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2023/4 Albums Thing 314 - Small Faces “Small Faces (Decca)”

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A fella walks into a record shop. Clutched in his hand is a Mono, unboxed Decca copy of the Small Faces debut album. He wants to sell it and he wants good money for it. OK, how much ? “I want £11”…WOW! not £10, not £15 but a very precise £11…I couldn’t get the money out of my pocket fast enough! I didn’t want this one for the shop, I wanted it for my collection to replace my 2000’s re-issue. It looked a bit scruffy but I took it home, gave it a deep clean and it plays great, a few pops and clicks (hey, it’s almost as old as me and I’m a bit creaky theses days too) but just fine. Those guys in white coats in the Decca pressing plant knew what they were doing, and these 60’s Mono pressings are almost indestructible, more than can be said for some of today’s shoddy efforts.

I’ve said more than once in the course of writing these Blog posts that there are many groups from the mid-60’s that I would turn to over some of the more feted 60’s Beat combos of that period and the Small Faces are chief among them. Steve Marriott and Ronnie “Plonk” Lane (or Ronald “Leafy” Lane as he came to be known on a later release) were a great songwriting team. Marriott was one of the great British R&B singers (right up there with Stevie Winwood and Lulu) he was no slouch as a guitar player either. Ian McLagan’s Hammond Organ adds colour and power to these tunes and Kenney Jones was their perfect engine room.

As with most albums at this time it’s a collection of the bands singles (“What'cha Gonna Do About It” and “Sha La La La Lee” are both here), cover songs from their live set and a couple of instrumentals which are filled out by some Marriott/Lane originals. Given that one of the USP’s (‘unique selling point’ for those who have never worked in sales) this band had was Marriott’s incredible voice I do find it most strange that on this album they don’t really let him get going until track 3. First track, a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Shake”, is sung by Ronnie Lane. Second track “Come On Children” is effectively an instrumental with some occasional vocal wailing from Marriott so it’s not really until 3rd song “You Better Believe It” until we get to hear Marriott and that incredible voice really attack a song. It just strikes me as a strange thing to do to hide him away until almost halfway though side 1.

There are two songs on here that I want to highlight. Firstly “Sorry She’s Mine” which was written by comedian Kenny Lynch (as was “Sha La La La Lee”). The band got their name because they were all Mods. Faces in Mod slang are the top boys, the best dressed Mods that all the others aspire to. The Small part came from their collective diminutive stature, Marriott, Lane and Jones were all under 5 ft 6 inches tall, original keyboardist Jimmy Winston wasn’t. Jimmy was considerably taller than the others and in promotional photo’s either had to duck or stand further behind the others to prevent him from towering over them. It’s rumoured he was replaced by Ian McLagen as Mac was a more suitable height. Jimmy Winston went on to make a few singles with bands like Winston’s Fumb’s and released a version of “Sorry She’s Mine” as a solo single which is frankly much better than the Small Faces version and is these days something of a Freakbeat collectors item.

The other tune we need to talk about is “You Need Loving”. It is credited on this album to Marriott/Lane but is really a thinly disguised cover of Muddy Waters 1962 recording of “You Need Love” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KsiLlUWoZM) which was written by Willie Dixon. In 1969 Led Zeppelin released their second album, the first track on which is “Whole Lotta Love” which was credited to Page/Bonham/Jones/Plant. In 1985 a court case found that Zeppelin had plagiarised Willie Dixon’s song and this was settled with payment to Dixon and a writing credit on future issues which now read Page/Bonham/Jones/Plant/Dixon. However…Steve Marriott claimed that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant attended many a Small Faces gig and expressed a liking for their take on “You Need Love”. A quick listen at the link below will surely confirm to you what Marriott said of Robert Plant’s performance on “Whole Lotta Love”, “he sang it the same (as me), phrased it the same, even the stops at the end were the same”. Naughty boys all.

It would take another year or so before albums became the important standalone items we now know them as. Back in 1966 they were still mainly a band showcase and a vehicle to sell more singles. But with that in Mind “Small Faces” does it well.

You Need Loving - https://youtu.be/GgBcSOamXOA?si=PkwszHR6vKHW3lkP

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