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2023/4 Albums Thing 316 - Small Faces “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake"

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"Are you all sitting comftybold two square on your botty? Then I'll begin ..."

Everyone was at in ‘67/‘68…I don’t know what you were thinking but I was I talking about making Psychedelic themed concept albums. The Beatles had “Sgt Pepper’s…”, the Stones “Their Satanic Majesties”, The Who were selling out, The Zombies had “Odessey And Oracle”, the Pretty Things “SF Sorrow” and the Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette gave the world “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake”.

One of the immediately (pardon the pun) striking things, among many, about “Ogdens’…” was its artwork. The album was originally housed in an elaborate, foldout circular sleeve designed to look like a Tobacco tin. You had panels showing the front and back of the tin plus the inside complete with rolling papers. Each member has a panel and there is an intricate Psychedelic design on another. It’s incredible and must have cost a fortune to produce. I do have one, sadly not a 60’s original but an Irish re-issue from 1981 (oh and a 2018 Red vinyl re-issue, exclusive to Sainsbury’s of all places).

Side 1 kicks off with the blissed out instrumental “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake” coming at you with phased guitars and keyboards and an orchestra. It’s the sort of thing you can picture Hippies groovng to in some smoky basement club in the Summer Of Love. That is followed by one of my very favourite Small Faces songs, “Afterglow” (or “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” as it is sometimes presented). Marriott gives this everything vocally, Kenney Jones crashes about in best Moon the Loon style and I bloody love Mac McLagens understated Hammond swells sitting back in the mix. It’s criminal that as a single it only just scraped into the top 40.

After that the Small Faces show their versatile side. "Long Agos and Worlds Apart" is a breathy Psychedelic floater sung by Ronne Lane. That’s followed by what can only be described as a piece of Music Hall bawdery (is that even a word ?). “Rene” is the tale of an accomodating lady who offers sailors newly arrived at port some “comfort”. Steve Marriott reprises his best Artful Dodger, cor blimey guv’nor voice for lines like “Love is like an 'ole in the wall, A line-up in the warehouse no trouble at all, If you can spare the money, you'll have a ball, She'll have your oars out!”. Follow that! Well they do with “Song Of A Baker”. Marriott crashes in with big chords while Plonk sings to us about bringing the wheat in from the fields, turning it to flour and making bread. Marriott’s voice dominates the chorus and they manage to turn a song about baking into a Mod anthem ! “Lazy Sunday” with Marriott switching to ‘cor blimey cheeky Cocker-knee’ mode again is almost an anti-climax after that.

The other striking thing about this album is the appearance, as the narrator on Side 2, of “Professor” Stanley Unwin. If you are unfamiliar with the “Prof” he was a comic actor that invented his own comedic language called Unwinese, or as almost everyone else called it “gobbledygook” (or gobbledygooch as my wife always says it). If you still have no idea what that means then here is how he introduces us to our hero and the story of “Happiness Stan”

“Now, of course, like all real-life experiencestory, this also begins once apollytito, and Happiness Stan, who life evolved near ephemeral colour dreamy most, had his pure existence, and this being the deep joy of the multicolour of the rainbold. Oh yes. Yes, homes of Victoriana charabold (this is a four-wheeled folloloft’t’t’t out of the backgrown)”.

Side 2 of “Ogdens’…” is a concept, or a fairy tale. It’s the story of Happiness Stan and his quest to find the missing half of the moon, after seeing the half moon one night and thinking half of it had gone missing. On his quest he saves a fly from starving, and in gratitude the fly tells him about a wise man, Mad John, who can tell him where the moon’s missing bit is and also knows the philosophy of life itself. All that is delivered via songs running the gamut of pop, heavy rock, psychedelia and music hall knees up.

“Ogdens’…” was hugely ambitious, and successful. Critics loved it and the public bought it, putting it at #1 in the UK for six weeks. But the band had created a problem for themselves. With the technology available to them in the late 1960’s their album was pretty much impossible to re-create live. Marriott was growing increasingly frustrated with the band being seen as a “pop” act and the predominantly screaming teenage girl audience their gigs attracted. He finally cracked on New Years Eve 1968, shouting “I quit!” and walking off mid show, never to return. 

Had the Small Faces been able to play “Ogdens’…” live, to an audience that would listen, maybe things would have been different but, at the scene of their biggest success, one of the greatest British bands of the swinging 60’s reached their end. 

Song Of A Baker - https://youtu.be/TpWKAgcs21w?si=hpHtydEnS_aDnWTH

Happiness Stan - https://youtu.be/ueEELGPsOYI?si=WKUSyolPDdHiu4y4

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