Friday, July 15, 2011

Steve Marrriott And The Small Faces - Filthy Rich

I have recently finished reading Paolo Hewitt and John Hellier's magnificent All Too Beautiful biography of Steve Marriott in the past few days. I easily rate this book alongside the very best in the genre such as Johnny Rogan's overview of Van Morrison and Ulster No Surrender , Jerry Hopkins' Elvis:The Final Years and the wonderful Dear Boy story of Keith Moon by Tony Fletcher.

With the Small Faces' Decca and Immediate material now compiled together across several impressive compilations it is much easier to appreciate the electicism, power and wit of their musical output on such tracks as Shake, Sorry She's Mine, All Or Nothing, My Mind's Eye, Just Passing, Baby Don't You Do it, Tell Me (Have You Ever Seen Me), Green Circles, Get Yourself Together, I'm Only Dreaming, Tin Soldier, Afterglow, Song of a Baker, Rollin' Over and Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass.

Alike the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in 1963 and 1965 in Belfast respectively - and The Who in Lisburn in 1966 - The Small Faces also played in Northern Ireland at the Ards Pop Festival in Newtownards on 5th July 1968. Support was from The Soul Foundation, Mystics and The Cousins. One must assume that the young people who attended were not otherwise mentally engaged in the mounting waves of political radicalism and reaction to the detriment of enjoying one of the greatest of all British rock groups live in County Down. Two days previously the Derry Housing Action Committee staged a sit-down protest during the opening of the Craigavon Bridge extension over the River Foyle leading to 17 arrests while three months to the day after the concert would come the fateful RUC reaction to another civil rights demonstration in Derry that can be seen as the second of the three defining moments when the Ulster Troubles commenced in earnest.

The Small Faces split up on the last night of 1968 during a concert at Alexandra Palace in North London and although the subsequent hard rock and blues of Humble Pie and The Faces alike have their attractions, it still remains an interesting counterfactual about how their music could have progressed had they had stayed together into the Seventies in their original lineup. This particularly so when listening to material as strong as the final Autumn Stone, Red Balloon or Call It Something Nice from the provisional 1862 album.

The group briefly reformed in the mid-Seventies though bass player Ronnie Lane only stayed for a re-recording of the Itchycoo Park single - Rick Wills replacing him for the two Playmates and 78 In The Shade albums. I have only heard the latter work which, while not wildy memorable, does contain some decent material and with Marriott still in fine voice.

Best of all, the final song of the final Small Faces album would be Filthy Rich with Marriott's Cockney music hall howling - alike that on Lazy Sunday, Rene or Happy Days Toytown - bringing their career to a wonderfully ribald, two-fingered and pisstaking closure.

The Small Faces music to this day casting timeless shadows from both a long lost London of the coolest modernist style to a vanished East End of utterly unique working class character.

I wish that I was famous like me best mates are
I'd build a dirty great house and have half a dozen cars
A private yacht with sunken baths
If I was filthy rich I'd build me own filthy bitch
She'd have elegance, class with Mitzi Gaynor's arse...
and Jane Mansfield's posthumous tits

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