Sunday, December 03, 2006

Number 706 - Small Faces

Number 706

Small Faces

"Itchycoo Park"

were the best English band never to hit it big in America. On this side of the Atlantic, all anybody remembers them for is their sole stateside hit, "Itchycoo Park," which was hardly representative of their psychedelic sound, much less their full musical range -- but in England, were one of the most extraordinary and successful bands of the mid-'60s, serious competitors to and potential rivals to the Rolling Stones.

Lead singer/guitarist Steve Marriott's formal background was on the stage; as a young teenager, he'd auditioned for and won the part of the Artful Dodger in the Lionel Bart musical Oliver! Marriott was earning his living at a music shop when he made the acquaintance of Ronnie Lane (bass, backing vocals), who had formed a band called the Pioneers, which included drummer Kenney Jones. Lane invited Marriott to jam with his band at a show they were playing at a local club -- the gig was a disaster, but out of that show the group members decided to turn their talents toward American R&B. The band -- with Marriott now installed permanently and Jimmy Winston recruited on organ -- cast its lot with a faction of British youth known as the mods, stylish posers (and arch enemies of the leather-clad rockers, sometimes with incredibly violent results) who, among their other attributes, affected a dandified look and a fanatical embrace of American R&B. The quartet, now christened the Small Faces ("face" being a piece of mod slang for a fashion leader), began making a name for themselves on-stage, sparked by their no holds barred performance style. Marriott had a uniquely powerful voice and was also a very aggressive lead guitarist, and the others were able to match him, especially Jones, who was a truly distinctive drummer.
By the end of 1966, had severed their ties with Arden which, in effect, ended their relationship with Decca (though the two sides would argue and debate that point for a while), and in early 1967 moved under the wing of Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham. At the time, Oldham was one of the top three or four producers in England, thanks to his work with the Stones (and a few other acts such as Marianne Faithfull), and his management of that group was considered one of the most successful business relationships in pop music. Oldham had started his own label, Immediate Records, which was so far devoted to a few licensed American masters, the work of promising neophytes, and a few unwitting contributions by star guitarists -- including Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck -- who thought they were cutting demos and jamming with producer/guitarist Jimmy Page. Getting as clients was the first step to getting them onto his label, thereby providing the label with the anchor of a proven hitmaking outfit (the Rolling Stones were locked into their Decca Records contract and, in any case, usually seemed to keep themselves at arm's length from Immediate's activities, beyond any informal obligations they felt they owed Oldham). By mid-1967 he had succeeded in doing precisely that, signing the group to Immediate -- and with the shift in management and label, the suddenly found themselves with a drastically reduced touring schedule and vastly increased time available in the studio, and their sound immediately became looser.

They started things off of just right for the new era with one of the most quietly subversive drug anthems ever to tiptoe its way into the U.K. charts, "Here Comes the Nice." A cheerful, unassuming ode to a drug dealer, it somehow escaped the notice of censors and became one of the finest above-board expressions of appreciation for recreational drug use of its era. There were other drug songs to follow, including "Green Circles," that ended up on their albums -- they remained a top-flight R&B-driven band, but a much wider array of sounds and instruments began figuring in their music. Their first Immediate album, entitled Small Faces (known in the U.S., where it was released somewhat belatedly through Columbia Records' distribution, as There Are But Four Small Faces), was issued in mid-1967, and was an instant hit. In August of that year, two months after "Here Comes the Nice" wafted its way to the airwaves, they released "Itchycoo Park," a lilting, lyrical idyll to the Summer of Love, loosely based on a hymn known to Ronnie Lane and featuring Marriott in his gentlest vocal guise -- this ode to a psychedelic sunny afternoon captured the hearts of listeners on both sides of the Atlantic and became the Small Faces' sole claim to fame in the United States. ~ [Bruce Eder, All Music Guide]
For Rolling Stones see Numbers 689 & #767
For Marianne Faithfull see Number 696
For Jimmy Page see Number 577 & #957
For Eric Clapton see Number 537
What does Rolling Stone think about The Small Faces?
Their drug song, "Itchycoo Park," is ridiculously coy, but it does capture the joy of getting high.The Small Faces never really made it. They lacked an evil genius like Andrew Loog Oldham to discipline and mold their obvious talent for his own ends (the beautiful, soaring chorus of "Afterglow of Your Love" makes one wish a Phil Spector had got hold of Marriot's voice and given it real power). By themselves the only place the Small Faces could decide to go was after everyone else and they never caught up. But their pursuit was always innocent and enthusiastic, very happy and defiantly infectious—the essence of good rock and roll. (RS 53)
Crowbarreds choice for Website to find more on Small Faces ... Click on the address
Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs ranked this song at Number (We are not "into" drug related songs) and the Album ranked at Number (Now "Whiter Shade of Pale" now theres a good wholesome song)
This song has a crowbarred rating of 68.4 out of 108 pts
Search Artist here:1-2-3-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z

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