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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Dedicated Follower of the Kinks

May 10, 2011

“The taxman’s taken all my dough and left me in my stately home lazing on a sunny afternoon ~ and I can’t sail my yacht he’s taken  everything I’ve got ~ all I’ve got is this sunny afternoon”. words written by Ray Davies of the Kinks.

We have two things in common with the lyrics above ! The taxman has recently taken all our dough and with summer fast approaching at least hopefully we will get some sunny afternoons!             

The Kinks record “All Day and All of the Night” was the first 45 that I bought and recently on TV they were showing an early episode of “Heartbeat” starring Nick Berry which played most of the Kinks first two records ‘You Really Got Me” and”All Day and All of the Night” and they sounded so good!  Like a runaway express train coming at you.

The original Kinks line up was : Ray Davies guitar & vocals and main songwriter, Brother Dave Davies supplying the  fierce guitar work, Mick Avory laying down the back beat and Peter Quaife on bass who sadly recently passed away.

The next Kinks record that I bought was the LP “Sunny Afternoon” in 1967 on the Marble Arch label which was the budget arm of Pye Records and features four hit singles and some brilliant Kinks B~sides and EP tracks, this record was jammed full of gems from the mid~sixties and complete with the greatest LP cover!   

Named after their current UK No. 1 hit 45 the album kicks off with “Sunny Afternoon”  which has the trade~ mark Ray Davies lyrics and is followed next  by I Need You” which is so good it would have been a hit in it’s own right ~ pure garage metal  rock.

 Next up was “See My Friends” which has a repeat hypnotic Indian feel to it and reached No. 10 in the UK charts followed by “Big Black Smoke” the B~side of  “Dead End Street” and really sums up the Fagin feeling of being poor in dirty of London which a lot of us can relate too!

The end song  of Side One is the classic “Louie Louie” written by Richard Berry and was a big hit for the Kingsmen in the USA in 1963 but this Kinks version would have made the charts as well. Pure rock n roll!

Side Two kicks off with “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” which is the Kinks at their best taking a swipe at the Carnaby fashion scene in London and drawing heavily from British music hall traditions in it’s mocking scornful lyrics! and reaching No. 5 in the UK.

They seek him here they seek him there his clothes are loud but never square!  Oh Yes he is!  

Next track is  Sittin’ On My Sofa  : B~ side of “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”  and  a great up beat song with great bass playing from Pete Quaife.  

Next up is  Such A Shame : Appears on the B~side of the US 45 “Well Respected Man’ and again  has great RayDavies lyric and melody.

Track 4 is one of my Kinks favourites “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”  B side of  “Sunny Afternoon” which features brother Dave Davies on vocals and what a great job he does as well!

Also Dave Davies had a number of hits in his own right including “Lincoln County” “Susannah’s Still Alive” and probably the most famous “Death of a Clown“. Great to hear if you haven’t already!

Last song on the album is “Dead End Street” which reached No. 5 on the UK chart and is very popular with people who live in a Cul~De~ Sac’s but the rest of us like it because like so many Ray Davies songs it speaks of the Englishness of the upper and working classes.                                                                                                                                         

I like my football on Saturdays ~ Roast beef on Sundays ~ It’s all right!  

I go to Blackpool for my holidays ~ sit in the open sunlight      


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