Below are the sleeve notes from the Anthology.
I do have an interview with the band to add. I will add at some
Believe it or not, Desmond Dekker was the man
responsible for the spawning of Small Hours. At a concert back in
1978 the reggae legend and his Aces were supported by a little known
London nine-piece soul outfit called Street Chorus. In the audience
that night was ex-Saint, Lurker and King bass player Kym Bradshaw
looking for some collaborators in his new project. Within a few
days, vocalist Neil Thompson, older brother Armand on guitar, and
keyboard player Carol Isaacs were recruited. The drum stool was
filled by Iain Shedden from Scottish Jam the Jolt.
Neil and Armand were in the habit of dressing
in smart two tone suits, heavy brogues, skinny ties , braces and
shades. With Sheddy, Kym and Carol following their sartorial influence
the band immediately began to attract a mod/ suedehead following.
Their first ever demo session featured songs
by Bradshaw and the Thompson brothers. The Kid and Underground,
both were destined to become anthems and Both Ways a
more reflective track with some great Farfisa frills, a Small Hours
trademark from Ms Isaacs.
the next three years, the Small Hours played London extensively
and following their appearance on the Mods Mayday live album, began
touring the country. They frequently sold out venues such as the
Marquee, The Music Machine, The Venue and Dingwalls. It has been
said by many observers of the time that the Hours were the most
authentic-sounding of all the mod acts. They favoured a much tighter
Memphis r&b type sound than a lot of their punkier, thrashier
contemporaries and the use of a big fat Stax organ live and horns
on a few recordings lent a much more soulful sound. They were even
invited to play at elitist Northern soul nights-something unheard
of for bands at that time whose material would never have satisfied
the soul purists. Small Hours did though, including faithful covers
of Northern classics such as JJ Jacksons Its Alright,
Don Covays Mercy Mercy and the ironic Javells
Goodbye, Nothing To Say in their set.
Rave live reviews appeared in the music press,
and the band were championed by many influential music journalists.
One of these was now infamous tabloid TV hack Gary Bushell, who
proclaimed the Hours the best new band hed ever seen. In an
article entitled Soul Meets Springsteen At The Grassroots
of Mod he describes their set as stunning, musical magic
and is impressed by their hardcore followers who dance all the way
through the gig.
Hours built a devoted fan base from mainly east and south London,
and their live appearances were packed, roof-raising nights. Their
following included the Beermats from Lewisham, the Three Johns,
two of whom edited mod fanzines Maximum Speed and Mission Impossible,
the Scooter Girls and the Bethnal Green Skins. This was an eclectic
bunch, all shuffling their soul shoes to the Small Hours infectious
dancehall grooves. In an era which coincided with football hooliganism,
rivalry between fans from Millwall, West Ham and Chelsea sometimes
erupted in Wild West-style barroom brawls. Occasionally, band members
would launch themselves offstage in mid-song, to break up putative
fights and defuse ugly moods. As Iain Shedden once said, Sometimes
I feel that our gigs just provide background music for football
fans to kick seven colours of shit out of each other...
When Small Hours were booked on to a national
tour by Dexys Midnight Runners and then suddenly thrown off,
there were rumblings in the music papers as to the real reason.
That was all bollocks
said Neil Thompson (Small
about Dexys refusing to let us
wear suits and stuff. Me and Kevin (Rowland, Dexys founder
member) have known each other since we were fifteen. He just thought
our following were too mental and he was trying to get away from
all that. And of course he knew that we would have blown them off
stage every night.
the height of their touring success, Small Hours were offered record
deals by EMI, Virgin and Phonogram, but turned them all down for
reasons that are unclear. The band eventually signed to Automatic,
a small boutique label, and released one four track EP featuring:
Midnight To Six, Business In Town, The
Kid and End Of The Night. They also recorded a
single Cant Do Without You, unreleased until now.
As a unit, Small Hours ended as suddenly as
they had begun and have never played or recorded together again.
They remain a bit of an enigma and for a band whose recorded output
was three tracks on the Mods Mayday compilation and one EP
they have somehow managed to remain entrenched in the memory of
mod, soul and sixties music fans. They are even cited as an influence
by current Swedish darlings The Hives.
The former Small Hours are now spread
across the globe. Carol Isaacs still plays keyboards and has worked
with Squeeze, Sinead OConnor and the Latin Quarter. She now
plays with Indigo Girls and divides her time between LA and London
where she is also an illustrator. Kym Bradshaw runs a farm in Shropshire.
Armand Thompson is a writer who lives in southern Spain. Neil Thompson
is a film/ TV director who still resides near the Hope & Anchor
in London. Iain Shedden still bangs the skins for acts such as 13
Frightened Girls and recently toured Australia with the re-formed
Saints. He is the music critic on The Australian newspaper and lives