were a rock group from East London, England, heavily
influenced by American rhythm and blues.
The group was founded in 1965 by members Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney
Jones, and Jimmy Winston (replaced by Ian McLagan). They are also sometimes
referred to as The
They are best remembered as one of
the most acclaimed and influential mod groups of the 1960s,
with hit songs such as "Itchycoo Park", "Lazy Sunday", "All or Nothing" and
their number one concept album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake. They later
evolved into one of the UK's most successful psychedelic acts before
disbanding in 1969.
They are also widely acknowledged as being one of the biggest original
influences on the Britpop movement of the 1990s.
Despite the fact they were together just four years, the Small Faces'
music output from the mid to late sixties remains among the most acclaimed
British mod and psychedelic music of that era. All Music Guide refers to
them as "The best English band never to make it big in America."
In 1996, they were belatedly awarded the Ivor Novello Outstanding
Contribution to British Music "Lifetime Achievement" award.
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Lane and Marriott met in 1965 while Marriott was working at the J60 Music
Bar in Manor Park, London. 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. They recruited
friends Kenney Jones and Jimmy Winston (born James Langwith, April 20, 1945,
in Stratford, London), who switched from guitar to the organ. They rapidly
progressed from rehearsals at The Ruskin Arms public house (which was owned
by Winston's parents) in Manor Park, London, to ramshackle pub gigs, to
semi-professional club dates. Marriott's unique and powerful voice attracted
rising attention. Singer Elkie Brooks was struck by Marriott's vocal prowess
and stage presence, and recommended them to a local club owner, Maurice
King. Impressed, King began finding them work in London and beyond.
The band's early song set included R&B/soul classics such as "Jump Back",
James Brown's "Please Please Please", Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a
Hold on Me" and Ben E. King's "Stand by Me". The band also performed two
Marriott/Lane original compositions, a fast and loud "Come on Children" and
the "speed enhanced" song "E too D", in which Marriott would display his
amazing vocal abilities in the style of his heroes and role models, Otis
Redding and Bobby Bland. "E too D", which appears on their first album,
Small Faces, is named after the guitar chord structure. On US
compilation albums the track is titled "Running Wild".
They were kicked out of their first out-of-town gig, a tough working
men's club in Sheffield, after only three songs. The crowd at that concert
was mainly made up of Teddy boys and hard-drinking workers. Despondent, they
literally walked into the mod-oriented Mojo Club nearby (then owned by a
young Peter Stringfellow) and offered to perform for free. They played a set
that left the local mods wanting more and started a strong buzz. During a
crucial residency at Leicester Square's Cavern Club, they were strongly
supported by Sonny & Cher, who were living in London at the time and had
first seen them perform in Sheffield.
||Rock, R&B, psychedelic pop, Beat, soul, British Invasion
||1965 - 1969
||Decca, Immediate, Atlantic
||Humble Pie, Faces
The Decca years
They signed a management contract with management impresario Don Arden,
and they were in turn signed to Decca Records for recording. They released a
string of high-energy mod/soul singles on the label. Their debut single was
in 1965 with "Whatcha Gonna Do About It", a Top 15 UK singles chart hit.
Marriott and Lane are credited with creating the instrumental to the song,
"borrowing" the guitar riff from the Solomon Burke record "Everybody Needs
Somebody To Love". The lyrics were written by The Shadows band member Ian
Samwell (who arguably wrote the first British rock 'n' roll record, "Move
It"). The group failed to
capitalize on the success of their first single with the follow-up which was
written by Marriott/Lane, the hard-edged mod number "I've Got Mine". The
band appeared as themselves in a 1965 crime film titled Dateline Diamonds
starring Kenneth Cope as the band's manager. It featured them playing their
second single release, "I've Got Mine". Arden thought the band's song would
receive publicity by the film; however, the film's UK release was delayed,
and "I've Got Mine" subsequently failed to chart.
Shortly thereafter, Jimmy Winston was released from the band. The most
common explanations for his dismissal are a clash of personalities with
Marriott or a lack of musical talent, though rumours persist he was released
at least in part because he compromised the band's integrity of image by
being too tall, since the others all stood around 5'6". (Indeed, the group
took their name from a remark by a female friend of Marriott's, who noted
that the band members all had "small faces". The name stuck in part because
of the mod slang usage of the word "face" to mean a popular, trendsetting
individual.) In a 2000 interview, Kenney Jones stated the reason Winston was
fired from the band was because "He (Winston) got above his station and
tried to compete with Steve Marriott."
Winston was replaced by Ian McLagan, whose keyboard talents and diminutive
stature fit with the groove of the band perfectly.
The new Small Faces line-up hit the charts with their third single, "Sha-La-La-La-Lee",
released on January 28, 1966. It was written for the group by Mort Shuman
(who wrote many of Elvis Presley's biggest singles, including "Viva Las
Vegas") and popular English entertainer and singer Kenny Lynch. The song was
a big hit in Britain, peaking at number three in the UK singles chart. Their
first album, Small Faces, released on May 11, 1966, was also a
considerable success. They rapidly rose in popularity with each chart
success, becoming regulars on British pop TV shows such as Ready Steady
Go! and Top of The Pops, and toured incessantly in the UK and Europe.
Their popularity peaked in August 1966, when "All Or Nothing", their fifth
single, hit the top of the UK charts. According to Marriott's mother Kay, he
is said to have written the song about his breakup with his ex-fiancee Susan
By 1966, despite being one of the highest-grossing live acts in the
country and scoring many successful singles, including four UK Top 10 chart
hits, financially the band had 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 established
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. Their first
Immediate single was the daring "Here Come the Nice", which was clearly
influenced by their drug use, and managed to escape censorship despite the
fact that it openly referred to speed (amphetamines). A second self-titled
Immediate album, Small Faces, followed, which, if not a major seller,
was very highly regarded by other musicians and would exert a strong
influence on a number of bands both at home and abroad.
At the same time, their old label Decca released a spoiler album called
From The Beginning, combining old hits with a number of previously
unreleased recordings. It included earlier versions of songs they
re-recorded for Immediate, including "My Way Of Giving", which they had
demoed for Chris Farlowe, and "(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me", which they
had given to Apostolic Intervention. The album also featured their stage
favourite "Baby, Don't You Do It", featuring Jimmy Winston on lead vocals
Their mid-1967 single "Itchycoo Park" is one of Small Faces'
best-remembered songs and was also the first of the band's only two charting
singles in the United States, reaching No. 16. "Itchycoo Park" was the first
British record to use flanging, the technique of playing two identical
master tapes simultaneously but altering the speed of one of them very
slightly by touching the "flange" of one tape reel, which yielded a
distinctive comb-filtering effect; it was an effect developed by Olympic
Studios engineer George Chkiantz in 1966. "Itchycoo Park" was followed by
"Tin Soldier" (originally written by Marriott for American singer P.P.
Arnold, who can be heard clearly on backing vocals); it remains one of their
best-known singles. However, when the song only reached No. 73 on the US Hot
100 chart, Immediate Records was said to have abandoned its short-lived
effort to establish the act in America.
"Lazy Sunday", released in 1968, was a Cockney music-hall style song
released by Immediate against the band's wishes. It was written by Steve
Marriott as a joke because he was always getting thrown out of his rented
accommodation by neighbours complaining about the noise he made. The single
reached number 2 in the British charts, but the band continued to resent the
fact that their sound was being represented by what they saw as a novelty
single. Many years later, "Lazy Sunday" was to inspire Blur's hit song "Parklife"
The final official song release during the band's career was folksy
sounding " The Universal" in the summer of 1968. The song was recorded by
adding studio over-dubs to a basic track that Marriott cut live in his back
garden in Essex with an acoustic guitar, taped on a home cassette recorder,
complete with his dogs heard barking in the background.
The single's subsequent lack of success in the charts (it reached number 16
in the UK Top 40 singles chart), and critical panning in the UK music press,
devastated Marriott, who then refused to write music for the next few
Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake
At home in England, their career reached an all-time high with the
release of their classic psychedelic influenced album Ogdens' Nut Gone
Flake on May 24, 1968. It is widely regarded today as a classic album,
and featured an innovative round cover, the first of its kind, designed to
resemble an antique tobacco tin. It stayed at number one in the UK Albums
Chart for six weeks.
The two-act concept album consisted of five original songs on side one
and a whimsical psychedelic fairy tale on side two relating the adventures
of "Happiness Stan" and his need to find out where the moon went when it
waned. It was narrated by Stanley Unwin, though original plans to have Spike
Milligan narrating the album were dashed when he turned them down.
Critics raved, and the album sold well, but the band were confronted by
the practical problem that they had created a studio masterpiece which was
virtually impossible to recreate on the road. Ogdens' was performed
as a whole just once, and memorably, live in the studio on the BBC's
television programme, Colour Me Pop.
After several months of breakup rumours in the British press, Marriott
officially quit the band at the beginning of 1969, walking off stage during
a live New Year's Eve gig. Citing frustration at their failure to break out
of their pop image and their inability to reproduce the more sophisticated
material properly on stage, Steve was already looking ahead to a new band,
Humble Pie, with Peter Frampton. On the subject of the group's breakup,
Kenney Jones, in an interview with John Hellier (2001), said:
we had been a little bit more grown up at the time, if we had played
Ogdens’ live it would have boosted our confidence so much, we were
labelled as a pop band, which definitely got up Steve’s nose more
than we realised. I wish we had been more like The Who in the fact
that when they have problems they stick together until they’ve
overcome them, Steve just thought well how do we top Ogdens’ and he
was off. Ogdens’ was a masterpiece if we had played it live we would
have gone on to even greater things, I reckon we were on the verge
of crossing the great divide and becoming a heavier band.
A posthumous album, The Autumn Stone, was released later in the
year, and included the major Immediate recordings, a rare live concert
performance, and a number of previously unreleased tracks, including the
classic Swinging Sixties instrumental "Wide Eyed Girl on the Wall" and
"Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass", co-written by Ian McLagan. The final
single, "Afterglow (Of Your Love)", was released in 1969 after the band had
ceased to exist. Since there was no one to promote it, it only reached the
UK Singles Chart Top 40.
Post-breakup projects, reunion and legacy
Marriott's next venture was with the rock group Humble Pie, formed with
ex-Herd member Peter Frampton. The group was a huge hit in the U.S., though
not in the UK. Humble Pie split in 1975 due to financial problems and
'musical differences', and Marriott later formed Packet of Three. After
Small Faces split, Lane, Jones and McLagan floundered briefly before joining
forces with former members of the Jeff Beck Group, singer Rod Stewart and
guitarist Ron Wood. They released one album as Small Faces before becoming
simply Faces and later Rod Stewart and The Faces.
Following the breakup of Faces in 1975, the original Small Faces line-up
reformed briefly to film videos miming to the reissued "Itchycoo Park" (a
Top 10 hit for the second time) and "Lazy Sunday" (which went Top 40). The
group tried recording together again but Lane left after an argument.
Unknown to the others, he was just beginning to show the symptoms of
multiple sclerosis, and his behaviour was misinterpreted by Marriott and the
others as a drunken tantrum. Nevertheless, McLagan, Jones and Marriott
stayed together long enough, with ex-Humble Pie bassist Rick Wills taking
Lane's place, to create two albums: Playmates in 1977 and 78 In
The Shade in 1978, released on Atlantic Records. Guitarist Jimmy
McCulloch also briefly joined the line-up after leaving Wings. Paul
McCartney, who had found McCulloch increasingly difficult to work with,
allegedly phoned Marriott and said, "You can have him." The absence of
Lane's bass playing and songwriting, however, was all too noticeable, and
mainstream music in Britain was rapidly changing direction, punk rock having
been established around this time. The reunion albums, as a result, were
both critical and commercial failures.
Kenney Jones became the drummer in The Who after Keith Moon's death in
1978. Ian McLagan went on to
perform with artists such as Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones, David Lindley
and El Rayo-X, and most recently Billy Bragg. In 1998 he published his
autobiography, All the Rage. He now lives in the small town of Manor
(pronounced 'Maynor') just outside Austin, Texas.
On Saturday, April 20, 1991, Steve Marriott died in his sleep when a
fire, caused by a cigarette, swept through his home in Essex, England.
His death came just a few days after he had begun work on a new album in
America with his former Humble Pie bandmate, Peter Frampton.
Ronnie Lane died at his home in Trinidad, Colorado, on June 4, 1997,
after battling multiple sclerosis for nearly 20 years.
On September 4, 2007, a Small Faces and Don Arden commemorative plaque,
issued by the London Borough of Westminster,
was unveiled in their memory in Carnaby Street. An emotional Kenney Jones
attended the ceremony and said in a BBC television interview, "To honour the
Small Faces after all these years is a terrific achievement. I only wish
that Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane and the late Don Arden were here to enjoy
this moment with me".
|Steve Marriott |
Ronnie "Plonk" Lane | Kenney Jones | Ian "Mac" McLagan
|Small Faces (1966) -
From the Beginning (1967) - Small Faces (1967) - Ogdens' Nut
Gone Flake (1968) - The Autumn Stone - Playmates
78 In The Shade - Itchycoo Park
Live albums (The BBC Sessions)
|BBC Session (Saturday
BBC Session (Saturday Club) (1965) - BBC Session (Saturday Club)
BBC Session (Saturday Club) (1966) - BBC Session (Top Gear)
1968 Sessions - The Final Tour (1969)
|"Whatcha Gonna Do
About It"/"What's a Matter Baby" (1965) - "I've Got Mine"/"It's
Too Late" (1965)
"Sha-La-La-La-Lee"/"Grow Your Own" (1966) - "Hey Girl"/"Almost
Grown" (1966) - "All or Nothing"/"Understanding" (1966)
- " My Mind's Eye"/"I Can't Dance With You" (1966) - "I Can't
Make It"/"Just Passing" (1967)
"Patterns"/"E Too D" (1967) - "Here Come the Nice"/"Talk To You"
(1967) - "Itchycoo Park"/"I'm Only Dreaming" (1967)
"Tin Soldier"/"I Feel Much Better" (1967) - "Lazy
Sunday"/"Rollin' Over" (1968)
"The Universal"/"Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass" (1968) -
"Afterglow (Of Your Love)"/"Wham Bam Thank You Mam" (1969)
"Itchycoo Park" (re-release) (1975) - "Lazy Sunday" (re-release)
Other related people
|Don Arden - Andrew
Loog Oldham - Tony Calder - Glyn Johns
one of the best bands ever
Small Faces were the most under-rated bands of the sixties.