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  1. "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

  2. The Small Faces had been managed by notorious manager Don Arden. Arden cut his managerial teeth as the UK representative for rock ‘n’ rollers like Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. One of his henchmen/sidekicks was future legendary Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant. When the teenage Small Faces signed with Arden they were too young to sign the contract themselves and their parents had to countersign for them. Arden immediately opened accounts for them at all the best Carnaby Street Mod boutiques. But after half a dozen hit singles and a hit album they all realised that they might be very well dressed but they had no money.

    In January 1967 they were extricated from their contracts with Arden and Decca Records by their new manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, who signed them to his own record label, Immediate. They had already begun recording a new album for Decca and that was finished off with Immediate and released as their second eponymously titled LP. It was recorded over a very lengthy (at the time) 9 months and between Marriott, Lane, McLagan and their housemate Mick O'Sullivan all the songs were written in house this time (at the time the band projected the image that they all lived in the same house in Pimlico. Kenney Jones never lived there as he was married so perhaps Mick was there to give the appearance that all four of the band were in the house and got himself in on the songwriting action). 

    Where their first album was very much the British R&B sound that was in vogue at the time on this second record the Small Faces begin to spread their wings. It begins with the rip-roaring Mod Pop of “(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me” a song which had been released as a single a couple of weeks before this album by soon to be label mates the Apostolic Intervention (whose drummer Jerry Shirley would join Steve Marriott in Humble Pie a couple of years later). Once again with a Small Faces album track (see “Sorry She’s Mine” on their first album) the cover version is better than the original artist version.

    The next 2 songs, “Something I Want To Tell You” and “Feeling Lonely”, demonstrate why, if you’re going to get yourself a copy of this album get a Mono copy as the stereo mixes are horrible with half the band in one channel and the rest in another, it doesn’t sound good. “Happy Boys Happy” is a cool uptempo instrumental by Ian McLagan and Side 1 ends with the bands first real plunge into psychedelia, “Green Circles”. This is where Mick O'Sullivan gets his writing credit on a song inspired by an LSD experience.

    Side 2 begins with the acoustic, almost folky, “Become Like You” which is followed by the much more Small Faces-like “Get Yourself Together”, a song that was covered by The Jam but this time the original is the better take. “All Of Our Yesterdays” features one of my favourite intros with Marriott in finest Artful Dodger mode (he played the part in the original West End stage production of “Oliver!” In 1960, alongside a rotating cast including Phil Collins and Davy Jones of the Monkees, and sang the part on the original cast recording, have a listen https://youtu.be/NNRuASgNV6Q?si=vVy1YzX6VWXwR9Y8) barking out “And now for your delight,, The darling of Wapping Wharf launderette, Ronald Leafy a-Lane” and thus handing the band a nickname they’re known by still, The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Laundrette.

    “Talk To You” cracks out the guitars and adds a soulful Marriot vocal; “Show Me The Way” is Baroque pop based around a Harpsichord; McLagan’s “Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire” is a psychedelic lullaby based on a phrase I’m sure not just my parents used to say to me when I was a kid and everything comes to a close with the East End calypso of “Eddie’s Dreaming”, the album ending on two songs about sleep.

    3 weeks before the release of this album Decca Records in conjunction with Don Arden issued “From The Beginning” a collection of B-sides and outtakes with the idea of scuppering the “Small Faces (Immediate)” chart chances. “Small Faces (Decca)” had reached #3 on the charts in 1965. “From The Beginning” made #17 and “Small Faces (Immediate)” peaked at #11. Strangely it does not feature a big hit single. It was released between the hits “Here Come The Nice” (#12) and “Itchycoo Park” (#3), which may also have affected its chart position. So it would appear that “From The Beginning” did just what Arden and Decca wanted it to…bastards!

    This album is a much stronger record (to my ears anyway) than it’s Decca namesake, if a little less focussed in its sound. I’m not having a go at Ronnie Lane in any way but he takes lead vocal on too many songs, when you have a voice like Marriott’s in your midst then you use it. The Small Faces were becoming better songwriters and feeling out where they could go. It would all come together on their next album.

    Green Circles - https://youtu.be/1o1i-gkhfJU?si=JZZAkoUxehMwkdgD

  3. 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