Purple Hearts started in 1977, when teenagers Jeff Shadbolt, Simon Stebbing, Bob Manton, and Nick Lake formed the band in Romford, East London as The Sockets, before they even knew how to play their instruments (taking a cue from the then prevailing DIY aesthetics of the punk rock movement). They formed for the sole purpose of getting a support slot at a Buzzcocks gig at the East London Polytechnic, to debut their tongue-in-cheek rock opera, Reg. The amused audience took the amateurish teenage punks to their hearts and the group decided to soldier on. Several gigs followed, including an appearance on a float in the Romford Carnival.
In 1978, their drummer Nick Lake broke his leg. Struck down in his prime and with no chance of a quick recovery he was replaced by Gary Sparks from Romford Punk outfit '1348'. The band switched their name to Purple Hearts, after an amphetamine-barbiturate mixture popular with the mods of 1960s. Accordingly, they changed their sound from the rough-edged punk rock which was already beginning to fall out of favour to a more mod-influenced sound, which, thanks largely to The Jam, was beginning to capture public attention. In September 1979 the band scored a minor hit with their debut single 'Millions Like Us' which reached number 57. The band then toured the UK with Secret Affair and Back To Zero on 'the march of the mods' tour in the late summer/early autumn of 79. The bands second single 'Frustration' was released in November 79 but despite being described by Charles Sharr Murray as -'the best piece of teenage whingeing since 'Teenage Depression' by Eddie and the Hotrods' it failed to make much of an impression on the charts only reaching number 92. A tour of the UK to promote the single followed.
In 1980 the band released their debut album 'Beat That',an interesting mix of sixties and seventies influences. The album was produced by Fiction Records supremo Chris Parry. The single taken from the album, 'Jimmy', gave the band another minor hit reaching number 60 in the spring of 1980.Once again the band toured the UK to promote the record. After the commercial failure of 'Beat That' the band parted company with Fiction records before signing a one off single deal with Safari which produced the 'My Life's A Jigsaw' single, produced by Andy Arthurs. The 45 did make the Radio One daytime playlist but did not make the national charts. However in the Sounds Indie chart it reached number 20. A period in the wilderness followed allowing the band to change their music to much darker 'underground' sounds. A final single, 'Plane Crash' was released in 1982, on the small indie label 'Roadrunner Records 'before the band split in November of that year after a failed American trip.
After the Hearts, Jeff Shadbolt joined 'The Rage' who included Brett Ascott from 'The Chords'. Gary Sparks joined 'High Zierra' with former members of Department S, Tony Lourdan, Mark Taylor and Michael Herbage. Simon Stebbing joined 'Hearts on Fire' who recorded an LP,'Dreams Of Leaving' and two EP's for Midnite Records. Bob Manton joined Simon Stebbing and Peter Green in the country rock band 'Owen and the Deacons.
The Purple Hearts resurfaced in 1984 to release a live album, Head on Collision Time(1985) recorded live at the 100 Club, and their second studio effort, Popish Frenzy(1986) which has been regarded by some critics as a template for the sound and stance of 'The Stone Roses'.The album featured contributions from Michael Herbage (Dept S) on guitar and Brett Ascott (The Chords) on percussion. A single 'Friends Again' taken from this album was released on 'Unicorn Records and is notable for the added brass section and pyche/free jazz b-side 'Head On Collision Time'. In 1986 the group toured West Germany, Austria and The Netherlands before once again calling it a day. They re-convened at the Mods Mayday 99 show, recorded for the Detour Records live compilation album. In 2003 Stebbing produced a rarities compilation, Smashing Time, also released on Detour Records. More recently he formed Speakeasy for an EP on Biff! Bang! Pow! Records, whilst helming his bands RT4, and current line-up, RT3, along with the former Hearts drummer Gary Sparks. Between 2007 and 2010 Bob Manton fronted 'The Alley Jaggers', a Norwich 'Freakbeat' group which included former members of Norwich band 'The Marksmen'.
The band re-formed in 2009 and played all over the UK, including gigs at Londons 100 Club (where they were joined on stage by members of the Undertones & The Chords), Belfast, Isle of Man scooter rally & Manchester Academy where they were joined on stage by Mani of The Stone Roses & Primal Scream. They continued playing in 2010 and are presently in the third year of their reformation.
The band released a new live album from the 2009 tour in April 2010 called Purple Hearts Live! (Pride and Joy Records) This included the bands first new material in 25 years with the track Urban Soul.