The Purple Hearts began life as an Essex Punk band
called The Sockets, changing their name and fortunes in 1978 in perfect
anticipation of the Mod explosion that was about to blast the nation. This
bright new young combo revealed themselves to be: Jeff Shadbolt (Bass),
Simon Stebbing (Guitar), Bob Manton (Vocals) and Gary Sparks (Drums).
All under 18 years of age and definitely one of
the first bands to associate themselves with Mod. By 1979 the Mod
Revival was in full swing, mainly due The Who's film of their rock opera
Quadrophenia. Their debut 45 "Millions Like Us" achieved their
highest UK chart placing, peaking at number 57 in August 1979. They followed
this up with "Frustration" and the B side ("Extraordinary Sensations") which
gave inspiration to the young Mod mover and shaker Eddie Piller, who
started a fanzine of the same name. Piller later became a founder of the
Acid Jazz label.
The third Fiction 45 was "Jimmy", which also
charted, reaching its peak at number 60 in February 1980 (the first five
Purple Hearts singles all made the UK charts). They nearly got to play this
song on Top Of The Pops but owing to BBC strikes and power failures
it was not to be.
The Purple Hearts' debut album, Beat
That!, was released by Fiction in May 1980. The LP was a mixture of 60s
cover versions and original band compositions. The Mod scene was still
relatively healthy at this time and the album was well received. But by the
summer of 1980, the Mod Revival was in need of CPR and Fiction Records
dropped the Purple Hearts.
The band was quickly picked up by Safari Records
who released the fourth Purple Hearts single "My Life's a Jigsaw". In 1981,
details were announced of a forthcoming single on Demon Records. Some time
passed and the single "Plane Crash" eventually surfaced on the Road Runner
label, run by fanzine editor Steve Whiffin.
After a brief split, during which bassist Jeff
Shadbolt joined The Rage (whose line up also included former
Chords drummer Buddy Ascot) the Hearts were soon back together for a
live album Head On Collision Time (recorded at London's famous 100
Club in Oxford Street, 1985) and a new studio album Pop-ish
Frenzy (1986) both of which were released by Razor Records. They also
recorded one last 45 on Mark Johnson's Unicorn Label, "Friends Again"
In May 1999, two promoters got together to put
on a special "Mods Mayday 99" night 20 years after the original "Mods Mayday
79" event. This event brought back a lot of interest in these bands, and The
Purple Hearts were tempted out of retirement for one last gig. 20 years had
improved their musical skills and The Hearts played one of their strongest
and tightest sets ever. "Mods Mayday 99" was a huge success for all those
involved. This has led to new interest and Detour Records putting out a
rarities compilation of recordings and demos from that great 79 to 82
period. The album Beat That! should soon be re-released on CD for the
first time. Such is the interest at the moment that The Purple Hearts will
be doing at least one more gig next year.