What's Hidden In The Garage?
The Punk Soul Explosion ... pt 1

I understand that the Saints' Eternally Yours 1978 set is to be reissued next week. We need to make sure enough people notice. It does, after all, contain one of the all time great singles in 'Know Your Product'. I still remember the day I first heard that punk soul explosion of fury at the hollowness of marketing. I was kneeling on the living room floor, playing Subbuteo, and listening to Alan Freeman's Saturday afternoon show on Radio One where he would play much of the punk explorations the history books give Peel alone credit for playing. The howl and horns on Know Your Product blasted me away, and I swear Billy Bonds missed a sitter as a result. You should always remember where and when you first heard a great record.

It's easy to forget that when the Saints went out to play at that time how eyebrows were raised at the brass section. Sadly I never saw those performances, but still remember fondly the appearance on an episode of The Saint (I suppose it was irresistible) where the group appeared playing at a sweaty Marquee club. Of course before that the Saints had appeared on Top Of The Pops where they blasted away a jaded set of Sex Pistols. I would love to see that again!

I still love the Saints so much, so I can easily imagine how back in Brisbane the teenage Go Betweens and Nick Cave would try to work out ways of stealing the section of wall where the group's name was scrawled for the cover of their debut LP I'm Stranded, and if you haven't got that ...

The burning brass and tortured ballads that were suggested on Eternally Yours perhaps came into their own on the mid-80s A Little Madness To Be Free set, which seems to be sadly unavailable. For the sake of this punk soul story it's important to mention that by that stage Iain Shedden was sitting in on drums. Shedden was at the time of Eternally Yours though a member of The Jolt, who were one of the groups to bridge the gap between punk rage and mod minimalism. Their complete recordings are available again now, and the Vic Coppersmith-Heaven/Chris Parry LP is a lost gem.

For connoisseurs of urgent blasts of mod pop, there are half a dozen tracks here, pure melodic jabs of noise, up there with the best of The Jam and Wah! To add to the romantic appeal The Jolt were doomed to miss out on any chances coming their way. They faded away before the new mod uprising caught on, and Paul Weller stitched them up by donating his weakest ever song as a single.
So Iain Shedden moved on, and appropriately for us teamed up with Saint Kym Bradshaw to be part of the Small Hours, a spectacularly gifted punk soul outfit that were arguably the best of the groups associated with the new mod uprising.

Purely by chance last week I discovered that Detour has put together a Small Hours anthology, and I pray it gets the attention it merits. At the time the Small Hours only released one EP and a few live tracks, and their sheer elusiveness has added to their mystique. This CD is fantastic, and at least proves many people's romanticism has not been misplaced.

I should mention that the Small Hours' two Saints rhythm section was augmented by Carol Isaacs on the Farfisa, and the sharp-suited, sharpshooting Thompson brothers Armand and Neil on guitar and vocals respectively. Neil's vocals were remarkable, and very much in the vein of Boxtops-era Alex Chilton's blue-eyed soul rasping.

The EP tracks still sound wonderful, and the unearthed demos suggest there could have been a classic Small Hours LP at some stage. It is telling to note that the group's punk soul sound won the approval of the discerning Northern Soul scene, and it's hard not to hear the songs and start slipping into a few out-on-the-floor moves.

The Prisoners and Makin' Time would cover similar ground, but I would argue that only the Jasmine Minks came close to the grit and the glory of the Small Hours' soul power. This really is an essential record, and when you put it alongside the latest lovely Kent collections, Fatback's Soul Shop and Masterpieces of Modern Soul, it is more than enough to have you believing in magic again, as the Small Hours suggest at one stage.

Now, will someone reissue the Saints' Prehistoric Sounds set please?

© 2003John Carney