The Small Faces
For the Scottish movie Small Faces, see Small Faces (movie).
The Small Faces were a British rock and roll band of the 1960s, led by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane with Kenny Jones and original organist Jimmy Winston. The Small Faces were all genuine East End mods and they ranked second to The Who as Britain's premier Mod band.
Steve Marriott was born and raised in the East End of London; he became a noted child actor and appeared as The Artful Dodger in an early London stage production of Oliver! and appeared in two films in his early teens, one with Peter Sellers.
Lane and Marriott met in their mid-teens in 1965 while Marriott was working at the J60 Music Bar in Manor Park; Lane came in with his father Stan to buy a bass guitar, struck up a conversation with Marriott, bought the bass and went back to Marriott's house after work to listen to records. The core of the band was born that afternoon and evening.
Recruiting friends Kenny Jones and Jimmy Winston, they rapidly progressed from rehearsals to ramshackle pub gigs to semi-pro club dates, and while not yet the crack live outfit they became -- Marriott was still learning guitar -- his explosive, sandpapery soul-belter voice attracted rising attention. They were spotted by singer Elkie Brooks who was struck by Stevie's vocal prowess and recommended them to a local club owner, Maurice King. Impressed, he began finding them work in London and beyond. However, they carried on without the services of Jimmy Winston who was released from the band, although stories as to why are extremely varied. He was replaced by fellow Mod Ian McLagan, recently released from the Boz People, who due to lack of height fitted into the groove of the band perfectly.
They were kicked out of their first out-of-town gig -- a workingmen's club in Sheffield -- after only three songs. Despondent, they literally walked into the mod-oriented Mojo Club nearby, offered to perform for free and played a blistering set that had the locals screaming for more and started a strong buzz. During a crucial residency at Leicester Square Cavern, they were strongly supported by Sonny & Cher, who were living in London at the time and had first spotted them in Sheffield.
The band appeared in a 1965 adventure movie musical, called Dateline Diamonds, about their manager (Kenneth Cope) smuggling diamonds into the country. It was recently released on DVD on broadcast on Matinee Movies.
The Decca years
Their debut single was 1965's What'cha Gonna Do About It, a minor hit. The follow-up, I've Got Mine, failed to chart. Winston was ousted, replaced by the more experienced Ian McLagan (ex-Artwoods) and they returned to the charts with Sha-La-La-La-Lee, a major hit in England. Their first album, Small Faces was a considerable success. They rapidly rose in popularity with each chart success, became regulars on British pop TV shows, and toured incessantly up and down the country. Their popularity peaked in August 1966 when All Or Nothing hit the top of the UK charts, which proved to be their only Number One.
But by 1966, despite being one of the highest earning live acts in the country and scoring several Top 40 hits, the band had almost nothing to show for their efforts. After a messy confrontation with the notorious Arden (who tried to face down the boys' parents by claiming that the whole band were addicted to heroin) they broke with both Arden and Decca.
The Immediate years
They were almost immediately offered a deal with the newly formed Immediate label, formed by ex-Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. Given a virtual open account at Olympic Studios in Barnes, London, the band progressed rapidly, working closely with engineer Glyn Johns, releasing a further string of gold-plated classics.
Their first immediate single was the daring Here Comes The Nice, which was clearly influenced by their drug use, and (to the band's delight) managed to escape censorship despite the fact that it openly referred to speed (amphetamines). An innovative self-titled album followed which, if not a major seller, was very highly regarded by other musicians and would exert a strong influence on a number of overseas groups such as Australian bands The Masters Apprentices, The Twilights and Sherbet.
Their mid-1967 single Itchycoo Park is one of their best-remembered songs and was a major hit in the United States. It was also the first British record to use phasing, an effect developed by Olympic engineer George Chkiantz in 1966. It was followed by the barnstorming soul-rock epic Tin Soldier (recorded with singer P.P. Arnold); it remains one of their very best recordings and arguably one of the finest pop singles of the decade.
Their career peaked with the classic psychedelic LP Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake in 1968, which featured an innovative round cover, the first of its kind, designed to resemble an antique tobacco tin. The two-act LP consisted of five original songs on Side One and a whimsical psychedelic fairy tale on Side Two about the adventures of 'Happiness Stan'. It was narrated by Stanley Unwin, although original plans to have Spike Milligan narrating the album were dashed when he turned them down. Critics raved, and the album sold well, but like The Beatles did with Sgt. Pepper, they were confronted by the practical problem that they had created a studio masterpiece which was all but impossible to recreate on the road.
It did however yield another hit single: Lazy Sunday, a bright and breezy music-hall style song which many years later was to inspire Blur's "Parklife", it was successful in spite of being released against the band's wishes.
Marriott abruptly quit the band in 1969, frustrated at their failure to break out of their pop image, and already looking ahead to a new band, Humble Pie, with Peter Frampton. The last song released during the band's career was the folksy The Universal; this had been recorded by adding studio overdubs to a basic track Marriott cut live in his back garden with acoustic guitar, taped on a home cassette recorder. Its subsequent lack of success in the charts destroyed Marriott, who then refused to write music for the following few months.
A 'posthumous' single and album, The Autumn Stone, was released later in the year, and included the major Immediate recordings, a rare concert performance, and a number of previously unreleased tracks, including the classic Swinging Sixties instrumental Wide Eyed Girl on the Wall and the frolicking Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass, co-written by Ian McLagan.
Lane, Jones and McLagan floundered briefly before joining forces with former Jeff Beck Group singer and guitarist Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. They released one LP as The Small Faces before becoming simply The Faces and later Rod Stewart & The Faces.