Described as the best British band that never hit it big in America – this is the Small Faces: Steve Marriott (lead guitar and vocals); Ronnie Lane (bass and backing vocals); Kenny Jones (drums) and Ian McLaglan (organ and backing vocals and guitar). Perhaps you remember Itchykoo Park too. Outside of Europe, this was the only song they were known for. In England they were one of the most extraordinary and successful mid-60s bands rivalling The Who and The Rolling Stones in popularity. I have become a fan of their great music.
Itchykoo Park was hardly representative of what they could do. They were a unique very stylelish pop/rock band known for Steve Marriott’s powerful voice and their aggressive live performances. They were mods and wore dandified styles. In those days “face” was slang for a person of style known around town and since none of them were more than 5’6″ in height, they adopted the name Small Faces. Do you remember mods and rockers? They were the Mod band.
When they first came together in 1965, they could hardly even play their instruments. Steve Marriott had a background in stage and at their first gig, jumped up on the piano destroying it. A fellow named Don Arden started to manage them and got them their first record deal at Decca. Marriot and Lane did the bulk of the song writing and they soon had a string of five hits in England. They were exploited though by their manager who never gave them enough time in the studio to achieve their potential. So in 1967 they left Arden and Decca moved under manager Andrew Loog Oldham who managed the Rolling Stones.
Their music style then evolved into something amazing. Soft and explosive, subdued and over the top. Psychedelic yet folksy. They produced their signature album in 1968 Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. One of the songs on it Lazy Sunday was released as a joke but made it to number 2 on the British charts. Marriott sings in a cockney accent because one of the Hollies said he sounded too American. I love this song.
Despite the creative quality of their music it never connected well with fans in America. They were again short changed by their manager and their record label Immediate Records failed. Expenses rose and sadly they never got the chance to go on tour in America. In 1968 they recorded a song that did not chart well – The Universal – which to me sounds almost Bob Dylanish. Steve was discouraged by the lack of interest in it and left the band to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. The Small Faces became the Faces and invited a budding Rod Stewart to join them… Steve Marriott sadly died in a fire in 1991. Ronnie Lane died of MS in 1997.
The Small Faces – the best British band that never hit it big in America. In 2012 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I love them.
P.S. Their is a wealth of videos, music and information including documentaries on the Small Faces on Youtube. Allmusic provides a great biography and their discography. There is also a Facebook group. I am just getting into it all.