To herald the November release of the deluxe version of his 2018 album, Smalls Change – Meditations Upon Aging, and to mark Halloween, today Derek Smalls unveils an unreleased live video of the album’s most demonic track, Hell Toupee. The bass force, formerly of the fabled heavy metal band formerly known as Spinal Tap, is back, and back with a vengeance. The video comes hot on the heels of the September release of Must Crush Barbie and marks a stunning renaissance for the embodiment of ‘Lukewarm Water.'
“The two scariest things I can think of are, A: Satan, and B, hair loss," says Smalls. "In this song, I imagine what happens when B happens to A. The answer, of course, is Hell Toupee.”
WATCH "HELL TOUPEE" LIVE VIDEO
Recorded at a packed-out concert at The Palace Los Angeles in November 2019 and accompanied by The Hungarian Studio Orchestra, Hell Toupee, written by Smalls, is the 10th track from Smalls Change. The live version will be one of two new tracks to be featured on the new deluxe album. The other is a live version of She Puts The Bitch in Obituary, recorded at the same concert and featuring the celebrated actress and comedian Jane Lynch.
Following the likes of Taylor Swift, U2, and even The Beatles, Smalls is in good company when it comes to revisiting his songbook. The album, Smalls Change, is a poignant and oftentimes furious contemplation on aging, that explores the passing of time and all things loud. It possesses the edgy rawness and Rock God sensibility that was always shared by Derek and his fellow former band members, Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins and is now all too evident in his solo work. The album features some of the greatest talents of rock and roll music and beyond including Donald Fagen, Dweezil Zappa, Rick Wakeman, Richard Thompson, Steve Lukather, Joe Satriani, Waddy Wachtel, Michael League, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Paul Shaffer, Steve Vai, Larry Carlton, Judith Owen, Jane Lynch and The Hungarian Studio Orchestra. Smalls Change is produced by C J Vanston.
When it was first released, Smalls described Smalls Change as “halfway between rage against the dying of the light and trying to find the light.” He now says, “Forget the light…Turn up the sound.”
A full track listing and a release date will be announced in the next few weeks.
ABOUT DEREK SMALLS:
The Road of Rock is a rocky road, and no one’s life exemplifies that more thoroughly than that of Derek Albion Smalls.
Derek was born 1 April “hundreds of years before the dawn of history,” having to endure growing up as an “April Fool’s Baby.” His father, Donald “Duff” Smalls, raised Derek after his mother, Dorothy, left home to join a traveling all-girls jazz band, The Hotten Totties.
While Derek had a quiet school career in his hometown of Nilford, on the River Null in the West Midlands, Duff carried on his work as a telephone handset sanitizer, working for the pioneering firm in the trade, Sani-Phone, until it was absorbed by the former British Telecom, primarily, according to reports at the time, for its “robust bill-collecting operation.”
At age 17, Derek enrolled in the London School of Design, primarily, as he later explained it, “because of the initials.” Like many art school students of the period, he was more interested in music and soon found himself a member of the all-white Jamaican band Skaface. “I never even tried to play the guitar, because it had too many strings and they were too small. Bass felt just right,” he told Ska News.
Walking one day in 1967 through the then-tatty Soho district of London, Derek spotted a Bass Player Wanted notice on one of the neighborhood’s lampposts. It turns out Ronnie Pudding had just left the band Spinal Tap for a solo career after their first single, “Gimme Some Money,” had failed to chart. Derek fit right in and made a notable contribution to the band’s jump on the Flower Power bandwagon, mouthing a silent “We love you” at the end of its performance of “(Listen To) The Flower People” on the short-lived TV music show, Bob’s Your Uncle.
Tap then went on to carve a reputation as one of England’s loudest bands. Its series of mishaps – breakups and reunions, drummers perishing in bizarre ways – was chronicled in a 1984 film. “A hatchet job,” Derek calls it dismissively. “There were plenty of nights when we found our way to the stage, but of course, they didn’t show you that.”
In the late 1980s, as Tap’s fortunes waned, Derek joined a Christian heavy-metal band, Lambsblood. Their best-known song, “Whole Lotta Lord,” made a respectable showing on the Christian charts. To cement his relationship with the band members, all of whom were Americans, Smalls got a Christian “fish tattoo.” As luck would have it, Tap soon reunited for 1992’s Break Like the Wind album and toured across America. Concerned that he would have to cover up the tattoo, Derek hired an artist to fix it, and the piece now featured a devil eating the fish.
Following that tour, Tap broke up and reunited twice more, once in 2000 for an American tour that included a historic New York venue that Derek described onstage as “Carnegie Fuckin’ Hall,” and in 2009 for appearances at the Glastonbury Festival and Wembley Arena. In between, Derek cultivated a near-thriving career on camera, building upon his cameo role in the 1979 Spaghetti Eastern, Roma ‘79. He appeared in TV commercials for the Belgian snack food Floop and served for a time as a judge (alongside the lead singer for the Europunk band Hot Garage) on the Dutch reality competition show RokStarz before the show was rebooted as Tomorrow’s HipHop Hero. Derek stepped forward as a composer during this time; his jingle for Floop, “I’m in the Floop Group”, was a regular earworm on European television until the publisher of “The In Crowd” threatened a plagiarism lawsuit.
Derek’s fortunes have fluctuated with his romantic entanglements. His long-time girlfriend Cindy Stang went through a good share of his back royalties to launch her ill-fated tech start-up, macrame.com. Of that project, Smalls now says ruefully, “It was ahead of its time. Or behind the curve. Or both.” He’s also had his share of personal struggles, having twice sought treatment for internet addiction.
In 2019, Smalls parlayed his celebrity in the Low Countries of Europe in a position as Brand Ambassador for BruegelCoin, a Dutch-based crypto coin. He made personal appearances outside branches of traditional banks and did TV and press interviews promoting the cryptocurrency. In 2022, BruegelCoin collapsed in a wave of lawsuits. Derek, who had been paid in the novel currency, was out of luck…