The Small Faces ~ So I’ll Just Groove Along Quite Naturally

December 5, 2014

In Memory of Ian McLagen  – 1945 – 2014

Are you sitty comfy bold two square on your botty?

Then I’ll begin………

Long before Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood got together to form the Faces in the early 70’s there was a pop group in England called The Small Faces who  formed in the early 60’s and had hits glore in the UK.

Original members included singer Stevie Marriott who had a spit~in~your~eye attitude leading on three other renegades ~ Ronnie “Plonk” Lane on bass, Kenney Jones on drums, and Ian McLagen on keyboards. The latter three were to join Rod the Mod and Ronnie Wood in the Faces after the Small Faces broke up and Stevie Marriott went on to form Humble Pie. The Faces first album First Step was released in the USA as the Small Faces.

They were called The Small Faces because they were all no taller than 5′ 6″ and they performed some of the most raucous R&B and soulful music this side of the Wapping Wharf with influences such as Booker T & the MGs, Sam Cooke and Solomon Burke. They also looked good with a great image, and were the Mod kings of swinging London,  the boys had clothing accounts at all the best shops in Carnaby Street while the rest of us Mods & Rockers fought it out in Brighton.   

The Small Faces early hits are classic slices of Mod Pop, ‘Whatcha Gonna Do About It’, ‘ Sha La La La Lee’, and ‘All or Nothing’ all released on Decca Records. By 1967 the groups songwriting had began to mature and a change of record label from Decca to ex Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham’s new Immediate Records allowed them to not play live so much and have more studio time and artistic freedom just like the Beatles with Sgt. Pepper as the flower power era dawned.

Starting with ‘ Here Comes The Nice ‘ The Small Faces blazed a spectacular coloured soundscape across the sky. The truly remarkable Itcycoo Park (their only US hit) was followed next into the charts by Tin Soldier. This is my all time favourite song, full of passion it still today explodes out of the speakers with former Ikette  P.P Arnold on backing vocals spurring on Stevie Marriott to one of the greatest UK soul performances ~ ever!

Everyone nowadays talks about Pete Townsend and Ray Davies being the great spokespersons and class observers of the British 60’s generation  but I think we should take our hats off to Stevie and Ronnie as great songwriters as well!

I remember buying ‘Lazy Sunday’ with Stevie’s cockney voice and the great sound effects on the record while staying at my Aunt Alice’s in Bournemouth on the south coast of England and I must have driven her crazy playing that song and the B side ‘ Rollin’ Over ‘ maybe over a thousand times that Easter weekend.

Their last single to just make it into the Top 30 was ‘ The Universal ‘ and what a truly unique record it is! Partly recorded in Stevie’s back garden with dogs barking in time it features a crazy clarinet part and a Chet Atkins style guitar solo and it’s totally uncommercial but they still made it on to Top of the Pops for a memorable performance.

Like most of the British bands from the 60’s the Small Faces 45 rpm records have great B ~ sides like ‘ Talk to You’ with a powerful passionate Marriott vocal and ‘ I’m Only Dreaming ‘ a beautiful love song with a light arrangement and once again sang with great soul by Mr. Marriott.

B~side ‘ I Feel Much Better ‘ starts with Ronnie Lane’s bass ~ the baddest sound this side of the Watford Gap with P.P. Arnold once again supplying the backing vocals and a great fade at the end of the record. ‘ Rollin’ Over ‘ comes on like a steamroller coming at ya with a killer brass section and Kenney Jones really showing what a great drummer he is and Ian McLagen as melodically inventive on the keyboards as ever and on top of all that another epic vocal from Stevie Marriott.                                         

Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass ‘ always reminds me of my school holidays at my Dad’s caravan on the Essex coast on those hot summer days! grooving along quite naturally. Brilliant!

Then to top it all off and to light the candles on their cake the boys produced the classic  ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake ‘ album released on May 31st 1968. I remember that day was full of sunshine as I travelled to Barking in Essex by bus to buy this extraordinary record with its round artwork sleeve ( a first ) and  the fairy~tale story of Happiness Stan on Side Two of the record narrated by Stanley Unwin in his own strange but unique Unwinese language taking us all off to another world!. This album sounds fantastic in mono.

A brilliant album full of great songs and east end music hall humour that was overlooked in North America but which is full of the a deep joy and thorkus, a great laugh ‘n’ tittery for the heart as Stanley would say.

God bless em all!       Long ago and worlds apart

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The Fog On The Tyne Is All Mine

September 24, 2011

Newcastle United soccer fans are one of most loyal football fans in the world, week in week out the Toon Army turn up to support their team no matter what division they are in and the people of Newcastle feel the same way about their home town group called Lindisfarne. This British rock group from the 70’s took their name from the little tidal island off the north~eastern coast of England known as Holy Island.                                                                

Signing to the great Charisma record label in 1970 run by the legendary Tony Stratton Smith, their label mates included Genesis, Peter Gabriel and The Nice featuring Keith Emerson.

1970 saw the release of their debut album ‘ Nicely Out Of Tune ‘ a classic folk / rock album which features the song ‘ Lady Eleanor ‘ which became a hit nine months after its initial release date. The album is great , full of great songs and harmonies and has a football sing ~ along atmosphere on some tracks. There is not a bad track on the entire album.

Next album for the band was ‘ Fog on the Tyne ‘ and sometimes the second album can be a let down after the success of the first one as the band is usually on the road touring and have less time to write new songs. Produced by Bob Dylan producer Bob Johnston this is another classic folk rock album from the band and features the top ten single ‘ Meet Me On The Corner ‘  and with the title track both songs became highlights of their live shows.                     

A heavily reworked version of the title track with vocals by footballer  Paul Gascoigne another Newcastle legend was released under the title ‘ Fog On The Tyne ( Revisited ) credited to Gazza and Lindisfarne. It reached No. 2 in the UK charts in 1990.

Lindisfarne were blessed with great singers in Alan Hull, Rod Clements and Ray Jackson. In fact Ray Jackson played mandolin on Rod Stewart’s mega hit ” Maggie May ‘ but Rod forgot his name on the credit on the album. John Peel was used miming on the TV show Top of the Pops playing mandolin, so Ray missed out twice !

Alan Hull was the main songwriter and was a huge talent. On the release of their 3rd album the excellent ‘ Dingly Dell ‘ which was sightly savaged in the UK music press, Hull decided to leave to leave the group and pursue a solo career. In 1973 Alan Hull released ‘ Pipedream ‘ which was like a new Lindisfarne album as three of the band are playing and singing on it! This album is worth finding and features a brilliant distinctive artwork sleeve on the cover as is the album, also ‘ Back To Basics ‘ where Alan Hull plays acoustic  versions of his songs from 1970 onwards is worth finding.                                           

After a brief hiatus, Lindisfarne decided to reform again with the same line up. They hit the charts again in 1978 with the catchy ‘ Run From Home ‘ , but the momentum had been lost and the spirit was not the same.

While working on a new album in 1995, Alan Hull died suddenly from a heart thrombosis. A sad loss, but at least Lindisfarne and Alan Hull left behind a great selection of songs for us to listen too.

We Can All Swing Together !


The Faces ~ Had Me A Real Good Time !

September 8, 2011

After the demise of the Small Faces in 1969 with Stevie Marriott leaving to form Humble Pie, the three surviving members Kenny Jones ( Drums ) Ian McLagan ( keyboards ) and Ronnie Lane ( Bass ) hooked up with Ron Wood and Rod Stewart fresh evacuees from the Jeff Beck Group, and named their new band The Faces.                      

Jeff Beck is quoted as saying that “Wood and Stewart were like a couple of little schoolgirls always giggling and laughing together” and that he was pleased to get rid of them.

The initial Faces albumFirst Step ‘ was released in 1970 and had the name the Small Faces on the front cover. The album features lots of  great charm but is slightly untogether with songs such as ‘ Three Button Hand Me Down ‘  and Dylan’sWicked Messenger ‘ pointing the direction the band would take in the future, but it was really the folky Ronnie Lane song ‘ Stone’ that captured my ear!

I saw the Faces play on the release of their second album ‘ Long Player ‘ at London’s Chalk Farm Roundhouse and what a show it was with Rod and the boys kicking soccer balls out into the audience and all of them drinking wine and brandy on stage. It was a real party atmosphere with the audience joining in for a sing~a~long at every opportunity.                

The second LP ‘ Long Player ‘ once again is a bit messy but with the Faces becoming a great rock n roll live act at this time. Two tracks on the album are live ‘ I Feel So Good ‘ and a brilliant cover of Paul McCartney’sMaybe I’m Amazed ‘ and the party theme of ‘ Had Me A Real Good Time ‘ is great, but once again it is the folk songs supplied by Ronnie Lane that also stand out!

Album No. 3 ‘ A Nod’s As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse ‘ with it’s great sleeve artwork would be the break~through album for the band . Outstanding songs on this album include ‘ Miss Judy’s Farm ‘ and the funny ‘ Your So Rude ‘ and ‘ Stay With Me ‘ .Every song is a winner and  the band really gel and the songwriting had reached a high point.

Finally the band made the UK chart with the 45 ‘ Stay With Me ‘ which exploded out of the radio helping to propel the album and 45 into the Top Ten. However this was followed closely by the solo success of Rod Stewart with the 45 ‘ Maggie May ‘ and the LP  ‘ Every Picture Tells A Story ‘ with the rest of the Faces feeling like they where his backing band. That wasn’t what the Faces was about with their motto being ‘ All For One and One For All ‘ but the damage had been done within the group, most critically with Ronnie Lane who was very unhappy with the situation as some shows were billed as Rod Stewart & The Faces.                                             

By the time the final album ‘ Ooh La La’ hit the streets it was clearly all over but this LP had some high points with ‘ Cindy Incidentally’ making the pop charts and the title track becoming a fitting finale to a great group and with Ronnie Lane leaving the Faces to join the circus with his new ‘ The Passing Show ‘ band of musicians, big top, clowns and all!

Ronnie Lane was the heart of the band and things were never the same after he left and today Ronnie is sadly no longer with us. Kenny Jones joined the Who for a short while as replacement for Keith Moon. Ian McLagan would tour with Bob Dylan and the Stones and fronts his own Bump band,while Ronnie Wood joined the Stones as Mick Taylor’s replacement.

Rod Stewart would do his Atlantic Crossing to the USA and his many blondes girlfriends, but never had another band to match the Faces. Blessed with a great voice maybe he sometimes reflects on the time when he had major solo and group success all in the space of one year with ‘ Maggie May and ‘ Stay With Me ‘ in the singles chart and ‘ Every Picture Tells A Story ‘ and ‘ A Nod’s As Good As A Wink ‘ in the album charts.                        

So far Rod has resisted calls from Ronnie to sing with the band again ~ so the three remaining Faces ~ Ron, Kenny and Ian have played some live shows with Glen Matlock on bass and Mick Hucknell on vocals. Very good indeed !

Last Orders Please !


Lay Down Your Weary Tune ~ A Forgotten Dylan Classic!

September 6, 2011

In 1969 guitarist Tom McGuinness was at a bit of a loose end after the Manfred Mann band had disbanded after a run of fine hit singles throughout the 60’s. Luckily next door neighbour and drummer Hughie Flint who played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers playing on the Beano cover album with Eric Clapton was also at a loose end, so after a few drinks down the pub McGuinness Flint was born.

Next they found the excellent northeast singer Dennis Coulson who had a bit of the strong voice Eric Burdon’s about him and the band was beginning to really take shape, then enter two great songwriters Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle and everything was in place. 

A record deal with Capitol Records shortly followed and their first album was recorded with Stones producer Glyn Johns at Olympic studios in London. the self ~ titled album McGuinness Flint with the classic coffin cover was issued and the brilliant single chosen was ‘ When I’m Dead and Gone’ climbed all the way to No. 2 on the UK charts and was only kept off the top slot by the unlikely 45 hit ‘ Grandad ‘ by actor Clive Dunn.

Everything was rosy in the McGuinness Flint garden with the album soaring up the charts and the follow~up single ‘Malt & Barley Blues ‘ also making the UK chart, but after some disappointing live shows writers  Benny and Graham decided to leave the band to pursue their own careers as Gallagher & Lyle and were to have their own hits with ‘Heart On My Sleeve ‘ and ‘I Wanna Stay With You’. Both of  them also appeared on early Ronnie Lane / Slim Chance albums. Graham Lyle also had worldwide success for writing Tina Turner’s hit song ‘ What’s Love Got To Do With It ‘.                    

Left twiddling their thumbs, the other three members soldiered on and they brought in their old friend Dixie Dean on bass and saxophone to complete a new line up and because of the loss of the two main songwriters they came up with the idea of recording an album of covers of the more obscure Bob Dylan songs like from the Basement Tapes album which wasn’t released until three years later 1975 but had been widely bootlegged and featured the Band on backing.     

Manfred Mann had always been an admirer of Dylan songs having hits with ‘ If You Gotta Go ‘ ‘ Just Like A Woman ‘ and ‘ The Mighty Quinn ‘ so he was brought in to oversee the sessions as producer.

Lo & Behold was issued in 1972 as Coulson, Dean, McGuinness & Flint and recieved some excellent reviews but died a death with few copies selling but what an extraordinary gem of a record it is, with totally different arrangements and interpretations of these Dylan songs and has picked up a lot of fans over the years and have a great groove to it.

Released in the UK on DJM Records. Dick James was the publisher that set up the Beatles publishing company Northern Songs and in 1972 Coulson, Dean, McGuinness Flint would have been  UK label mates of Elton John.

The title song ‘ Lo & Behold ‘ sounds like the Rolling Stones in full flight and ‘ Get Your Rocks Off ‘ is given a blues rock treatment. The versions of ‘ Eternal Circle ‘ and ‘ Sign of the Cross ‘ are the best versions I have heard.

Full track listing is : Eternal Circle, Lo & Behold, Let Me Die In Your Footsteps, Open Your Door Homer, Lay Down Your Weary Tune, Don’t You Tell Henry,  Get Your Rocks Off, The Death of Emmett Till, Odd & Ends, Tiny Montgomery, I Wanna Be Your Lover and Sign of the Cross.   DJM Records UK 1972.

Lay Down Your Weary Tune c/w Tiny Mongomery was released on DJM as a 45 in the UK.                                                                         

The group disbanded in 1975 but not without leaving their mark and sadly vocalist Dennis Coulson passed away in 2006.


Ian Dury and the Blockheads

March 3, 2011

Reasons To Be Cheerful

One of Britain’s most loved characters from the 70’s punk scene was the likable rogue Ian Dury. Despite being handicapped at an early age with polio, he would go on to give us a string of clever music hall/punk/disco hits which would become part of our everyday language. He coined the now familiar phrases “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” and “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” and was writing great songs right up until his death in 2000 and never complained.

A warm-hearted witty geezer, this guy was the real deal, no pop star make~up needed here! Ian was a barrow boy straight out of Romford market!

Signing to the brilliant London label Stiff Records and releasing New Boots & Panties in 1977, Ian with his Dickens street~urchin image along with the best jazz/funk band in London the Blockheads was to become one of the hottest acts on the live circuit during the early punk years.

Although Ian looked like he had just escaped from a local mental home the night before, he had a lovable if demonic warped sense of humour and was in his mid ~thirties when he hit the big time unexpectedly!

In his teens he attended the Royal College of Art in London before forming the band Kilburn & The High Roads who released their one and only album on Dawn Records in 1975 called ‘Handsome’. The album is well worth finding, but it was in Chas Jankel that Ian was to find a songwriter that would lead him in the right direction to forming the Blockheads.

Hello! I’m from Essex

Every song from  their first album New Boots & Panties is a classic! and listening to some of the lyrics you know that Ian was one of the boys who put the sex in Essex! even though he was originally born in Middlesex, still tracks like ‘Billiericay Dickie’ and  ‘Plastow Patricia’ conjure up life in the urban sprawl of the Essex towns east of  Mile End station on the London underground’s District  line.

Maybe Ian is one of the most important poets that England has produced in the last 40 years with lines like I could be the ticket collector at Fulham Broadway station” and “In the deserts of Sudan and the gardens of Japan from Milan to Yucatan every woman every man“. Now stick that on your ringtones!

Ian had a string of hits singles with ‘Rhythn Stick’  ‘What A Waste’ , ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’  and ‘I Wanna Be Straight’ but it was the spirited song ‘Spasticus Autisticus‘ released from the Polydor album ‘ Lord Upminster’ which should have been his biggest hit!. Written by Ian for the Year of the Disabled this was a war cry from Ian to all the disabled people in the world but the single was misunderstood and was banned by the BBC and received very little publicity or air~play and is an absolute gem with Sly & Robbie supplying the bass and drums on the record.

Ian’s last album ‘Mr. Love Pants’ released in 1998 and was a real return to form with the Blockheads providing the backing after some indifferent Dury releases but overall all of Ian’s seven albums are worth exploring and if you don’t explore Ian Dury’s work you will never know what a rhythm stick is!

Mind the Gap!


Sandy Denny ~ We All Play Solo!

February 24, 2011

Some of you may not have heard of the singer Sandy Denny before, but a 19 CD lavish Box Set of her entire work was released late in 2010 and I am sure some of you have heard her before but never knew it! because she performed on the track ‘Battle of Evermore’ with Robert Plant on the Led Zeppelin IV four symbols album.

Sandy Denny wasn’t sure if she wanted to be a big solo star or be just a singer in a rock n roll band but what she did during her career had class act written all over it, playing with great musicians with her haunting tender voice and writing a body of beautiful songs.

Let’s start in 1969 with her joining the folk rock band Fairport Convention which included in their line up the brilliant guitarist Richard Thompson, singer Ian Matthews and bassist Ashley Hutchings on their  2nd album ‘What We Did On Our Holidays ‘  which features Denny’s song ‘Fotheringay‘ and the now classic Fairport song ‘Meet on the Ledge’ .

This album was followed shortly by ‘Unhalfbricking‘ (showing a photo of Denny’s parents on the front cover) with Ian Matthews leaving the band at this point but being replaced with violin player ex~ordinaire Dave Swarbrick who always had a ciggie in his mouth and a fiddle in his hands. This album features the beautiful Denny song “Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ which Judy Collins covered and the epic ‘A Sailors Life’ which started to lead the band in a new unique direction which would produce one of the greatest folk rock albums of the 70’s ‘Liege and Lief ‘. Before that album was recorded the band suffered a terrible tour bus crash which claimed the lives of Fairport drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson’s girlfriend  girl Jeannie Franklyn while Sandy had travelled by car with her new Aussie boyfriend and future husband Trevor Lucas.         

Adding new drummer the fabulous Dave Mattacks to their ranks and with Dave Swarbrick now as a fully paid up member of the band the classic album Liege and Lief was produced with dazzling solos from Thompson and Swarbrick but no Sandy Denny songs  were featured only her vocals as she was about to leave the band and form her own band Fotheringay.

Fotheringay had a stellar line up of Gerry Conway on drums , Pat Donaldson on bass (and both later with Cat Stevens) and the excellent Jerry Donahue on guitar along with Trevor on acoustic guitar and Sandy on vocals and piano. They only released one album called Fotheringay which features plenty of the best of Denny’s songs before Sandy decided to go solo while recording tracks for the second Fotheringay album which was finally released in 2008 and is excellent!

Sandy recorded four solo albums all together (The North Star Grassman & the Ravens Sandy ~ Like An Old Fashioned Waltz and Rendezvous) during the 70’s before re~joining Fairport one more time for the album ‘Rising of the Moon’ but the spark had gone after years of smoking and drinking and after the release of her final solo effort ‘ Rendezvous ‘  in 1977 she suffered injuries from falling down a flight of stairs and died the following year 1978.

All of her albums with Fairport, Fotheringay and solo Sandy Denny are wonderful !                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

A tragic loss but her songs live on including :It’ll Take A Long Time, The Pond And The Stream, Late November, Solo and Stranger to Himself


The Story of Cap’n ‘P’ And The Attos

February 5, 2011

Whatever you do don’t make it sound like Sergio Mendes!                                      

I was lucky enough to see Patto play in the early 70’s on a double~bill with Argent. It was Argent who were the headlining act because of their current hit single ‘ Hold Your Head Up ‘ but it was Patto who stole the show for me even though they were plagued with a bad sound system on the night. The reason that they stole the show was because all members of the band were outstanding players with plenty of backbeat and they seemed to not take themselves too seriously on stage laughing and joking all the way through their performance. Their humour was to also come across on the vinyl releases.

The band put out three great albums which were ‘ Patto ‘ (1970) and ‘ Hold Your Fire ‘ (1971)  on the new Vertigo label and the classic ‘ Roll ’em Smoke ’em Put Another Line Out ‘ which was released on Island Records in 1972.                                              

Their producer on all three albums and a big supporter of the band was Muff Winwood, the brother of Stevie Winwood and the original bass player in the Spencer Davis Group who went on to be the head of A&R at Island Records and the producer of the first Dire Straits album. An all round music man.

In the late 60’s the band started out as a 5 piece named Timebox and dented the charts slightly with their single “Beggin” before dropping down to a 4 piece and changing their name to Patto after the singer’s name.

Their first self~titled album Patto starts off with the song “The Man” and straight away on the first track you know you are going to be in for something good as the song builds and then leads into a vibraphone solo from guitarist Ollie Halsall. This band can rock with a slightly jazzy feel and all four parts are equally brilliant! but in Ollie they had an outstanding guitar slinger who would be in my top ten all time favourites for sure ~ just listen to the solo on ” Red Glow ” and “Hold Me Back ‘ with the rest of the band pushing him along and also the great overlooked Mike Patto on vocals.

Sales were poor on the first album but they were back in the studio and on tour with Ten Years After so things looked rosy!. ” Hold Your Fire ” starts off with the eight minute epic title track with the band in great form but once again the sales were not there and as Muff Winwood became head of A&R at Island the boys moved to the label with him.

Roll ’em Smoke ’em was released in 72 and what an album it is with every track being great ~ slightly different from the previous two with Ollie playing more piano and keyboards on this one but this band had come of age and if you know any guitar players that are into metal or rock playing then I think they should have a listen to ” Loud Green Song ” on this album and then think again about what they are playing!  ROCK ON OLLIE!   

Sadly this was it for the band as their sound fell on deaf ears and the band turned turtle but they have left behind them three beauties and all of them are a valuable addition to any collection.

Members of the band were :

Mike Patto on Vocals : Mike went off to join Spooky Tooth after trying to hold Patto together for so long, then got back together with Ollie Halsall in Boxer before being diagnosed with Leukemia and this fighter passed away on the 4th of March 1979, and he is still singing the blues on red. A great loss!                                                        

Ollie Halsall on Guitar : Ollie played with Allan Holdsworth and Jon Hiseman in Tempest for a while before becoming  Kevin Ayers sidekick touring and playing some great guitar on his albums before moving to Spain where he passed away in 1992 from a heroin overdose. What a waste!

Clive Griffiths on Bass : I met Clive one evening at Kings Cross station in the mid 70’s and he was driving a taxi to make ends meet and was playing in Joe Brown’s band but tragedy was to strike the Patto’s again! Both Clive and drummer John were on their way home from a gig with Joe’s band~ one minute they were driving the next they were in intensive care. The driver of an on coming car had slipped into sleep and hit them head on with Clive now being paralysed and suffers from memory loss and can’t even remember the Patto’s.

John “Admiral” Halsey on Drums: After Patto John joined Neil Innes in Grimm’s before becoming a member of the highly successful Rutles project. John also along with Clive suffered bad injuries from the car accident but has recovered with his sense of humour intact

For flat footed women everywhere!


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