Small Faces were an English rock group from East London, 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 in 1966 by Ian McLagan).
They are best remembered as possibly one of the most acclaimed and influential mod groups of the 1960s, with hit songs such as "Itchycoo Park", "Lazy Sunday", "All or Nothing", "Tin Soldier", and their concept album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake. They later evolved into one of the UK's most successful psychedelic acts before disbanding in 1969. After the Small Faces disbanded, three of the members were joined by Ronnie Wood (guitar) and Rod Stewart (lead vocals), both from The Jeff Beck Group, and the new line-up was renamed the Faces.
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 in their original incarnation, the Small Faces' music output from the mid to late sixties remains among the most acclaimed British mod and psychedelic music of that era. (A revived version of the band also existed from 1975 to 1978.)
In 1996, Small Faces were belatedly awarded the Ivor Novello Outstanding Contribution to British Music "Lifetime Achievement" award.
Original line-up: 1965-1969
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 Edward Winston Langwith, 20 April 1945, in Stratford, East 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 considerable 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 King 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.
The Decca years (1966-67)
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 and 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' 4". (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 28 January 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 11 May 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 Oliver. On the success of "All or Nothing" they were set to tour America with The Lovin' Spoonful and The Mamas & the Papas; however, these plans had to be shelved by Don Arden after details of Ian McLagan's recent drug conviction were leaked.
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 (1967-68)
They were almost straight away 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 and guitar.
Their late-1967 single "Itchycoo Park" (single released Nov. 11, 1967) is 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 (Jan. 27, 1968 for 3 weeks). "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; single released Mar. 16, 1968); it remains one of their least-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 neighbors 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. It never charted on the U.S. charts, but it is still their second-best remembered songs. Many years later, "Lazy Sunday" was to inspire Blur's hit song "Parklife" in 1994.
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 months.
Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake (1968)
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 24 May 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 (it reached #159 in the US).
The two-act concept album consisted of six 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.
Breakup and release of The Autumn Stone (1969)
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: