|Genres||Indie, art rock|
|Years active||1985–1991, 2014|
The band's Small Time album was well received on its 2012 release, more than twenty years after its 1991-recording. The belated release followed the inclusion of 1990's Disinterest in Mojo magazine's 2011 list of the greatest British indie records of all time.
Singer-songwriter David Westlake started the band in Hayes, Middlesex with school-friend Ed Moran. The Servants played their first gig at The Water Rats Theatre in London's King's Cross on 1 July 1985.
The line-up for most of the early gigs was: David Westlake, John Mohan, Phil King and Eamon Lynam (a.k.a. Neasden Riots). Declining offers from Statik, Stiff, and Él, they signed with Head Records, set up by Jeff Barrett, later head of Heavenly Records.
Westlake's urbane English songwriting was well received by the press, and the band was invited to record a John Peel session soon after the release of first single "She's Always Hiding" (March '86).
Keen to distance themselves from the "shambling" scene, the band earned a reputation for haughtiness. They grudgingly accepted an invitation by the then-popular NME to appear on their C86 compilation, insisting on the track being the B-side of their first single – the wrong-footing "Transparent". The NME compilation turned out to sell well and the Servants became known for a lesser track.
The band's next release, the four-song EP The Sun, a Small Star (August '86), showed Westlake's songwriting still becoming more deft, the title-track later being described as "a 24 carat 'Brown Eyed Girl' classic".
In early 1988, the Servants moved to Glass Records, who promised a reasonable budget to record an album. Plans were made to go into the studio with John Brand, producer of Hayes punk band the Ruts. At the eleventh hour, the band were told that Glass distributors Red Rhino had "gone bust". The budget was slashed, and they went into the studio to record the single "It's My Turn". They played some gigs to support the single but Glass delayed releasing the record for a year.
Westlake and Haines recorded the Servants' second album, Small Time, in 1991. Not until twenty-one years later – following the inclusion of Disinterest in Mojo magazine's 2011 list of the greatest British indie records of all time, – was it released, in 2012 on Cherry Red Records (then in 2013 on Captured Tracks). Small Time is Westlake's own favourite Servants record. The songs are, says Haines, "looser, more mysterious, strange and beautiful, . . . sounding . . . like nothing else really."
The long unavailability of 1990's Disinterest is explained in the Small Time notes: it is "stuck in an irretrievable record company quagmire, where it looks set to remain." Small Time was issued with a second disc, Hey Hey We're the Manqués, containing demos and rehearsal versions of first-album material.
The Servants' last gig was at the Rock Garden, 21 August 1991 – "With no room to manoeuvre and no opportunities left", the band finally called it a day.
Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch told U.S. music magazine The Big Takeover (issue 53, 2004) that he was a huge Westlake fan and that he had tried to locate Westlake in the early '90s in the hope of forming a band with him, before starting Belle & Sebastian.
Cherry Red Records released a 2006 retrospective of the Servants, called Reserved. The compilation features all of the releases prior to the Disinterest album plus Peel session tracks and demos. US label Captured Tracks released a 2011 vinyl compilation of the Servants, called Youth Club Disco.
Westlake and Haines played together for the first time in twenty-three years at the Lexington, London N1 on 4 May 2014. Westlake and band played at an NME C86 show on 14 June 2014 in London to coincide with Cherry Red's expanded reissue of C86.
David Westlake solo
David Westlake recorded a solo album for Creation Records in 1987. Backed by Luke Haines (making his recording debut) and the Triffids' rhythm section, Westlake cut against the grain of the paisley psychedeliasts then on the Creation roster, Haines later describing it as a minor classic. Westlake and Haines undertook a tour of Britain to promote the record, but Creation failed to release it until six months later. Westlake received good reviews, but otherwise disappeared.
- Disinterest (Sep 1989, Paperhouse Records, PAPLP005 [LP]/PAPCD005 [CD])
- Reserved (2006, Cherry Red Records, CDMRED297 [CD]) (compilation)
- Youth Club Disco (2011, Captured Tracks, CT-111 [LP]) (compilation)
- Small Time/Hey Hey We're The Manqués (Oct 2012, Cherry Red Records, CDB RED 535 [2CD]; reissued Dec 2013, Captured Tracks, CT-185 [2LP])
- "She's Always Hiding"/"Transparent" (Mar 1986, Head Records, HEAD1 [7"])
- "The Sun, a Small Star"/"Meredith"/"It Takes No Gentleman"/"Funny Business" (Oct 1986, Head Records, HEAD3 [12"])
- "It's My Turn"/"Afterglow" (Sep 1989, Glass Records, GLASS056 [7"])
- "It's My Turn"/"Afterglow"/"Faithful to 3 Lovers"/"Do or Be Done" (Sep 1989, Glass Records, GLASS12 056 [12"])
- "Look Like a Girl"/"Bad Habits Die Hard" (- 1990, Paperhouse Records, [7"])
- Prior, Clive (December 2011). "100 Greatest British Indie Records of All Time". Mojo – Indie Special. p. 123.
- Mark Carry (19 May 2014). "Time Has Told Me: The Servants". Fractured Air. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- Anthony Strutt (June 2012). "Phil King Interview". pennyblackmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- Haines, Luke (2006). Reserved. London: Cherry Red.
- Anthony Strutt (June 2014). "David Westlake Interview". pennyblackmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- Haines, Luke (2012). Small Time. London: Cherry Red.
- Jack Rabid (17 January 2011). "Review of David Westlake's album Play Dusty for Me". The Big Takeover. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- "Hangover Lounge site". 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- Time Out, 11 December 2013
- Derek Sozou, David Westlake site
- Luke Haines, Bad Vibes (London: William Heinemann, 2009), 5–10.
- Luke Haines, sleevenotes to the Servants' compilation Reserved (Cherry Red Records CDMRED 297, 2006)
- Luke Haines, sleevenotes to the Servants' album Small Time (Cherry Red Records CDB RED 535, 2012)
- John Peel session information
- Servants Retrospective