The Purple Hearts tonight. One of the bands closely associated with the Mod Revival of the late 1970s, they had a few hits during their earlier incarnation, following closely on the inspiration established by The Jam.
Beginning in 1977, they were initially rough-edged Punk called The Sockets, but by 1978 had changed direction, as well as their name to The Purple Hearts, which was named after a speed-downer drug mixture, big with Mods in the 1960s. And in doing so, they went from Punk to a heavily Jam-influenced Mod sound. That change won them considerable praise in the press, being referred to in the British Music bible NME as “one of the best of the English Mod-revival groups”and one of the few mod bands to do it on rock n’ roll terms.
Their debut single, Millions Like Us was a hit for the band straight off, and they went on an extensive tour of the UK, opening for Secret Affair as part of the March Of The Mods tour, which I think this concert comes from. I came to know them via an import of their follow-up single, Frustration, which I managed to wear out a few copies of.
As for other parts of the world – I don’t think any of The Purple Hearts singles were issued by anyone in the States. They did a U.S. tour in 1982, just before splitting up, but I think American awareness of the band most likely came via imports.
They had established a reputation for being a turbo-charged band on stage; rapid fire and barely taking a breath. This concert, from the BBC Radio 1 In Concert series, gives some indication of how they were live. Why they didn’t do more in the States is a mystery. But considering how difficult it was for The Jam to establish with an American audience, it was no wonder The Purple Hearts didn’t try.
A good band that should have gotten more recognition. After their initial breakup in 1982, they resurfaced in 1984 and went for another two years, splitting up again in 1986. They had a brief reunion in 1999 and then resurfaced again in 2009, where they toured and recorded an album of new material which was released in 2014. Where they are now and what they are doing is up in the air. But this glimpse of the band during their early years is worth the price of admission alone.
Crank it up and enjoy.