Episode 159 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Itchycoo Park” by the Small Faces, and their transition from Mod to psychedelia. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.
Patreon backers also have a twenty-five-minute bonus episode available, on “The First Cut is the Deepest” by P.P. Arnold.
Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/
I say Brian Potter co-wrote “Rhinestone Cowboy”. I meant to say he co-produced the track for Glen Campbell. Larry Weiss wrote it.
As so many of the episodes recently have had no Mixcloud due to the number of songs by one artist, I’ve decided to start splitting the mixes of the recordings excerpted in the podcasts into two parts. Here’s part one and part two.
I’ve used quite a few books in this episode. The Small Faces & Other Stories by Uli Twelker and Roland Schmit is definitely a fan-work with all that that implies, but has some useful quotes.
Two books claim to be the authorised biography of Steve Marriott, and I’ve referred to both — All Too Beautiful by Paolo Hewitt and John Hellier, and All Or Nothing by Simon Spence. Spence also wrote an excellent book on Immediate Records, which I referred to.
I’ve also used Andrew Loog Oldham’s autobiography Stoned, co-written by Spence, though be warned that it casually uses slurs.
P.P. Arnold’s autobiography is a sometimes distressing read covering her whole life, including her time at Immediate.
There are many, many, collections of the Small Faces’ work, ranging from cheap budget CDs full of outtakes to hundred-pound-plus box sets, also full of outtakes. This three-CD budget collection contains all the essential tracks, and is endorsed by Kenney Jones, the band’s one surviving member.
And if you’re intrigued by the section on Immediate Records, this two-CD set contains a good selection of their releases.
ERRATUM-ISH: I say Jimmy Winston was “a couple” of years older than the rest of the band. This does not mean exactly two, but is used in the vague vernacular sense equivalent to “a few”. Different sources I’ve seen put Winston as either two or four years older than his bandmates, though two seems to be the most commonly cited figure.
For once there is little to warn about in this episode, but it does contain some mild discussions of organised crime, arson, and mental illness, and a quoted joke about capital punishment in questionable taste which may upset some.
One name that came up time and again when we looked at the very early years of British rock and roll was Lionel Bart. If you don’t remember the name, he was a left-wing Bohemian songwriter who lived in a communal house-share which at various times was also inhabited by people like Shirley Eaton, the woman who is painted gold at the beginning of Goldfinger, Mike Pratt, the star of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and Davey Graham, the most influential and innovative British guitarist of the fifties and early sixties.
Bart and Pratt had co-written most of the hits of Britain’s first real rock and roll star, Tommy Steele:
[Excerpt: Tommy Steele, “Rock with the Caveman”]
and then Bart had gone solo as a writer, and written hits like “Living Doll” for Britain’s *biggest* rock and roll star, Cliff Richard:
[Excerpt: Cliff Richard, “Living Doll”]
But Bart’s biggest contribution to rock music turned out not to be the songs he wrote for rock and roll stars, and not even his talent-spotting — it was Bart who got Steele signed by Larry Parnes, and he also pointed Parnes in the direction of another of his biggest stars, Marty Wilde — but the opportunity he gave to a lot of child stars in a very non-rock context. Bart’s musical Oliver!, inspired by the novel Oliver Twist, was the biggest sensation on the West End stage in the early 1960s, breaking records for the longest-running musical, and also transferred to Broadway and later became an extremely successful film.
As it happened, while Oliver! was extraordinarily lucrative, Bart didn’t see much of the money from it — he sold the rights to it, and his other musicals, to the comedian Max Bygraves in the mid-sixties for a tiny sum in order to finance a couple of other musicals, which then flopped horribly and bankrupted him. But by that time Oliver! had already been the first big break for three people who went on to major careers in music — all of them playing the same role.
Because many of the major roles in Oliver! were for young boys, the cast had to change frequently — child labour laws meant that multiple kids had to play the same role in different performances, and people quickly grew out of the roles as teenagerhood hit. We’ve already heard about the career of one of the people who played the Artful Dodger in the original West End production — Davy Jones, who transferred in the role to Broadway in 1963, and who we’ll be seeing again in a few episodes’ time — and it’s very likely that another of the people who played the Artful Dodger in that production, a young lad called Philip Collins, will be coming into the story in a few years’ time.
But the first of the artists to use the Artful Dodger as a springboard to a music career was the one who appeared in the role on the original cast album of 1960, though there’s very little in that recording to suggest the sound of his later records:
[Excerpt: Steve Marriott, “Consider Yourself”]
Steve Marriott is the second little Stevie we’ve looked at in recent episodes to have been born prematurely. In his case, he was born a month premature, and jaundiced, and had to spend the first month of his life in hospital, the first few days of which were spent unsure if he was going to survive. Thankfully he did, but he was a bit of a sickly child as a result, and remained stick-thin and short into adulthood — he never grew to be taller than five foot five.
Young Steve loved music, and especially the music of Buddy Holly. He also loved skiffle, and managed to find out where Lonnie Donegan lived. He went round and knocked on Donegan’s door, but was very disappointed to discover that his idol was just a normal man, with his hair uncombed and a shirt stained with egg yolk.
He started playing the ukulele when he was ten, and graduated to guitar when he was twelve, forming a band which performed under a variety of different names. When on stage with them, he would go by the stage name Buddy Marriott, and would wear a pair of horn-rimmed glasses to look more like Buddy Holly.
When he was twelve, his mother took him to an audition for Oliver! The show had been running for three months at the time, and was likely to run longer, and child labour laws meant that they had to have replacements for some of the cast — every three months, any performing child had to have at least ten days off.
At his audition, Steve played his guitar and sang “Who’s Sorry Now?”, the recent Connie Francis hit:
[Excerpt: Connie Francis, “Who’s Sorry Now?”]
And then, ignoring the rule that performers could only do one song, immediately launched into Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy!”
[Excerpt: Buddy Holly, “Oh Boy!”]
His musical ability and attitude impressed the show’s producers, and he was given a job which suited him perfectly — rather than being cast in a single role, he would be swapped around, playing different small parts, in the chorus, and occasionally taking the larger role of the Artful Dodger. Steve Marriott was never able to do the same thing over and over, and got bored very quickly, but because he was moving between roles, he was able to keep interested in his performances for almost a year, and he was good enough that it was him chosen to sing the Dodger’s role on the cast album when that was recorded:
[Excerpt: Steve Marriott and Joyce Blair, “I’d Do Anything”]
And he enjoyed performance enough that his parents pushed him to become an actor — though there were other reasons for that, too. He was never the best-behaved child in the world, nor the most attentive student, and things came to a head when, shortly after leaving the Oliver! cast, he got so bored of his art classes he devised a plan to get out of them forever. Every art class, for several weeks, he’d sit in a different desk at the back of the classroom and stuff torn-up bits of paper under the floorboards. After a couple of months of this he then dropped a lit match in, which set fire to the paper and ended up burning down half the school.
His schoolfriend Ken Hawes talked about it many decades later, saying “I suppose in a way I was impressed about how he had meticulously planned the whole thing months in advance, the sheer dogged determination to see it through. He could quite easily have been caught and would have had to face the consequences. There was no danger in anybody getting hurt because we were at the back of the room. We had to be at the back otherwise somebody would have noticed what he was doing. There was no malice against other pupils, he just wanted to burn the damn school down.”
Nobody could prove it was him who had done it, though his parents at least had a pretty good idea who it was, but it was clear that even when the school was rebuilt it wasn’t a good idea to send him back there, so they sent him to the Italia Conti Drama School; the same school that Anthony Newley and Petula Clark, among many others, had attended.
Marriott’s parents couldn’t afford the school’s fees, but Marriott was so talented that the school waived the fees — they said they’d get him work, and take a cut of his wages in lieu of the fees. And over the next few years they did get him a lot of work.
Much of that work was for TV shows, which like almost all TV of the time no longer exist — he was in an episode of the Sid James sitcom Citizen James, an episode of Mr. Pastry’s Progress, an episode of the police drama Dixon of Dock Green, and an episode of a series based on the Just William books, none of which survive. He also did a voiceover for a carpet cleaner ad, appeared on the radio soap opera Mrs Dale’s Diary playing a pop star, and had a regular spot reading listeners’ letters out for the agony aunt Marje Proops on her radio show.
Almost all of this early acting work wa s utterly ephemeral, but there are a handful of his performances that do survive, mostly in films. He has a small role in the comedy film Heavens Above!, a mistaken-identity comedy in which a radical left-wing priest played by Peter Sellers is given a parish intended for a more conservative priest of the same name, and upsets the well-off people of the parish by taking in a large family of travellers and appointing a Black man as his churchwarden. The film has some dated attitudes, in the way that things that were trying to be progressive and antiracist sixty years ago invariably do, but has a sparkling cast, with Sellers, Eric Sykes, William Hartnell, Brock Peters, Roy Kinnear, Irene Handl, and many more extremely recognisable faces from the period:
[Excerpt: Heavens Above!]
Marriott apparently enjoyed working on the film immensely, as he was a fan of the Goon Show, which Sellers had starred in and which Sykes had co-written several episodes of. There are reports of Marriott and Sellers jamming together on banjos during breaks in filming, though these are probably *slightly* inaccurate — Sellers played the banjolele, a banjo-style instrument which is played like a ukulele. As Marriott had started on ukulele before switching to guitar, it was probably these they were playing, rather than banjoes.
He also appeared in a more substantial role in a film called Live It Up!, a pop exploitation film starring David Hemmings in which he appears as a member of a pop group. Oddly, Marriott plays a drummer, even though he wasn’t a drummer, while two people who *would* find fame as drummers, Mitch Mitchell and Dave Clark, appear in smaller, non-drumming, roles.
He doesn’t perform on the soundtrack, which is produced by Joe Meek and features Sounds Incorporated, The Outlaws, and Gene Vincent, but he does mime playing behind Heinz Burt, the former bass player of the Tornadoes who was then trying for solo stardom at Meek’s instigation:
[Excerpt: Heinz Burt, “Don’t You Understand”]
That film was successful enough that two years later, in 1965 Marriott came back for a sequel, Be My Guest, with The Niteshades, the Nashville Teens, and Jerry Lee Lewis, this time with music produced by Shel Talmy rather than Meek.
But that was something of a one-off. After making Live It Up!, Marriott had largely retired from acting, because he was trying to become a pop star. The break finally came when he got an audition at the National Theatre, for a job touring with Laurence Olivier for a year. He came home and told his parents he hadn’t got the job, but then a week later they were bemused by a phone call asking why Steve hadn’t turned up for rehearsals. He *had* got the job, but he’d decided he couldn’t face a year of doing the same thing over and over, and had pretended he hadn’t.
By this time he’d already released his first record. The work on Oliver! had got him a contract with Decca Records, and he’d recorded a Buddy Holly knock-off, “Give Her My Regards”, written for him by Kenny Lynch, the actor, pop star, and all-round entertainer:
[Excerpt: Steve Marriott, “Give Her My Regards”]
That record wasn’t a hit, but Marriott wasn’t put off. He formed a band who were at first called the Moonlights, and then the Frantiks, and they got a management deal with Tony Calder, Andrew Oldham’s junior partner in his management company. Calder got former Shadow Tony Meehan to produce a demo for the group, a version of Cliff Richard’s hit “Move It”, which was shopped round the record labels with no success (and which sadly appears no longer to survive). The group also did some recordings with Joe Meek, which also don’t circulate, but which may exist in the famous “Teachest Tapes” which are slowly being prepared for archival releases.
The group changed their name to the Moments, and added in the guitarist John Weider, who was one of those people who seem to have been in every band ever either just before or just after they became famous — at various times he was in Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Family, Eric Burdon and the Animals, and the band that became Crabby Appleton, but never in their most successful lineups.
They continued recording unsuccessful demos, of which a small number have turned up:
[Excerpt: Steve Marriott and the Moments, “Good Morning Blues”]
One of their demo sessions was produced by Andrew Oldham, and while that session didn’t lead to a release, it did lead to Oldham booking Marriott as a session harmonica player for one of his “Andrew Oldham Orchestra” sessions, to play on a track titled “365 Rolling Stones (One For Every Day of the Year)”:
[Excerpt: The Andrew Oldham Orchestra, “365 Rolling Stones (One For Every Day of the Year)”]
Oldham also produced a session for what was meant to be Marriott’s second solo single on Decca, a cover version of the Rolling Stones’ “Tell Me”, which was actually scheduled for release but pulled at the last minute. Like many of Marriott’s recordings from this period, if it exists, it doesn’t seem to circulate publicly.
But despite their lack of recording success, the Moments did manage to have a surprising level of success on the live circuit. Because they were signed to Calder and Oldham’s management company, they got a contract with the Arthur Howes booking agency, which got them support slots on package tours with Billy J Kramer, Freddie and the Dreamers, the Kinks, and other major acts, and the band members were earning about thirty pounds a week each — a very, very good living for the time. They even had a fanzine devoted to them, written by a fan named Stuart Tuck.
But as they weren’t making records, the band’s lineup started changing, with members coming and going. They did manage to get one record released — a soundalike version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”, recorded for a budget label who rushed it out, hoping to get it picked up in the US and for it to be the hit version there:
[Excerpt: The Moments, “You Really Got Me”]
But the month after that was released, Marriott was sacked from the band, apparently in part because the band were starting to get billed as Steve Marriott and the Moments rather than just The Moments, and the rest of them didn’t want to be anyone’s backing band.
He got a job at a music shop while looking around for other bands to perform with. At one point around this time he was going to form a duo with a friend of his, Davy Jones — not the one who had also appeared in Oliver!, but another singer of the same name. This one sang with a blues band called the Mannish Boys, and both men were well known on the Mod scene in London. Marriott’s idea was that they call themselves David and Goliath, with Jones being David, and Marriott being Goliath because he was only five foot five.
That could have been a great band, but it never got past the idea stage. Marriott had become friendly with another part-time musician and shop worker called Ronnie Lane, who was in a band called the Outcasts who played the same circuit as the Moments:
[Excerpt: The Outcasts, “Before You Accuse Me”]
Lane worked in a sound equipment shop and Marriott in a musical instrument shop, and both were customers of the other as well as friends — at least until Marriott came into the shop where Lane worked and tried to persuade him to let Marriott have a free PA system. Lane pretended to go along with it as a joke, and got sacked.
Lane had then gone to the shop where Marriott worked in the hope that Marriott would give him a good deal on a guitar because he’d been sacked because of Marriott. Instead, Marriott persuaded him that he should switch to bass, on the grounds that everyone was playing guitar since the Beatles had come along, but a bass player would always be able to find work. Lane bought the bass.
Shortly after that, Marriott came to an Outcasts gig in a pub, and was asked to sit in. He enjoyed playing with Lane and the group’s drummer Kenney Jones, but got so drunk he smashed up the pub’s piano while playing a Jerry Lee Lewis song. The resulting fallout led to the group being barred from the pub and splitting up, so Marriott, Lane, and Jones decided to form their own group.
They got in another guitarist Marriott knew, a man named Jimmy Winston who was a couple of years older than them, and who had two advantages — he was a known Face on the mod scene, with a higher status than any of the other three, and his brother owned a van and would drive the group and their equipment for ten percent of their earnings.
There was a slight problem in that Winston was also as good on guitar as Marriott and looked like he might want to be the star, but Marriott neutralised that threat — he moved Winston over to keyboards. The fact that Winston couldn’t play keyboards didn’t matter — he could be taught a couple of riffs and licks, and he was sure to pick up the rest. And this way the group had the same lineup as one of Marriott’s current favourites, Booker T and the MGs. While he was still a Buddy Holly fan, he was now, like the rest of the Mods, an R&B obsessive.
Marriott wasn’t entirely sure that this new group would be the one that would make him a star though, and was still looking for other alternatives in case it didn’t play out. He auditioned for another band, the Lower Third, which counted Stuart Tuck, the writer of the Moments fanzine, among its members. But he was unsuccessful in the audition — instead his friend Davy Jones, the one who he’d been thinking of forming a duo with, got the job:
[Excerpt: Davy Jones and the Lower Third, “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving”]
A few months after that, Davy Jones and the Lower Third changed their name to David Bowie and the Lower Third, and we’ll be picking up that story in a little over a year from now…
Marriott, Lane, Jones, and Winston kept rehearsing and pulled together a five-song set, which was just about long enough to play a few shows, if they extended the songs with long jamming instrumental sections. The opening song for these early sets was one which, when they recorded it, would be credited to Marriott and Lane — the two had struck up a writing partnership and agreed to a Lennon/McCartney style credit split, though in these early days Marriott was doing far more of the writing than Lane was. But “You Need Loving” was… heavily inspired… by “You Need Love”, a song Willie Dixon had written for Muddy Waters:
[Excerpt: Muddy Waters, “You Need Love”]
It’s not precisely the same song, but you can definitely hear the influence in the Marriott/Lane song:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “You Need Loving”]
They did make some changes though, notably to the end of the song:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “You Need Loving”]
You will be unsurprised to learn that Robert Plant was a fan of Steve Marriott.
The new group were initially without a name, until after one of their first gigs, Winston’s girlfriend, who hadn’t met the other three before, said “You’ve all got such small faces!”
The name stuck, because it had a double meaning — as we’ve seen in the episode on “My Generation”, “Face” was Mod slang for someone who was cool and respected on the Mod scene, but also, with the exception of Winston, who was average size, the other three members of the group were very short — the tallest of the three was Ronnie Lane, who was five foot six.
One thing I should note about the group’s name, by the way — on all the labels of their records in the UK while they were together, they were credited as “Small Faces”, with no “The” in front, but all the band members referred to the group in interviews as “The Small Faces”, and they’ve been credited that way on some reissues and foreign-market records. The group’s official website is thesmallfaces.com but all the posts on the website refer to them as “Small Faces” with no “the”. The use of the word “the” or not at the start of a group’s name at this time was something of a shibboleth — for example both The Buffalo Springfield and The Pink Floyd dropped theirs after their early records — and its status in this case is a strange one. I’ll be referring to the group throughout as “The Small Faces” rather than “Small Faces” because the former is easier to say, but both seem accurate.
After a few pub gigs in London, they got some bookings in the North of England, where they got a mixed reception — they went down well at Peter Stringfellow’s Mojo Club in Sheffield, where Joe Cocker was a regular performer, less well at a working-man’s club, and reports differ about their performance at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, though one thing everyone is agreed on is that while they were performing, some Mancunians borrowed their van and used it to rob a clothing warehouse, and gave the band members some very nice leather coats as a reward for their loan of the van.
It was only on the group’s return to London that they really started to gel as a unit. In particular, Kenney Jones had up to that point been a very stiff, precise, drummer, but he suddenly loosened up and, in Steve Marriott’s tasteless phrase, “Every number swung like Hanratty” (James Hanratty was one of the last people in Britain to be executed by hanging).
Shortly after that, Don Arden’s secretary — whose name I haven’t been able to find in any of the sources I’ve used for this episode, sadly, came into the club where they were rehearsing, the Starlight Rooms, to pass a message from Arden to an associate of his who owned the club. The secretary had seen Marriott perform before — he would occasionally get up on stage at the Starlight Rooms to duet with Elkie Brooks, who was a regular performer there, and she’d seen him do that — but was newly impressed by his group, and passed word on to her boss that this was a group he should investigate.
Arden is someone who we’ll be looking at a lot in future episodes, but the important thing to note right now is that he was a failed entertainer who had moved into management and promotion, first with American acts like Gene Vincent, and then with British acts like the Nashville Teens, who had had hits with tracks like “Tobacco Road”:
[Excerpt: The Nashville Teens, “Tobacco Road”]
Arden was also something of a gangster — as many people in the music industry were at the time, but he was worse than most of his contemporaries, and delighted in his nickname “the Al Capone of pop”.
The group had a few managers looking to sign them, but Arden convinced them with his offer. They would get a percentage of their earnings — though they never actually received that percentage — twenty pounds a week in wages, and, the most tempting part of it all, they would get expense accounts at all the Carnaby St boutiques and could go there whenever they wanted and get whatever they wanted.
They signed with Arden, which all of them except Marriott would later regret, because Arden’s financial exploitation meant that it would be decades before they saw any money from their hits, and indeed both Marriott and Lane would be dead before they started getting royalties from their old records. Marriott, on the other hand, had enough experience of the industry to credit Arden with the group getting anywhere at all, and said later “Look, you go into it with your eyes open and as far as I was concerned it was better than living on brown sauce rolls. At least we had twenty quid a week guaranteed.”
Arden got the group signed to Decca, with Dick Rowe signing them to the same kind of production deal that Andrew Oldham had pioneered with the Stones, so that Arden would own the rights to their recordings. At this point the group still only knew a handful of songs, but Rowe was signing almost everyone with a guitar at this point, putting out a record or two and letting them sink or swim. He had already been firmly labelled as “the man who turned down the Beatles”, and was now of the opinion that it was better to give everyone a chance than to make that kind of expensive mistake again.
By this point Marriott and Lane were starting to write songs together — though at this point it was still mostly Marriott writing, and people would ask him why he was giving Lane half the credit, and he’d reply “Without Ronnie’s help keeping me awake and being there I wouldn’t do half of it. He keeps me going.” — but for their first single Arden was unsure that they were up to the task of writing a hit. The group had been performing a version of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, a song which Burke always claimed to have written alone, but which is credited to him, Jerry Wexler, and Bert Berns (and has Bern’s fingerprints, at least, on it to my ears):
[Excerpt: Solomon Burke, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”]
Arden got some professional writers to write new lyrics and vocal melody to their arrangement of the song — the people he hired were Brian Potter, who would later go on to co-write “Rhinestone Cowboy”, and Ian Samwell, the former member of Cliff Richard’s Drifters who had written many of Richard’s early hits, including “Move It”, and was now working for Arden.
The group went into the studio and recorded the song, titled “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?”:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?”]
That version, though was deemed too raucous, and they had to go back into the studio to cut a new version, which came out as their first single:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?”]
At first the single didn’t do much on the charts, but then Arden got to work with teams of people buying copies from chart return shops, bribing DJs on pirate radio stations to play it, and bribing the person who compiled the charts for the NME. Eventually it made number fourteen, at which point it became a genuinely popular hit.
But with that popularity came problems. In particular, Steve Marriott was starting to get seriously annoyed by Jimmy Winston. As the group started to get TV appearances, Winston started to act like he should be the centre of attention. Every time Marriott took a solo in front of TV cameras, Winston would start making stupid gestures, pulling faces, anything to make sure the cameras focussed on him rather than on Marriott.
Which wouldn’t have been too bad had Winston been a great musician, but he was still not very good on the keyboards, and unlike the others didn’t seem particularly interested in trying. He seemed to want to be a star, rather than a musician.
The group’s next planned single was a Marriott and Lane song, “I’ve Got Mine”. To promote it, the group mimed to it in a film, Dateline Diamonds, a combination pop film and crime caper not a million miles away from the ones that Marriott had appeared in a few years earlier. They also contributed three other songs to the film’s soundtrack.
Unfortunately, the film’s release was delayed, and the film had been the big promotional push that Arden had planned for the single, and without that it didn’t chart at all.
By the time the single came out, though, Winston was no longer in the group. There are many, many different stories as to why he was kicked out. Depending on who you ask, it was because he was trying to take the spotlight away from Marriott, because he wasn’t a good enough keyboard player, because he was taller than the others and looked out of place, or because he asked Don Arden where the money was.
It was probably a combination of all of these, but fundamentally what it came to was that Winston just didn’t fit into the group. Winston would, in later years, say that him confronting Arden was the only reason for his dismissal, saying that Arden had manipulated the others to get him out of the way, but that seems unlikely on the face of it. When Arden sacked him, he kept Winston on as a client and built another band around him, Jimmy Winston and the Reflections, and got them signed to Decca too, releasing a Kenny Lynch song, “Sorry She’s Mine”, to no success:
[Excerpt: Jimmy Winston and the Reflections, “Sorry She’s Mine”]
Another version of that song would later be included on the first Small Faces album.
Winston would then form another band, Winston’s Fumbs, who would also release one single, before he went into acting instead. His most notable credit was as a rebel in the 1972 Doctor Who story Day of the Daleks, and he later retired from showbusiness to run a business renting out sound equipment, and died in 2020.
The group hired his replacement without ever having met him or heard him play. Ian McLagan had started out as the rhythm guitarist in a Shadows soundalike band called the Cherokees, but the group had become R&B fans and renamed themselves the Muleskinners, and then after hearing “Green Onions”, McLagan had switched to playing Hammond organ. The Muleskinners had played the same R&B circuit as dozens of other bands we’ve looked at, and had similar experiences, including backing visiting blues stars like Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and Howlin’ Wolf. Their one single had been a cover version of “Back Door Man”, a song Willie Dixon had written for Wolf:
[Excerpt: The Muleskinners, “Back Door Man”]
The Muleskinners had split up as most of the group had day jobs, and McLagan had gone on to join a group called Boz and the Boz People, who were becoming popular on the live circuit, and who also toured backing Kenny Lynch while McLagan was in the band. Boz and the Boz People would release several singles in 1966, like their version of the theme for the film “Carry on Screaming”, released just as by “Boz”:
[Excerpt: Boz, “Carry on Screaming”]
By that time, McLagan had left the group — Boz Burrell later went on to join King Crimson and Bad Company.
McLagan left the Boz People in something of a strop, and was complaining to a friend the night he left the group that he didn’t have any work lined up. The friend joked that he should join the Small Faces, because he looked like them, and McLagan got annoyed that his friend wasn’t taking him seriously — he’d love to be in the Small Faces, but they *had* a keyboard player.
The next day he got a phone call from Don Arden asking him to come to his office. He was being hired to join a hit pop group who needed a new keyboard player.
McLagan at first wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what band he was joining — in part because Arden’s secretary was dating Winston, and Winston hadn’t yet been informed he was fired, and Arden didn’t want word leaking out until it had been sorted. But he’d been chosen purely on the basis of an article in a music magazine which had praised his playing with the Boz People, and without the band knowing him or his playing. As soon as they met, though, he immediately fit in in a way Winston never had. He looked the part, right down to his height — he said later “Ronnie Lane and I were the giants in the band at 5 ft 6 ins, and Kenney Jones and Steve Marriott were the really teeny tiny chaps at 5 ft 5 1/2 ins” — and he was a great player, and shared a sense of humour with them.
McLagan had told Arden he’d been earning twenty pounds a week with the Boz People — he’d actually been on five — and so Arden agreed to give him thirty pounds a week during his probationary month, which was more than the twenty the rest of the band were getting. As soon as his probationary period was over, McLagan insisted on getting a pay cut so he’d be on the same wages as the rest of the group.
Soon Marriott, Lane, and McLagan were all living in a house rented for them by Arden — Jones decided to stay living with his parents — and were in the studio recording their next single. Arden was convinced that the mistake with “I’ve Got Mine” had been allowing the group to record an original, and again called in a team of professional songwriters. Arden brought in Mort Shuman, who had recently ended his writing partnership with Doc Pomus and struck out on his own, after co-writing songs like “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “Sweets For My Sweet”, and “Viva Las Vegas” together, and Kenny Lynch, and the two of them wrote “Sha-La-La-La-Lee”, and Lynch added backing vocals to the record:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Sha-La-La-La-Lee”]
None of the group were happy with the record, but it became a big hit, reaching number three in the charts. Suddenly the group had a huge fanbase of screaming teenage girls, which embarrassed them terribly, as they thought of themselves as serious heavy R&B musicians, and the rest of their career would largely be spent vacillating between trying to appeal to their teenybopper fanbase and trying to escape from it to fit their own self-image.
They followed “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” with “Hey Girl”, a Marriott/Lane song, but one written to order — they were under strict instructions from Arden that if they wanted to have the A-side of a single, they had to write something as commercial as “Sha-La-La-La-Lee” had been, and they managed to come up with a second top-ten hit.
Two hit singles in a row was enough to make an album viable, and the group went into the studio and quickly cut an album, which had their first two hits on it — “Hey Girl” wasn’t included, and nor was the flop “I’ve Got Mine” — plus a bunch of semi-originals like “You Need Loving”, a couple of Kenny Lynch songs, and a cover version of Sam Cooke’s “Shake”.
The album went to number three on the album charts, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the number one and two spots, and it was at this point that Arden’s rivals really started taking interest. But that interest was quelled for the moment when, after Robert Stigwood enquired about managing the band, Arden went round to Stigwood’s office with four goons and held him upside down over a balcony, threatening to drop him off if he ever messed with any of Arden’s acts again.
But the group were still being influenced by other managers. In particular, Brian Epstein came round to the group’s shared house, with Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues, and brought them some slices of orange — which they discovered, after eating them, had been dosed with LSD. By all accounts, Marriott’s first trip was a bad one, but the group soon became regular consumers of the drug, and it influenced the heavier direction they took on their next single, “All or Nothing”.
“All or Nothing” was inspired both by Marriott’s breakup with his girlfriend of the time, and his delight at the fact that Jenny Rylance, a woman he was attracted to, had split up with her then-boyfriend Rod Stewart. Rylance and Stewart later reconciled, but would break up again and Rylance would become Marriott’s first wife in 1968:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “All or Nothing”]
“All or Nothing” became the group’s first and only number one record — and according to the version of the charts used on Top of the Pops, it was a joint number one with the Beatles’ double A-side of “Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby”, both selling exactly as well as each other.
But this success caused the group’s parents to start to wonder why their kids — none of whom were yet twenty-one, the legal age of majority at the time — were not rich. While the group were on tour, their parents came as a group to visit Arden and ask him where the money was, and why their kids were only getting paid twenty pounds a week when their group was getting a thousand pounds a night. Arden tried to convince the parents that he had been paying the group properly, but that they had spent their money on heroin — which was very far from the truth, the band were only using soft drugs at the time.
This put a huge strain on the group’s relationship with Arden, and it wasn’t the only thing Arden did that upset them. They had been spending a lot of time in the studio working on new material, and Arden was convinced that they were spending too much time recording, and that they were just faffing around and not producing anything of substance. They dropped off a tape to show him that they had been working — and the next thing they knew, Arden had put out one of the tracks from that tape, “My Mind’s Eye”, which had only been intended as a demo, as a single:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “My Mind’s Eye”]
That it went to number four on the charts didn’t make up for the fact that the first the band heard of the record coming out at all was when they heard it on the radio. They needed rid of Arden.
Luckily for them, Arden wasn’t keen on continuing to work with them either. They were unreliable and flakey, and he also needed cash quick to fund his other ventures, and he agreed to sell on their management and recording contracts. Depending on which version of the story you believe, he may have sold them on to an agent called Harold Davison, who then sold them on to Andrew Oldham and Tony Calder, but according to Oldham what happened is that in December 1966 Arden demanded the highest advance in British history — twenty-five thousand pounds — directly from Oldham. In cash. In a brown paper bag.
The reason Oldham and Calder were interested was that in July 1965 they’d started up their own record label, Immediate Records, which had been announced by Oldham in his column in Disc and Music Echo, in which he’d said
“On many occasions I have run down the large record companies over issues such as pirate stations, their promotion, and their tastes. And many readers have written in and said that if I was so disturbed by the state of the existing record companies why didn’t I do something about it. I have!
On the twentieth of this month the first of three records released by my own company, Immediate Records, is to be launched.”
That first batch of three records contained one big hit, “Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoys, which Immediate licensed from Bert Berns’ new record label BANG in the US:
[Excerpt: The McCoys, “Hang on Sloopy”]
The two other initial singles featured the talents of Immediate’s new in-house producer, a session player who had previously been known as “Little Jimmy” to distinguish him from “Big” Jim Sullivan, the other most in-demand session guitarist, but who was now just known as Jimmy Page. The first was a version of Pete Seeger’s “The Bells of Rhymney”, which Page produced and played guitar on, for a group called The Fifth Avenue:
[Excerpt: The Fifth Avenue, “The Bells of Rhymney”]
And the second was a Gordon Lightfoot song performed by a girlfriend of Brian Jones’, Nico. The details as to who was involved in the track have varied — at different times the production has been credited to Jones, Page, and Oldham — but it seems to be the case that both Jones and Page play on the track, as did session bass player John Paul Jones:
[Excerpt: Nico, “I’m Not Sayin'”]
While “Hang on Sloopy” was a big hit, the other two singles were flops, and The Fifth Avenue split up, while Nico used the publicity she’d got as an entree into Andy Warhol’s Factory, and we’ll be hearing more about how that went in a future episode.
Oldham and Calder were trying to follow the model of the Brill Building, of Phil Spector, and of big US independents like Motown and Stax. They wanted to be a one-stop shop where they’d produce the records, manage the artists, and own the publishing — and they also licensed the publishing for the Beach Boys’ songs for a couple of years, and started publicising their records over here in a big way, to exploit the publishing royalties, and that was a major factor in turning the Beach Boys from minor novelties to major stars in the UK.
Most of Immediate’s records were produced by Jimmy Page, but other people got to have a go as well. Giorgio Gomelsky and Shel Talmy both produced tracks for the label, as did a teenage singer then known as Paul Raven, who would later become notorious under his later stage-name Gary Glitter.
But while many of these records were excellent — and Immediate deserves to be talked about in the same terms as Motown or Stax when it comes to the quality of the singles it released, though not in terms of commercial success — the only ones to do well on the charts in the first few months of the label’s existence were “Hang on Sloopy” and an EP by Chris Farlowe.
It was Farlowe who provided Immediate Records with its first home-grown number one, a version of the Rolling Stones’ “Out of Time” produced by Mick Jagger, though according to Arthur Greenslade, the arranger on that and many other Immediate tracks, Jagger had given up on getting a decent performance out of Farlowe and Oldham ended up producing the vocals. Greenslade later said “Andrew must have worked hard in there, Chris Farlowe couldn’t sing his way out of a paper bag. I’m sure Andrew must have done it, where you get an artist singing and you can do a sentence at a time, stitching it all together. He must have done it in pieces.”
But however hard it was to make, “Out of Time” was a success:
[Excerpt: Chris Farlowe, “Out of Time”]
Or at least, it was a success in the UK. It did also make the top forty in the US for a week, but then it hit a snag — it had charted without having been released in the US at all, or even being sent as a promo to DJs. Oldham’s new business manager Allen Klein had been asked to work his magic on the US charts, but the people he’d bribed to hype the record into the charts had got the release date wrong and done it too early. When the record *did* come out over there, no radio station would play it in case it looked like they were complicit in the scam.
But still, a UK number one wasn’t too shabby, and so Immediate Records was back on track, and Oldham wanted to shore things up by bringing in some more proven hit-makers. Immediate signed the Small Faces, and even started paying them royalties — though that wouldn’t last long, as Immediate went bankrupt in 1970 and its successors in interest stopped paying out.
The first work the group did for the label was actually for a Chris Farlowe single. Lane and Marriott gave him their song “My Way of Giving”, and played on the session along with Farlowe’s backing band the Thunderbirds. Mick Jagger is the credited producer, but by all accounts Marriott and Lane did most of the work:
[Excerpt: Chris Farlowe, “My Way of Giving”]
Sadly, that didn’t make the top forty.
After working on that, they started on their first single recorded at Immediate. But because of contractual entanglements, “I Can’t Make It” was recorded at Immediate but released by Decca. Because the band weren’t particularly keen on promoting something on their old label, and the record was briefly banned by the BBC for being too sexual, it only made number twenty-six on the charts.
Around this time, Marriott had become friendly with another band, who had named themselves The Little People in homage to the Small Faces, and particularly with their drummer Jerry Shirley. Marriott got them signed to Immediate, and produced and played on their first single, a version of his song “(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me?”:
[Excerpt: The Apostolic Intervention, “(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me?”]
When they signed to Immediate, The Little People had to change their name, and Marriott suggested they call themselves The Nice, a phrase he liked. Oldham thought that was a stupid name, and gave the group the much more sensible name The Apostolic Intervention.
And then a few weeks later he signed another group and changed *their* name to The Nice.
“The Nice” was also a phrase used in the Small Faces’ first single for Immediate proper. “Here Come the Nice” was inspired by a routine by the hipster comedian Lord Buckley, “The Nazz”, which also gave a name to Todd Rundgren’s band and inspired a line in David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”:
[Excerpt: Lord Buckley, “The Nazz”]
“Here Come the Nice” was very blatantly about a drug dealer, and somehow managed to reach number twelve despite that:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Here Come the Nice”]
It also had another obstacle that stopped it doing as well as it might. A week before it came out, Decca released a single, “Patterns”, from material they had in the vault. And in June 1967, two Small Faces albums came out. One of them was a collection from Decca of outtakes and demos, plus their non-album hit singles, titled From The Beginning, while the other was their first album on Immediate, which was titled Small Faces — just like their first Decca album had been. To make matters worse, From The Beginning contained the group’s demos of “My Way of Giving” and “(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me?”, while the group’s first Immediate album contained a new recording of “(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me?”, and a version of “My Way of Giving” with the same backing track but a different vocal take from the one on the Decca collection.
From this point on, the group’s catalogue would be a complete mess, with an endless stream of compilations coming out, both from Decca and, after the group split, from Immediate, mixing tracks intended for release with demos and jam sessions with no regard for either their artistic intent or for what fans might want.
Both albums charted, with Small Faces reaching number twelve and From The Beginning reaching number sixteen, neither doing as well as their first album had, despite the Immediate album, especially, being a much better record.
This was partly because the Marriott/Lane partnership was becoming far more equal. Kenney Jones later said “During the Decca period most of the self-penned stuff was 99% Steve. It wasn’t until Immediate that Ronnie became more involved. The first Immediate album is made up of 50% Steve’s songs and 50% of Ronnie’s. They didn’t collaborate as much as people thought. In fact, when they did, they often ended up arguing and fighting.”
It’s hard to know who did what on each song credited to the pair, but if we assume that each song’s principal writer also sang lead — we know that’s not always the case, but it’s a reasonable working assumption — then Jones’ fifty-fifty estimate seems about right. Of the fourteen songs on the album, McLagan sings one, which is also his own composition, “Up the Wooden Hills to Bedfordshire”. There’s one instrumental, six with Marriott on solo lead vocals, four with Lane on solo lead vocals, and two duets, one with Lane as the main vocalist and one with Marriott.
The fact that there was now a second songwriter taking an equal role in the band meant that they could now do an entire album of originals.
It also meant that their next Marriott/Lane single was mostly a Lane song.
“Itchycoo Park” started with a verse lyric from Lane — “Over bridge of sighs/To rest my eyes in shades of green/Under dreaming spires/To Itchycoo Park, that’s where I’ve been”. The inspiration apparently came from Lane reading about the dreaming spires of Oxford, and contrasting it with the places he used to play as a child, full of stinging nettles.
For a verse melody, they repeated a trick they’d used before — the melody of “My Mind’s Eye” had been borrowed in part from the Christmas carol “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”, and here they took inspiration from the old hymn “God Be in My Head”:
[Excerpt: The Choir of King’s College Cambridge, “God Be in My Head”]
As Marriott told the story:
“We were in Ireland and speeding our brains out writing this song. Ronnie had the first verse already written down but he had no melody line, so what we did was stick the verse to the melody line of ‘God Be In My Head’ with a few chord variations. We were going towards Dublin airport and I thought of the middle eight… We wrote the second verse collectively, and the chorus speaks for itself.”
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Itchycoo Park”]
Marriott took the lead vocal, even though it was mostly Lane’s song, but Marriott did contribute to the writing, coming up with the middle eight. Lane didn’t seem hugely impressed with Marriott’s contribution, and later said “It wasn’t me that came up with ‘I feel inclined to blow my mind, get hung up, feed the ducks with a bun/They all come out to groove about, be nice and have fun in the sun’. That wasn’t me, but the more poetic stuff was.”
But that part became the most memorable part of the record, not so much because of the writing or performance but because of the production. It was one of the first singles released using a phasing effect, developed by George Chkiantz (and I apologise if I’m pronouncing that name wrong), who was the assistant engineer for Glyn Johns on the album. I say it was one of the first, because at the time there was not a clear distinction between the techniques now known as phasing, flanging, and artificial double tracking, all of which have now diverged, but all of which initially came from the idea of shifting two copies of a recording slightly out of synch with each other. The phasing on “Itchycoo Park” , though, was far more extreme and used to far different effect than that on, say, Revolver:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Itchycoo Park”]
It was effective enough that Jimi Hendrix, who was at the time working on Axis: Bold as Love, requested that Chkiantz come in and show his engineer how to get the same effect, which was then used on huge chunks of Hendrix’s album.
The BBC banned the record, because even the organisation which had missed that the Nice who “is always there when I need some speed” was a drug dealer was a little suspicious about whether “we’ll get high” and “we’ll touch the sky” might be drug references. The band claimed to be horrified at the thought, and explained that they were talking about swings. It’s a song about a park, so if you play on the swings, you go high. What else could it mean?
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Itchycoo Park”]
No drug references there, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The song made number three, but the group ran into more difficulties with the BBC after an appearance on Top of the Pops. Marriott disliked the show’s producer, and the way that he would go up to every act and pretend to think they had done a very good job, no matter what he actually thought, which Marriott thought of as hypocrisy rather than as politeness and professionalism. Marriott discovered that the producer was leaving the show, and so in the bar afterwards told him exactly what he thought of him, calling him a “two-faced”, and then a four-letter word beginning with c which is generally considered the most offensive swear word there is.
Unfortunately for Marriott, he’d been misinformed, the producer wasn’t leaving the show, and the group were barred from it for a while.
“Itchycoo Park” also made the top twenty in the US, thanks to a new distribution deal Immediate had, and plans were made for the group to tour America, but those plans had to be scrapped when Ian McLagan was arrested for possession of hashish, and instead the group toured France, with support from a group called the Herd:
[Excerpt: The Herd, “From the Underworld”]
Marriott became very friendly with the Herd’s guitarist, Peter Frampton, and sympathised with Frampton’s predicament when in the next year he was voted “face of ’68” and developed a similar teenage following to the one the Small Faces had.
The group’s last single of 1967 was one of their best. “Tin Soldier” was inspired by the Hans Andersen story “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, and was originally written for the singer P.P. Arnold, who Marriott was briefly dating around this time. But Arnold was *so* impressed with the song that Marriott decided to keep it for his own group, and Arnold was left just doing backing vocals on the track:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Tin Soldier”]
It’s hard to show the appeal of “Tin Soldier” in a short clip like those I use on this show, because so much of it is based on the use of dynamics, and the way the track rises and falls, but it’s an extremely powerful track, and made the top ten.
But it was after that that the band started falling apart, and also after that that they made the work generally considered their greatest album. As “Itchycoo Park” had made number one in Australia, the group were sent over there on tour to promote it, as support act for the Who. But the group hadn’t been playing live much recently, and found it difficult to replicate their records on stage, as they were now so reliant on studio effects like phasing. The Australian audiences were uniformly hostile, and the contrast with the Who, who were at their peak as a live act at this point, couldn’t have been greater.
Marriott decided he had a solution. The band needed to get better live, so why not get Peter Frampton in as a fifth member? He was great on guitar and had stage presence, obviously that would fix their problems. But the other band members absolutely refused to get Frampton in.
Marriott’s confidence as a stage performer took a knock from which it never really recovered, and increasingly the band became a studio-only one. But the tour also put strain on the most important partnership in the band. Marriott and Lane had been the closest of friends and collaborators, but on the tour, both found a very different member of the Who to pal around with. Marriott became close to Keith Moon, and the two would get drunk and trash hotel rooms together. Lane, meanwhile, became very friendly with Pete Townshend, who introduced him to the work of the guru Meher Baba, who Townshend followed. Lane, too, became a follower, and the two would talk about religion and spirituality while their bandmates were destroying things.
An attempt was made to heal the growing rifts though. Marriott, Lane, and McLagan all moved in together again like old times, but this time in a cottage — something that became so common for bands around this time that the phrase “getting our heads together in the country” became a cliche in the music press.
They started working on material for their new album. One of the tracks that they were working on was written by Marriott, and was inspired by how, before moving in to the country cottage, his neighbours had constantly complained about the volume of his music — he’d been particularly annoyed that the pop singer Cilla Black, who lived in the same building and who he’d assumed would understand the pop star lifestyle, had complained more than anyone.
It had started as as fairly serious blues song, but then Marriott had been confronted by the members of the group The Hollies, who wanted to know why Marriott always sang in a pseudo-American accent. Wasn’t his own accent good enough? Was there something wrong with being from the East End of London?
Well, no, Marriott decided, there wasn’t, and so he decided to sing it in a Cockney accent. And so the song started to change, going from being an R&B song to being the kind of thing Cockneys could sing round a piano in a pub:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “Lazy Sunday”]
Marriott intended the song just as an album track for the album they were working on, but Andrew Oldham insisted on releasing it as a single, much to the band’s disgust, and it went to number two on the charts, and along with “Itchycoo Park” meant that the group were now typecast as making playful, light-hearted music.
The album they were working on, Ogden’s Nut-Gone Flake, was eventually as known for its marketing as its music. In the Small Faces’ long tradition of twisted religious references, like their songs based on hymns and their song “Here Come the Nice”, which had taken inspiration from a routine about Jesus and made it about a drug dealer, the print ads for the album read:
Which were in the studios
Hallowed be thy name
Thy music come
Thy songs be sung
On this album as they came from your heads
We give you this day our daily bread
Give us thy album in a round cover as we give thee 37/9d
Lead us into the record stores
And deliver us Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
For nice is the music
The sleeve and the story
For ever and ever,
The reason the ad mentioned a round cover is that the original pressings of the album were released in a circular cover, made to look like a tobacco tin, with the name of the brand of tobacco changed from Ogden’s Nut-Brown Flake to Ogden’s Nut-Gone Flake, a reference to how after smoking enough dope your nut, or head, would be gone.
This made more sense to British listeners than to Americans, because not only was the slang on the label British, and not only was it a reference to a British tobacco brand, but American and British dope-smoking habits are very different. In America a joint is generally made by taking the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant — or “weed” — and rolling them in a cigarette paper and smoking them. In the UK and much of Europe, though, the preferred form of cannabis is the resin, hashish, which is crumbled onto tobacco in a cigarette paper and smoked that way, so having rolling or pipe tobacco was a necessity for dope smokers in the UK in a way it wasn’t in the US.
Side one of Ogden’s was made up of normal songs, but the second side mixed songs and narrative. Originally the group wanted to get Spike Milligan to do the narration, but when Milligan backed out they chose Professor Stanley Unwin, a comedian who was known for speaking in his own almost-English language, Unwinese:
[Excerpt: Stanley Unwin, “The Populode of the Musicolly”]
They gave Unwin a script, telling the story that linked side two of the album, in which Happiness Stan is shocked to discover that half the moon has disappeared and goes on a quest to find the missing half, aided by a giant fly who lets him sit on his back after Stan shares his shepherd’s pie with the hungry fly. After a long quest they end up at the cave of Mad John the Hermit, who points out to them that nobody had stolen half the moon at all — they’d been travelling so long that it was a full moon again, and everything was OK.
Unwin took that script, and reworked it into Unwinese, and also added in a lot of the slang he heard the group use, like “cool it” and “what’s been your hang-up?”:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces and Professor Stanley Unwin, “Mad John”]
The album went to number one, and the group were justifiably proud, but it only exacerbated the problems with their live show. Other than an appearance on the TV show Colour Me Pop, where they were joined by Stanley Unwin to perform the whole of side two of the album with live vocals but miming to instrumental backing tracks, they only performed two songs from the album live, “Rollin’ Over” and “Song of a Baker”, otherwise sticking to the same live show Marriott was already embarrassed by.
Marriott later said “We had spent an entire year in the studios, which was why our stage presentation had not been improved since the previous year. Meanwhile our recording experience had developed in leaps and bounds. We were all keenly interested in the technical possibilities, in the art of recording. We let down a lot of people who wanted to hear Ogden’s played live. We were still sort of rough and ready, and in the end the audience became uninterested as far as our stage show was concerned. It was our own fault, because we would have sussed it all out if we had only used our brains. We could have taken Stanley Unwin on tour with us, maybe a string section as well, and it would have been okay. But we didn’t do it, we stuck to the concept that had been successful for a long time, which is always the kiss of death.”
The group’s next single would be the last released while they were together. Marriott regarded “The Universal” as possibly the best thing he’d written, and recorded it quickly when inspiration struck. The finished single is actually a home recording of Marriott in his garden, including the sounds of a dog barking and his wife coming home with the shopping, onto which the band later overdubbed percussion, horns, and electric guitars:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “The Universal”]
Incidentally, it seems that the dog barking on that track may also be the dog barking on “Seamus” by Pink Floyd.
“The Universal” confused listeners, and only made number sixteen on the charts, crushing Marriott, who thought it was the best thing he’d done.
But the band were starting to splinter. McLagan isn’t on “The Universal”, having quit the band before it was recorded after a falling-out with Marriott. He rejoined, but discovered that in the meantime Marriott had brought in session player Nicky Hopkins to work on some tracks, which devastated him.
Marriott became increasingly unconfident in his own writing, and the writing dried up. The group did start work on some new material, some of which, like “The Autumn Stone”, is genuinely lovely:
[Excerpt: The Small Faces, “The Autumn Stone”]
But by the time that was released, the group had already split up. The last recording they did together was as a backing group for Johnny Hallyday, the French rock star. A year earlier Hallyday had recorded a version of “My Way of Giving”, under the title “Je N’Ai Jamais Rien Demandé”:
[Excerpt: Johnny Hallyday, “Je N’Ai Jamais Rien Demandé”]
Now he got in touch with Glyn Johns to see if the Small Faces had any other material for him, and if they’d maybe back him on a few tracks on a new album. Johns and the Small Faces flew to France… as did Peter Frampton, who Marriott was still pushing to get into the band. They recorded three tracks for the album, with Frampton on extra guitar:
[Excerpt: Johnny Hallyday, “Reclamation”]
These tracks left Marriott more certain than ever that Frampton should be in the band, and the other three members even more certain that he shouldn’t. Frampton joined the band on stage at a few shows on their next few gigs, but he was putting together his own band with Jerry Shirley from Apostolic Intervention.
On New Year’s Eve 1968, Marriott finally had enough. He stormed off stage mid-set, and quit the group. He phoned up Peter Frampton, who was hanging out with Glyn Johns listening to an album Johns had just produced by some of the session players who’d worked for Immediate. Side one had just finished when Marriott phoned. Could he join Frampton’s new band? Frampton said of course he could, then put the phone down and listened to side two of Led Zeppelin’s first record.
The band Marriott and Frampton formed was called Humble Pie, and they were soon releasing stuff on Immediate. According to Oldham, “Tony Calder said to me one day ‘Pick a straw’. Then he explained we had a choice. We could either go with the three Faces — Kenney, Ronnie, and Mac — wherever they were going to go with their lives, or we could follow Stevie. I didn’t regard it as a choice. Neither did Tony. Marriott was our man”.
Marriott certainly seemed to agree that he was the real talent in the group. He and Lane had fairly recently bought some property together — two houses on the same piece of land — and with the group splitting up, Lane moved away and wanted to sell his share in the property to Marriott. Marriott wrote to him saying “You’ll get nothing. This was bought with money from hits that I wrote, not that we wrote,” and enclosing a PRS statement showing how much each Marriott/Lane song had earned, with the ones Marriott had written most of circled in red.
Lane wrote back, a five-page letter just consisting of the words “Blah blah blah, waffle waffle waffle”, repeated over and over, and ending with “Steve, forget it. That’s what you’re best at.”
Humble Pie’s first single, “Natural Born Bugie”, reached number four in the charts:
[Excerpt: Humble Pie, “Natural Born Bugie”]
The album that came from is also widely noted as being one of the first to be referred to in a music magazine as “heavy metal”, though less often noted is that it was in the context of the review of their first three albums in Rolling Stone which said they were “boring in lots of different ways”, called their third album “more of the same 27th-rate heavy metal crap”, and ended “if Humble Pie had to listen to themselves, they would probably vomit. For God’s sake and your own, don’t subject yourself to the same torture. Stay away from this album by all means.”
That was, largely, the critical consensus about Humble Pie, but they had a great deal of success, especially in the US, where they had three albums go into the top thirty, one of them going top ten, and where several of their tracks remain staples of 70s rock radio.
But after Humble Pie split up in 1975, Marriott’s career went south, and so did his mental and physical health. The stories of his behaviour in the last fifteen years or so of his life are appalling, though they can be partly explained, though not excused, by his alcohol and substance dependence and by various mental illnesses. He spent most of the last decade or so of his life playing pubs and clubs with various pickup bands, mostly playing blues standards and only throwing in one or two of his old hits, which he couldn’t stand playing any more. He died in 1991, aged only forty-four, after falling asleep drunk in bed with a lit cigarette in his mouth and setting fire to his house.
His bandmates carried on without him. Released from their Immediate Records contract, they started putting together a new band — and they did always regard it as a new band, not a continuation of the Small Faces. On guitar, they brought in Ronnie Wood, who had been playing around the scene for years. Wood had been in The Birds (the British group spelled with an “i”, not the American group with a “y”):
[Excerpt: The Birds, “No Good Without You Baby”]
and he had also briefly been in a late lineup of the Mod group The Creation:
[Excerpt: The Creation, “For All That I Am”]
Wood had also played bass in the Jeff Beck Group, who we’ll be hearing more about in future episodes, and had recently quit them. He signed up with the three remaining Faces and started rehearsing, but this lineup of the group nearly ended before it had begun. After only a week, there was a call at the rehearsal studio — it was Keith Richards. The Rolling Stones were thinking of sacking Brian Jones, and wanted to know if Ronnie Wood would replace him. But it was Ronnie Lane, not Wood, who took the call, and he told Richards “No thanks, I think he’s quite happy where he is.” Wood didn’t find out he’d had the offer until the mid-seventies.
The new group gelled quickly, but still needed a singer. They got in Wood’s brother Art, who had formerly been the singer in the aptly named The Artwoods, and did a few gigs with him under the name Quiet Melon. Sometimes Long John Baldry would sing a few numbers as well, as would the old singer from the Jeff Beck Group, and for a couple of gigs another old bandmate of Wood’s, Kim Gardner of the Creation, subbed for Lane on bass.
Quiet Melon went into the studio to record a handful of tracks, though those would remain unreleased for the time:
[Excerpt: Art Wood’s Quiet Melon, “Engine 4444”]
They decided that Art Wood wasn’t quite what they were looking for. McLagan and the two Ronnies between them could handle the backing vocals fairly well, but that still left them in need of a singer. Ideally one with a similar sort of gravelly voice to the one that Marriott had. The answer was staring them in the face. They should ask Wood’s old bandmate from the Jeff Beck Group. The one who had been hanging around at rehearsals, and who had joined them on stage for a couple of songs and done backing vocals on their recent demo session.
So on the 18th of September 1969 they met up with him and asked him to officially join the group, which they were now calling The Faces. And the new singer for the Faces was… oh is that the time? Sorry, I have to go. I’m sure we’ll pick up on this story at some point though…