Small Faces were an English rock band from London. The group was founded in 1965 by members Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, and Jimmy Winston, although by 1966 Winston was replaced by Ian McLagan as the band's keyboardist.
The band is remembered as one of the most acclaimed and influential mod groups of the 1960s. With memorable hit songs such as "Itchycoo Park", "Lazy Sunday", "All or Nothing", "Tin Soldier", and their concept album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake, they later evolved into one of the UK's most successful psychedelic acts before disbanding in 1969. After the Small Faces disbanded, with Marriott leaving to form
Small Faces are also acknowledged as being one of the biggest original influences on the Britpop movement of the 1990s. Despite the fact the band were together just four years in their original incarnation, the Small Faces' music output from the mid to late sixties remains among the most acclaimed British mod and psychedelic music of that era.
Lane and Marriott met in 1965 while Marriott was working at the J60 Music Bar in Manor Park, London. Lane came in with his father Stan to buy a bass guitar, struck up a conversation with Marriott, bought the bass and went back to Marriott's house after work to listen to records. They recruited friends Kenney Jones and Jimmy Winston (born James Edward Winston Langwith, 20 April 1945, in Stratford, east London), who switched from guitar to the organ. They rapidly progressed from rehearsals at The Ruskin Arms public house (which was owned by Winston's parents) in Manor Park, London, to ramshackle pub gigs, to semi-professional club dates. The group chose the name, Small Faces, for many reasons: because of the members' small stature and "A 'Face' was somebody special, more than just a snappy dresser, he was Mister Cool."
The band's early song set included R&B/soul classics such as "Jump Back",
The Decca years (1965—67)
The band signed a management contract with management impresario Don Arden, and they were in turn signed to Decca Records for recording. They released a string of high-energy mod/soul singles on the label. Their debut single was in 1965 with "Whatcha Gonna Do About It", a Top 14 UK singles chart hit. Marriott and Lane are credited with creating the instrumental to the song, "borrowing" the guitar riff from the
The group failed to capitalise on the success of their first single with the follow-up which was written by Marriott/Lane, the hard-edged mod number "I've Got Mine". The band appeared as themselves in a 1965 crime film titled Dateline Diamonds starring Kenneth Cope as the band's manager and it featured the band playing their second single release. Arden thought the band's song would receive publicity by the film; however, the film's UK release was delayed, and "I've Got Mine" subsequently failed to chart despite receiving good reviews.
Shortly thereafter, Jimmy Winston was released from the band because of a clash of personalities with the rest of the group and a lack of musical talent. In a 2000 interview, Kenney Jones stated the reason Winston was fired from the band was because "He (Winston) got above his station and tried to compete with Steve Marriott." Winston was replaced by Ian McLagan, whose keyboard talents and diminutive stature fit with the groove of the band perfectly.
By 1966, despite being one of the highest-grossing live acts in the country and scoring many successful singles, including four UK Top 10 chart hits, financially the band had nothing to show for their efforts. After a messy confrontation with the notorious Arden who tried to face down the boys' parents by claiming that the whole band were using drugs, and that the band's sixth single "My Mind's Eye" was essentially a demo and was issued without the band's consent, they broke with both
Immediate years (1967—68)
They were almost straight away offered a deal with the newly established
At the same time, their old label,
The band's following single "Itchycoo Park", released on 11 November 1967, is Small Faces' best-remembered song and was also the first of the band's two charting singles in the United States, reaching No. 16 in January 1968. The single was a bigger hit in Britain, peaking at No. 3. "Itchycoo Park" was the first British single to use flanging, the technique of playing two identical master tapes simultaneously but altering the speed of one of them very slightly by touching the "flange" of one tape reel, which yielded a distinctive comb-filtering effect. The effect had been applied by Olympic Studios engineer George Chkiantz. "Itchycoo Park" was followed in December 1967 by "Tin Soldier", written by Marriott. Also, the track features American singer
The next single "Lazy Sunday", released in 1968, was an East End music-hall style song released by
Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake (1968)
At home in England, their career reached an all-time high after the release of their classic psychedelia-influenced album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake on 24 May 1968. It is widely regarded as a classic album, and featured an innovative round cover, the first of its kind, designed to resemble an antique tobacco tin. It stayed No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart for six weeks but reached only No. 159 in the US.
The two-act concept album consisted of six original songs on side one and a whimsical psychedelic fairy tale on side two relating the adventures of "Happiness Stan" and his need to find out where the moon went when it waned. It was narrated by Stanley Unwin, after original plans to have Spike Milligan narrate the album were dashed when he turned them down.
Critics raved, and the album sold well, but the band were confronted by the practical problem that they had created a studio masterpiece which was virtually impossible to recreate on the road. Ogdens' was performed as a whole just once, and memorably, live in the studio on the BBC television programme Colour Me Pop.
Breakup and The Autumn Stone (1969)
Marriott officially quit the band at the end of 1968, walking off stage during a live New Year's Eve gig yelling "I quit". Citing frustration at their failure to break out of their pop image and their inability to reproduce the more sophisticated material properly on stage, Marriott was already looking ahead to a new band, Humble Pie, with Peter Frampton. On the subject of the group's breakup, Kenney Jones, in an interview with John Hellier (2001), said:
I wish we had been a little bit more grown up at the time, if we had played Ogdens' live it would have boosted our confidence so much, we were labelled as a pop band, which definitely got up Steve's nose more than we realised. I wish we had been more like The Who in the fact that when they have problems they stick together until they've overcome them, Steve just thought well how do we top Ogdens' and he was off. Ogdens' was a masterpiece if we had played it live we would have gone on to even greater things, I reckon we were on the verge of crossing the great divide and becoming a heavier band.
A posthumous album, The Autumn Stone, was released later in 1969, and included the major
As a compromise, this line-up's first album in the UK was credited as First Step by Faces, while in the US the same album was released as First Step by Small Faces. The album was only a mild commercial success, and the record companies perceived no further need to market this new line-up as "Small Faces". Accordingly, all subsequent albums by this incarnation of the band appeared under the new name Faces, on both sides of the Atlantic. However, all North American LP, cassette and CD reissues of First Step still credit the band as Small Faces.
Jones and McLagan stayed with the 'sequel' group Faces until their breakup in 1975. Lane exited Faces slightly earlier, in 1973. With his backing band Slim Chance, Lane then released several singles and albums from 1973—1976, including the 1974 UK hit "How Come".
Marriott's first post-Small Faces venture was with the rock group
Following the breakup of Faces in 1975, the original Small Faces line-up reformed briefly to film videos miming to the reissued "Itchycoo Park" which hit the charts again. The group tried recording together again but Lane left after the first rehearsal due to an argument. Unknown to the others, he was just beginning to show the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and his behaviour was misinterpreted by Marriott and the others as a drunken tantrum.
Nevertheless, McLagan, Jones and Marriott decided to stay together as Small Faces, recruiting ex-
Unfortunately for the band, mainstream music in Britain was rapidly changing direction, punk rock having been established around this time. The reunion albums, as a result, were both critical and commercial failures. Small Faces broke up again in 1978.
Post-reunion activity: 1979—present
Kenney Jones became the drummer of
Ian McLagan went on to perform with artists such as
Steve Marriott recorded with a revived line-up of
Ronnie Lane's recording career was curtailed by the effects of multiple sclerosis, though he issued collaborative albums with
Rick Wills of the reunited Small Faces played on
Jimmy McCulloch's stint with Small Faces only lasted for a few months in late 1977. Shortly after leaving, he started a band called Wild Horses with Brian Robertson, Jimmy Bain and Kenney Jones. He and Jones both left the band before they issued any recordings. McCulloch then became a member of The Dukes, who issued one album in 1979. That same year, McCulloch died at the age of twenty-six from a heroin overdose in his flat in Maida Vale.