The Small Faces
The Small Faces
Are You Sitting Comfortably? No This Ain't A Bleedin' Moody Blues Article!
The Small Faces were a British rock n' roll band formed in the East End of the bombsite somewhere on the dangly half of the moon. The act was formed by East Enders like the former "Coronation Street" actor Steve Marriott (heir to the chain of East End Marriott hotels) and his friends Ronnie"Plonk" Laing (no relation to the famous psychotherapist and nicknamed "Plonk" for his fondness for cheap Spanish red wine), Kenny Jones and Jimmy Best, who was not friends with Steve, Ronnie or Kenny. In 1966 Best was replaced by Ringo "Peace And Love" Starr for about the time it took to open a packet of Woodbines and then replaced by Ian "Mack" (nicknamed so because of a fondness for American 18 wheeler trucks of that make)MacLagan from East Grimstead. The band took their name from a Byrds song "8 Miles High" that contains the line "in places, Small Faces", and because it was allegedly Cockney rhyming slang for drying laundry. They were signed to Decca records because since missing out on signing up The Beatles, Decca gave everyone (except Freddie Lennon) a recording contract. They were put into the studio after just three weeks of existance and given a song called "Whatcha Gonna Do About It". The rest was history and you can buy the new DVD to hear the rest because my fingers hurt from typing.
A Brief History
The band is remembered least for their film appearance in "Dateline Diamonds" and best known for their mod clothes, short stature and being the first band to put a round LP in a round LP cover. Besides being more mod than The Who but not as mod as The Action and they were championed as heroes in the 90's by a movement called Brit pop that consisted of English boys with bad haircuts, 5 o'clock shadows, trainers and the occasional dodgy Merc suit. Their psychedelic single "Itchycoo Park" became a hit in both England and the United States and is one of the most famous songs about feeding ducks and staying in school. Initial copies of the 45 bear the message "Don't Drop Out, Turn On" etched in the inner groove. The band were also responsible for many other hits "All Or Nothing", "Sha La La La Kenny Lynch", "Little Pictures", "Tin Soldier”,” Farewell To The Original Magnificent Seven", "Lazy Sunday" and "(Tom)The Universal" (no relation to the record of the same name by Blurb).
Despite the fact that the band only lasted four years their records were released on a variety of labels in several countries all illegally often with other artist's photos on the cover. It is not known whether this was because of ineptitude, artistic freedom or the hiring of the mentally deficient to work in record label art departments. Their music is reputed to be good and also it is said that they had the largest catalog of unlicensed material second only to The Yardbirds, a white blues band that gave the world Top Topham, Eric "Slowhand" Clapham, Nigel Tuffnell and Little Roger & The Goosebumps.
The band were managed by Sharon Osbourne's father Don Arden who treated the boys like step sons in a wicked Disney tale, giving them expense accounts on Carnaby Street to get as much mod gear as they wanted for free, a communal apartment in Pimilico, Plimco, Pmili...well someplace in London. The pad was complete with an East German live in housekeeper/dominatrix, lots of plush carpet's for Steve's dogs to defecate on and an unlimited supply of Tinker toys. Don also took their money, told their parents they were heroin addicts and bought a lot of ugly medallions with the money he'd made on them. In his spare time he also robbed Skip Bifferty and turned down the chance to manage a glue sniffing band from Birmingham called Earth or Mother Earth (not to be confused with a 90's hippie-Jam band of the same name)and on his death bed a few years ago was heard to utter "You ungrateful little midget *uckers, I made you.....you wanted to be exploited". They released a string of hits and an untitled 1966 Decca LP titled, well it didn't have one did it?
After being freed by Don Arden(who confiscated all their mod clothes and gave them gear stolen from a London production of "Jospeh And The Amazing 14 Hour Technicolour Dream Machine" in return) they were managed by Andrew Droog-Oldham, actor Gary's older brother who was best known for once trying to entice a teenage Marianne Faithfull with a recording contract at a party with the famous line "If your voice sounds as good as those Bristol's look I've got a Hampton for you". He signed them to his newly started label Immediate, which eventually became a DJ night in Philadelphia run by mod kids that catered to dirty Pabst swilling hipsters. Immediate released their next single "Here Come The Nice" a song about a door to door pep pill salesman but was in actuality based on a King Pleasure song "Here Comes My Rice". Not to be outdone Decca and Arden released something they had laying around as a single and when the band released their debut Immediate album, Decca released an LP of unreleased songs that were soul covers and songs about herbal jazz cigarettes. With Immediate in 1968 they recorded and released the concept album "Odgen's Nut Brown Sauce Rolls". It was the world's first concept album and told the story about the making of the world's first album in a circular sleeve with pretty colours. It was originally to be narrated by Freddie Lennon, hot on the heels of his smash Piccadilly single "That's My Life (My Love And My Home)" (which was well onto it's 9th pressing). At the last minute Freddie became unavailable owing to time constraints from his dishwashing job so Stanley Unwin stepped in to fill the void. The LP was hailed as a masterpiece by everyone who ever heard it years later, though not at the time because everyone was off listening to Englebert Humperdink, taking lots of L.S.D. and fornicating in the bushes, in that order.
In 1969 the band broke up after Steve Marriott invited former Preachers guitarist and Bill Wyman's girlfriend's friend's V.D. victim Peter Frampton to join the band. He went with them on a trip to Liechtenstein where they played the largest concert in that country's history to a capacity audience of 96. They then travelled to France where they were to back French rock n' roll singer Jacques Dutronc on tracks they presented him like "Wide Eyed Girl On The Wall", "Picccaninny" and "The Pig Trotters". Dutronc was later heard to mutter "Ces chansons sont la merde". The band, not understanding French assumed he liked them and put his silence down to his Gallic dry wit and were perturbed that the songs were never released. Upon returning to England everyone assumed Marriott would invite Frampton to join but he never did. He turned down the opportunity though it was never formally made but formed a super group a few months later with Marriott and David Bowie called Framabow. Their acetate recording of "Nobody Knows You(When You're Down And Out)" rates with basement dwelling record collectors who still at home as being as rare as early recordings of The Beatles clearing their throats at their 1962 Decca audition. The band were angry that Steve would invite another into their inner circle without asking and stormed off onstage at a gig at Acklam Hall on New Year's eve of 1969 to go watch Boxing Day football results down the street at the pub leaving a bemused Marriott to carry on with a 79 minute jam of "Itchycoo Park" with his good friend Brian Jones, later to attempt to cinch the underwater record for holding one's breath in Britain.
That's It You Tosser We're Hooking Up With Rod
The band officially broke up after a low key gig in a basement in Neasden. Steve went on to invent hard rock and was rumored to have been forming a band with Alexis Korner or Brain Jones, depending on which Brian Jone's biography you read. The band sans Steve soon hooked up with future Scottish Tony Bennett impersonator Rod "The Mud" Strewart and his friend Ronny Wood of The Byrds(who'd also been in The Mark Four Mk.5) to form The Faces. The Faces drank alot of booze, shagged a lot of birds and made great records before Rod's ego, his urge to make disco records and mounting unpaid bar tabs worldwide (in that order) spelled their demise. The Small Faces reunited in 1978 and made two LP's, both without Ronnie Laing (who was replaced by Pinot Bo, an Argentinean sexploitation film producer and suave character)"Playdates" and "'Alf A Mo Harold Let's 'Ave Our Hol's First". A third LP "No Pulse" was in the making when Pinot Bo left the studio to buy some pornography and never returned. The band waited a further three weeks for him to return till hunger set in and they were forced to cancel the session and file for bankruptcy due to over three weeks of studio fee's, take out food orders and copious packs of Dunhill's. Lucky loose lincensing allowed a plethora of Small Faces LP's of their 60's material(like the one pictured below) to ensure that though they weren't making any money off of their recordings the whole would not be denied the chance to hear them.
The surviving band members managed to recoup their royalties thanks to legal actions in the late 1990's which put an end to such high profile labels like Kastle, Pride, Springboard, Ashtan, Complete Collections, Nutt, Imediate, Offshore Holding Company and You'll-Be-Alright-My-Son-Stick-Wif-Me Enterprises who were illegally reissuing the band's output since they were recorded. Their music continues to be adored and championed in yearly interviews in the music press by Paul Weller whenever "Mojo" or "Uncut" need good copy and by The Blow Up, Blowfly, The Blowed Up Real Good, The Blow Monkeys and lots of other people who love 60's music but blow musically. There are, at the moment no less than two act's in England who are "Small Faces" tribute bands, none of which contain any actual Small Faces members or Rick Buckler, all of whom are tall and all of whom, I'm told, play instruments with amplification.
Little Known Trivia
-If you look closely at the sleeve of their first Decca LP scrawled in chalk it says "The Who Are Wankers" and "Reggie Is A C*nt" (directed at The Action's Reggie King). An uncropped photo from the session also bears graffiti reading: "Georgie(Fame)Rolls His Own" and "It's Nice To Be Nice".
-The character, Herb Tarlek, on the American sitcom TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati" was written in to be a Small Faces fan hence his affinity for center parted hair, plaid jackets, loud op-art ties and white slingback shoes.
-The band were unsucessfully sued in 1992 by another band The San Francisco Mall Aces who saw a mod wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with S(mall) F(aces)and took it to be a copyright infringement. The matter was setttled out of court by Don Arden who gave them stock in Pride Records as compensation.
-In 1967 Dinky Toys made a limited edition Small Faces Jaguar Salon car complete with hash smoke stained windows and four figures with a Dansette inside.
-Not many people know this but there was a film made about the band in the late 90's called "Small Faces". Who knew that the members were also in a tough Glasgow street gang in the late 60's?!