Reunited York band Five Minutes will have much more than five minutes on return to Victoria Vaults with promise of new songs

York band Five Minutes at their reunion gig after 30 years at the Victoria Vaults in February 2020

A BAND called Five Minutes had their 15 minutes in York in the late-1980s. Then they reunited after 31 years for a one-off gig at the Victoria Vaults, in Nunnery Lane, on February 29 last year, squeezed in just before the pandemic struck.

This autumn, the self-styled “Sexy Soul Sensations” will reassemble again for a Victoria Vaults gig on October 23, having written new songs over lockdown meetings on Zoom to complement their extensive back catalogue of original, danceable, driven, catchy soul numbers.

“We were pleased as punch to see so many old friends and familiar faces at our first gig in over 30 years,” says trumpet player Matthew “Duck” Hardy, now a professional musician in his fifties.

Joining him in the soul and funk line-up at their first gig since January 1989 were business development manager Chris Turnbull on vocals and guitar; IT consultant Sean Rochester on bass; cinema owner Nigel Dennis on drums and retired police officer turned Criminology MSc mature student Mark Pearson on saxophone. New to the soul crew was Craig Brown, music teacher, on trombone.

Not there, but there by the wonder of a video link, was ex-pat trombonist and urban dog trainer Paul Shelbourne, from his home in Brisbane.

“That night there were loads of York’s late-‘80s music scene in attendance and many more who were gutted they couldn’t make it,” says Matthew. “Hopefully announcing this new date well in advance will cement it in people’s diaries and we’ll reunite even more acquaintances.

Five Minutes, playing York Arts Centre in 1988

“We’ve come together over the summer to rehearse the songs, so spread the word and let’s pack the Vaults to the rafters once more!”

Here, in an excerpt from Time Will Tell – The Five Minutes Story, saxophonist Mark Pearson reflects on the comeback gig and looks ahead to next month’s show.

“The reunion gig at Victoria Vaults was a bit like the first at the Spotted Cow, played in front of an invited audience of friends and family, old telephone books studied and social media trawled to find out who may still be alive who had seen us in the first place and who may want to see us again.

“Jem, defying medical science, still alive and managing the sound. Nige’s parents getting in early for the soundcheck, to get a seat and complaining about his drums being too loud. Accompanied by Rocky and Sweat Box, friends and music from the same era.

“The girlfriends (now wives) returning to bop and sway at the front of the stage, except something was different; they were accompanied by our children, all of them around the same age that we were when we played back in the Eighties.

“The large Paul-shaped hole was filled by the new 6th Minute, Craig and his trombone. He’d not come to any rehearsals. The first time I met him was at the sound check, but any reservations on my part that he may not fit in were soon dismissed. We played the middle harmonies for Happy Home and I smiled inside.

Five Minutes back together in February 2020: from left to right: Nigel Dennis, Sean Rochester, Mark Pearson and Chris Turnbull. Fellow member Matthew “Duck” Hardy took the picture. “Most of us hadn’t seen each other for 30 years,” he says

“A couple of hours later, and a couple of pints to smooth the nerves, a nervous wee and we entered the stage to Welcome Home by Peters & Lee.

“Victoria Vaults was packed; the sweat was already starting to run down the walls; Nige kicked in the insistent Northern Soul drum beat of The Party; we invited the expectant audience to ‘get up, get down and groove’, and we all joined Nige to deliver the ‘still’ sexy soul sound of Five Minutes. We were back.

“We drove through the set of just about every song we had written or covered. Some old faces in the crowd still knew some words, sang along and made a good effort of replicating their dance moves of 30 years ago.

“Younger faces, not born when we had last played, moved, clapped and cheered, and my son and daughter sang along (I must have played the tape I still had of a live recording too many times in the car when they were children).

“We finished the night off with the energy of All The Daughters and C’Mon Everybody. Then Pat Rice joined us on stage to belt out the chorus of ‘Go, Greased Lightning’. After the gig, Pat asked Chris ‘Why did you stop?’. Chris replied, ‘We ran out of songs’. Pat said, ‘Not tonight. Ever’.

“Tom Forman, who also always took the mic for Greased Lightning, couldn’t make it; he was double booked with a cricket team function, I didn’t know it then but I would never see him again. The Covid lockdown kicked in soon after and Tom died almost a year to the date from cancer. He will be missed.

Five Minutes in the 1980s, when they were four, before they became six, although they were never five!
From left to right: Nigel Dennis, Sean Rochester, Mark Pearson and Chris Turnbull. Matthew “Duck” Hardy and Paul Shelbourne joined later

“The joy of the Victoria Vaults gig tumbled into a need to do it again. Plans were made; we lived far apart, but we could do a couple of gigs a year, three, maybe four. Youthful excitement from 50-year-old voices.

“Unbeknown to us, the Coronavirus was taking hold, the country was about to shut down, with restrictions implemented that have failed to prevent more than 136,000 people in the UK from dying, and we haven’t stopped counting yet.

“I was fortunate. Close friends and family are all well, I had an income and something to do, my dissertation, followed by a job where I could work from home, in the back bedroom I now call my office. Many others have not been so fortunate.

“Time sitting in one place allowed some space to think. I started writing lyrics again, not commenting on the pandemic, but influenced by it, change, hope, family, love. I’ve Got Soul: a reflection of what I was truly missing, a damn good night out, music, dancing. Worthy Of Your Love: describing my love for my children.

“Five Minutes: considering that we can change, for the better, and also I wanted to write a song that had the band’s name in it. Thought It Would Be A Good Day: a recollection of an incident when I was in the police. There are others but I won’t bore you with them any further.

“I presented them via e-mail to Chris, anxious at the response. Without the confidence of youth, I was concerned they were crap, but they came back, edited, music attached, wrapped in the same influences but unmistakably Five Minutes.

Five Minutes and friends on stage at York Arts Centre in 1988

“Now we are all jabbed, given we are the ‘at risk’ generation, and there are six of us, we are rehearsing again. The tantalising promise that restrictions could be completely lifted in June sped us on to book a further gig and I was pleased to find out that the Victoria Vaults had lived and had been refurbished to boot.

“Unfortunately, many other bands eager to perform had beaten us to it. The nearest Saturday available being 23rd October. Anyway, it should give us time to rehearse and try out at least a few of the new songs from the second album. Whether they are good or not, hopefully you could be the judge of that.  

“When I think back to the time we were playing in York, the mid to late-1980s, whether it was fuelled by the post-punk era’s belief that you could just do it, get together and have a go, or, I hate to give any credit to Thatcher, but an atmosphere of entrepreneurship existed, where there was self-belief that you could accomplish anything.

“Or, was it just the arrogance of youth, unabashed, unashamed, ready to put yourself out there, you had something to say and you wanted to make yourself heard? Whatever it was, it has never really left me, I still think I can, even now as the hairline recedes and the waistline increases, we could have another chance, give it a go.”

Five Minutes “give it a go” at Victoria Vaults, Nunnery Lane, York, on October 23. Doors, 7pm; Happy Hour, 7pm to 8pm; Five Minutes, 9.15pm to 10.45pm; after-show party with Sweat Box DJs Bri G and Rocky until 1am. Free admission.

Back in action after three decades: Five Minutes having a blast at the Victoria Vaults on February 29 2020