Monday, August 7, 2017

The Small Faces

In 1964 Steve Marriott was invited by Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones to perform with their band "The Outlaws" (previously called "The Pioneers"). The group were residents at The Earl of Derby (pub) in Bermondsey but their debut gig was a drunken disaster and they were all were sacked. Not put off by his antics, Steve was asked to join them permanently and in 1965 brought his friend, Jimmy Langworth (aka Winston) (organ) along to make up the quartet. All small in stature apart from Jimmy Winston they became known as The Small Faces. “Face” in mod speak was a term reserved for known and respected individuals. Despite his size Jim, was a ‘Face’ (mod) and his parents owned pub where the lads could rehearse. The Small Faces was a perfect name for a mod band. Steve Marriott was an aggressive lead guitarist with a powerful voice that could sing soul. As a front man he was perfect and reputed to have been Jimmy Page's benchmark when selecting a lead singer for Led Zeppelin. Kenney Jones turned into a drummer of distinction who would later replace Keith Moon for the Who. The quartet was signed by impresario Don Arden who was based in the trendy, Carnaby Street. Don Arden had made his name and reputation on the growing popularity of R&B and soul, by bringing African American acts to the UK. At first the Small Faces played blues music which was appreciated by their Mod following. In the studio the group were overseen by Ian Samwell (he wrote Move it for Cliff Richard) who was involved with Mod music from the start, producing Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, At the Flamingo, in 1963. Their first single "Whatcha Gonna Do About It" was an instant best seller and made the top twenty in the UK singles chart.

Don Arden (never the shading violet) sacked Jimmy Winston who was not especially musical and replaced him with Ian McLagan (Boz People). The follow up single, ‘I got mine’ flopped by their third single “Sha la la la lee” written by Mort Shuman and Kenny Lynch reached number 3 in the UK charts.

All or nothing took the group to their number one and this was followed by another top ten success ‘My mind’s eye.

In spite of the success the band split from Don Arden in 1967. The lads were tired with the endless tours and concerned they had lost control of their recorded work. They realised all the live work had caused them to fall behind in new trends and so a better schedule was what they were after. At first they signed with Harold Davison then soon after moved to Immediate Records with Andrew Loog Oldham (former manager of the Rolling Stones). Oldham was one of the top producers at that time and the Small Faces now found themselves with time available for studio work which resulted in a looser sound. "Here Comes the Nice." (1967) was in tune with the Hippy generation but the Small Faces started to experiment a much wider array of sounds and instruments.

The group next released Itchycoo Park (1967), which has become their best known song selling well on both sides of the Atlantic.

The group was grateful for the sales but found the studio based sound very difficult to recapture capture live on stage. Motivated by the Beatles Sergeant Pepper Album, the Small Faces released their own concept album, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake in 1968.

Their relationship with Immediate became strained and was not helped with the release of ‘Lazy Sunday’ a track that had been recorded as a joke by Steve Marriott.

Ironically the song had great commercial success but the lads felt the music did not reflect their preferred style of music which had been caught in the previous single Tin Soldier.

Immediate Records kept much of what the group were earning charging it against their studio time. The Universal was released in 1968 and featured a laid-back, quasi-acoustic, and jazz-like sound (complete with clarinet accompaniment) unfortunately the record did not sell well.

Things were beginning to crumble. Steve tried to introduce new blood to the band in the form of Peter Frampton (ex Herd) but the others were keen to keep the quartet. Steve Marriott left in 1968 and joined Frampton in Humble Pie.

The Small Faces continued with a replacement singer, Rod Stewart; and lead guitarist, Ron Wood. Immediate Records went into receivership and the Small Faces changed labels to Warner Bros. Records. The Small Faces became the Faces (1969). Ronnie Lane (1946 – 1997) stayed with them until 1973 and left to form Slim Chance.

Later Steve Marriott (1947 – 1991), Ian McLagan (1945 – 2014) and Kenney Jones reformed briefly in 1977.

Worth a listen
Whatcha gonna go about it (1965)
All or Nothing (1966)
Sha La La La Lee (1966)
My mind’s eye (1966)
Here Comes the Nice (1967)
Itchycoo Park (1967)
Tin Soldier (1967)
Lazy Sunday (1968)
The Universal (1968)

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