and helped to make it such a very special night for all involved.

Graham and Wolf by Paul Slattery
Lost in the music! - Photo by Paul Slattery
For more photos of the gig please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit "Like" to subscribe and have access to the Photo Album.

The Len Price 3 will headline the Retro Man Night at The Half Moon on September 26th along with The Past Tense and Les Kitschenette's, who will be making their first ever U.K. appearance. Tickets are on sale already so get in there quick to save yourself some money and guarantee you can get in!

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