Ask Allan Crockford about his musical CV and you can not help but be seriously impressed; The Prisoners, Prime Movers, Solarflares, Stabilisers, James Taylor Quartet, Goodchilde and Phaze. Add his own current band The Galileo 7 and you have a very fine body of work to appreciate.
All of these bands are highly influential and inspirational to successive generations of aspiring musicians with a psych, garage tendency. “But what about mod?” you may ask.
I work on the principle that arguably with the exception of The Small Faces, there is no-such-thing as a ‘mod’ band. However, there are legions of bands with a mod following. Most, if not all of the bands Allan Crockford has been a part of, fall into the latter category when it comes to the UK. Across Europe, they are more regarded as part of the psych, garage, punk scene.
Over the Whitsun Bank Holiday, Allan lines up with long-time collaborators, Graham Day and Wolf Howard at Margate as Graham Day and The Forefathers.
The purpose of this incarnation was simply to revisit the back catalogue of their combined output and revitalise some truly great songs, resulting in the acclaimed debut album ‘Good Things’.
01. How pleased are you with the reception of both the band and the album?
Very pleased with both. It’s come as a great surprise to be greeted with this sort of enthusiasm for doing something exactly the same as we’ve always done! We suspected that a few old faithfuls would be interested, but it’s gone beyond that. If only we’d had this sort of enthusiasm when we last together as The Solarflares then we might have carried on without the 10 year break. I think the internet has helped with making our presence known.
02. What has been like to revisit those great songs with Graham and Wolf?
A lot of them we had played before at various times, but not collected together in one set. It’s been pretty easy really. The real surprise has been doing Prisoners songs without the organ and not really missing it. I suppose we’ve got better at filling the holes in the sound, or maybe letting the songs breathe with a sparser sound. One of the two anyway… I’ve also really enjoyed playing Gaolers songs. To me they are like new songs as me and Wolf didn’t play on the original recordings. It means it’s not all nostalgia.
03. You have had a long-standing writing partnership with Graham Day. How does the process work for you both and has it changed over the years?
It’s not a writing partnership. Graham wrote the basic songs, then they were fleshed out and arranged with the full band, whichever one we were in at the time. I might have contributed the odd arrangement suggestion occasionally, but the songs we play in the Forefathers are very much his. If I made a contribution it’s more in being quick to pick his ideas up and play bass in a way that compliments his sound. I only started writing songs myself in the last 7-8 years, during the time that we weren’t playing together. If we were ever to record new material with this band, then I dare say we’d do it the same way as we always did, with me and Wolf jamming along with Graham’s basic idea until the song emerged. Why change a winning formula!
04. How surprised are you that The Prisoners and Prime Movers are still immensely popular in the 21st century?
I dispute that the Prime Movers were ever that popular! The only reason we were called that when we initially made our return was for a one off gig in Germany for an old record label that specially requested it. We dropped all the PMs songs from the set very quickly, apart from ‘Good Things’. And also ‘immensely popular’ is pushing it a bit for both bands! We’ve got a small set of very enthusiastic and loyal fans that make a lot of noise, but it’s still very small scale. We’re very grateful to them, but we never over-estimate our popularity. We’re preaching to a small number of converted.
05. You have told me in the past that throughout your career, from The Prisoners onwards, you and indeed the other members of the various bands, never regarded yourselves as mods, but you seem to have attracted a mod following in the UK. Why do you think that is?
We never disputed that there were ‘Mod’ elements to our sound and style, but we never wanted to be defined by a label. We just loved 60’s rock n roll and style. Most people dressed that way back then, but weren’t called Mods. I don’t get the need to identify with something narrow and limiting. Why can’t you play the music and wear some of the gear if you feel like it, without someone putting a label on you? The development of youth culture and tribal allegiances are kind of interesting as topics for a social thesis or a Phd, but it gets a bit boring to be asked the same question about it for the next 30 years… No disrespect! I love the music, but I also love a lot of music that apparently Mods aren’t supposed to like.
06. Your own band, The Galileo 7 have received critical acclaim for their album from last year ‘False Memory Lane’. How would describe your sound and what you are aiming for with them?
We’ve made two albums before that; ‘Are We Having Fun Yet? (2010) and ‘Staring At The Sound’ (2012). There’s also the brand new single ‘One Lie At A Time’. I suppose it’s psych-pop rather than garage-rock, if anyone can pick apart the differences within our little sub-genres. Influenced more by mid to late 60’s pop psychedelia than R&B, more Nuggets than Rubble… I haven’t got the vocal range to take on soully/R&B screaming and testifying like Graham, so I try to work on melodies and harmonies that will work whoever is singing. I’m not aiming for anything apart from carrying on playing and having a creative outlet for my ideas. I realise that not everyone who has liked the other bands I’ve played in will necessarily seek out our stuff, but there’s enough crossover musically for anyone who is into the same influences to find something they like. And with our new lineup, the energy level has increased and I think we’re delivering the songs better than ever live. Check us out when you can!
07. Getting back to Graham Day and The Forefathers, when can we expect a follow-up album to ‘Good Things’?
Don’t know if it’s ‘when’, more ‘if’. We haven’t got any plans at the moment. It’s very tempting to knock out ‘More Good Things’ just because the first one was so easy and everyone liked it so much. But that might be a bit lazy. We might do it, but doing new stuff together might be more rewarding. But it’s up to Graham to write the songs, and who knows if he has the time or the inclination these days. I think singles might be more likely if it’s going to be new stuff. And if we did record new material, we might do it under a different name just to be obtuse. The Forefathers are supposed to be our tribute band!
08. The band are playing Saturday night at the Margate Whitsun Weekender. Are you looking forward to it and what can the audience expect from the show?
We always look forward to playing, and the audience can expect…. The usual! A load of old songs played with energy and fire, with maybe some unexpected choices thrown in. we like to keep the set fresh by chucking in the odd song that no one expects to play. Sometimes we don’t expect it either.
09. Are there any other bands that have impressed you recently, and if so, which ones?
I don’t really see a lot of bands to be honest, so it would be forcing it a bit to write any down… I spend most of my time buying vinyl re-issues of records I’ve already got, like a lot of other middle-aged music fans.
10. And what about your own plans? Will we see more from The Galileo 7?
Yes, we’ll playing whenever we can and recording new stuff when I’ve written it. No definite plans but something will happen. I’m enjoying playing with the new line-up and I’m sure that will inspire me to come up with new material very soon.
Allan Crockford, thank you very much for this interview and best of luck with all your projects. Have a great time at Margate. See all the details here!
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