A Dream Passing By In The Sky: the Small Faces and the Faces enter the R&R Hall of Fame
April 11, 2012 10:32 PM   Subscribe

This weekend, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will induct the Small Faces and the Faces. Though being inducted as a unit, they were very much two distinct bands—both of them central to British rock of the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s, and whose influence on music, fashion, and pop culture is still felt today.

The Small Faces—a name derived from the members’ diminutive sizes as well as their status as “faces” within London’s mod scene—formed when they were still teenagers in 1965, featuring erstwhile child actor Steve Marriott on guitar and vocals, Ronnie Lane on bass, Kenney Jones on drums, and Jimmy Winston on keyboards (replaced in 1966 by Ian McLagan). With songwriters Marriott and Lane at the helm, the “best-dressed band in England” created a defining mixture of R&B, soul, and power pop:

Whatcha Gonna Do About It
All or Nothing
Sha La La La Lee
Get Yourself Together
I’m Only Dreaming
Tin Soldier (please crank the volume all the way up for Paul Weller’s favorite desert island disc if you haven’t already!)

The band was not only beloved by fans but also highly regarded by their peers; Marriott’s powerhouse vocals, for example, are known to have strongly influenced Robert Plant (compare the Small Faces’ 1966 cover of You Need Love to elements of Led Zeppelin’s 1969 version). By 1968 they turned to psychedelic experimentation, resulting in the successful and well-regarded concept album, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake [previously discussed here, though the documentary no longer appears to be available]:

Song of a Baker
Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake (dig Pete Townshend and Keith Moon getting their groove on in the audience)
Afterglow (Of Your Love)

But while fellow Brits invaded America, the Small Faces only managed one moderate hit across the pond (with Itchycoo Park, in 1967), and internal tensions culminated in Marriott quitting the band during their New Years’s Eve gig at the end of 1968. Universal Music will release deluxe reissues of all four Small Faces albums next month. (Small Faces documentary here: parts 1, 2, 3)

After the breakup, Steve Marriott formed Humble Pie in 1969 with Peter Frampton (ex-Herd), pursuing a much bluesier, hard rock direction:

I Walk on Gilded Splinters
I Don’t Need No Doctor
Thirty Days in the Hole

Humble Pie split in 1975 and reunited intermittently through the 1980s (the Small Faces also reunited, sans Ronnie Lane, in 1976–78) and Marriott worked the pub circuit with limited financial success during the 1980s. Lane and Marriott reunited briefly for the Majik Mijits project in 1981—the only time the two worked together after 1968. Marriott began writing and recording again with Frampton in early 1991, but before the project was completed he died on April 20, 1991, in a fire at his home in Arkesden, England, aged 44. (More Marriott clips here.)

Following Marriott's departure from the Small Faces, the remaining members were joined by Ron Wood and vocalist Rod Stewart (both ex-Jeff Beck Group)—and re-emerged as the Faces, who became as famous for their bluesy live shows as they did for their boozy excesses offstage:

Stay With Me
I'm Losing You
Three-Button Hand-Me-Down (who else but a bunch of mods would write an ode to their favorite suit?)
Maybe I'm Amazed
Cindy Incidentally
Ooh La La (a track that has found new life in television and film soundtracks since being featured in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore)

After leaving the Faces in 1973 (the band split in 1975), Ronnie Lane formed the folk/country-tinged Slim Chance, eventually influencing such bands as the Waterboys and Mumford & Sons:

One for the Road
The Poacher

Lane took the act on the road with The Passing Show, a proto-Lollapalooza traveling carnival of music and side acts. In 1977 he collaborated with Pete Townshend on the critically acclaimed Rough Mix album (Keep Me Turning; April Fool); during these sessions he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Lane’s deteriorating health led in the 1980s to the ARMS concerts to raise funds for his care and for research into MS (performers included Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Kenney Jones, and Joe Cocker). In the mid-1980s, he moved to Austin, Texas (where he worked with Alejandro Escovedo and others), and then to Trinidad, Colorado, where he died on June 4, 1997, aged 51. (Ronnie Lane documentary here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

While Lane and Marriott both died in financial straits—dodgy financial dealings resulted in the “disappearance” of virtually all Small Faces’ royalties for several decades—the other members of the two groups fared better: major international success lay in store for Rod Stewart, Ron Wood (with the Rolling Stones), and Kenney Jones (with the Who). Ian McLagan has worked steadily as a sideman for the Stones, Billy Bragg, Bob Dylan, Paul Westerberg and others, as well as leader the Bump Band; he has also led the fight since the 1990s to recover the Small Faces’ stolen earnings.

The Small Faces’ lasting influence on British music and youth culture is perhaps most strongly exemplified by a certain aforementioned musician who has covered their songs throughout his career and written a tribute to Ronnie Lane. And though Saturday’s honors are long overdue, the band has already garnered at least one important honor in their homeland: a plaque in Carnaby Street.

The upcoming Faces reunion at the induction ceremony will be the first of all original surviving members in nearly 20 years. (Cindy) Incidentally: the phenomenal engineer and producer Glyn Johns, who worked with all of the bands discussed here (among countless others), will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on the same day.
posted by scody (37 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Counting Crows cover Ohh La La on their new album. The liner notes contain an interesting second hand anecdote from Adam Duritz, in which he recounts a mutual friend asking Ronnie Wood why Rod Stewart got all the best songs for his solo albums. Wood laughed and said "Honestly, we just put all the songs we'd written out on the table and took turns picking them. I got ALL the songs I wanted. At the time I thought I was robbing him blind."
posted by Roman Graves at 11:02 PM on April 11, 2012 [5 favorites]

Great post, thanks! It's a shame Rod Stewart's reputation has sunk so low, even if he brought a lot of it on himself. He was really really the best once upon a time.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:10 PM on April 11, 2012

(Putting on "You Wear It Well" right now.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:12 PM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this. I've been been thinking I ought to check out some Faces material for a while, but I really didn't know much about the context. Lots to explore here.
posted by brennen at 11:14 PM on April 11, 2012

I don't think I ever heard a Faces album, but I saw them live a bunch of times in the early 70's and they really wear a great live band. Like the guy said, they had this ability to make big venues seem really intimate.

The early Rod Stewart solo albums were something else though. Before he turned into a twat, they were the soundtrack to my life for a few years. Not because I liked him especially, but they were ubiquitous.

He was really really the best once upon a time.

posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:20 PM on April 11, 2012 [18 favorites]

oh my god, PeterMcDermott, I have never seen that clip before. Amazing. Thanks!
posted by scody at 11:22 PM on April 11, 2012

Ogden's Nut Gone Flake is one of the greatest albums anybody's ever made. It makes me very, very happy, and I highly recommend it every chance I get. Thanks for this awesome post, scody.
posted by koeselitz at 11:23 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

More on that “disappearance” of virtually all Small Faces’ royalties for several decades: "I'm a total user and a thief," [Oldham] said.
posted by unliteral at 11:27 PM on April 11, 2012

I've been been thinking I ought to check out some Faces material for a while

If you're looking to pick something up, Good Boys When They're Asleep is probably the best one-disc compilation; otherwise their studio album A Nod is As Good As a Wink... to a Blind Horse is a fine place to start.
posted by scody at 11:40 PM on April 11, 2012

What a great post! Thank you.
posted by nowonmai at 11:57 PM on April 11, 2012

I have been a fan for a long time now. Thanks for gathering all these links together in one spot. What a great post.
posted by Sailormom at 12:07 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ogden's Nut Gone Flake is one of those albums that was produced in response to what the Beatles did with Rubber Soul, Revolver and Pepper, not to mention Pet Sounds of course. It's an interesting attempt at a concept album, though somewhat of a required taste due to the mockney spoken bits interspersed with the songs. I have to be in the mood to be able to listen to it.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:11 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for doing this, scody.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:31 AM on April 12, 2012

About bloody time. Great post, scody!
posted by arcticseal at 12:39 AM on April 12, 2012

My favorite cover of Whatcha Gonna Do About It?
posted by alex_skazat at 3:15 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, deep joy and long overdue.

And it's not mockney, neighbour, it's unwinese. Despite what you require.
posted by the cuban at 4:10 AM on April 12, 2012

This is like, the best music post ever. Tight narrative awesome links.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:16 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had more fun playing Stay With Me than just about any other song in the 10-year span I played in a 70's rock cover band. I know Every Picture Tells a Story isn't really a Faces album, but it's close at points, and the title track is another one of the true greats. The cover of I'm losing You on that album is the complete Faces, and is an incredible stomper.

They could do blind drunk what mere mortals could only dream of, even at their sober best -- my hat's off to them. I got to hold Ronnie Lane's bass one time, and it emanated mystical powers like a motherfucker. Love those guys, and miss him a bunch.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:23 AM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, it's Stanley Unwin's contribution that lend Ogden's it's special atmosphere.

Saw Humble Pie (while under age) at Manchester University Student's Union, best gig ever (and I also saw the Who and Led Zeppelin in my youth). Steve Marriot was one of the greatest talents of his generation but he had too many demons.

Great post, thank you.
posted by epo at 4:24 AM on April 12, 2012

The Faces rock! As a giant Stones fan, the only thing I can contribute here is that the song "It's Only Rock and Roll" features two Faces, Ron Wood on guitar (though Keith erased his lead riff) and Kenney Jones on drums (nope, not Charlie). Oh, and here is Keith playing with The Faces in 1974.
posted by punkfloyd at 5:24 AM on April 12, 2012

There is a transcript of Ian on Steve Jones show in 2006 talking about Small/Faces , Rod etc here .
I have the sound files for that to edit if wanted and also an earlier show where Ian sings "You're so rude" and "Debris" and as a bonus Gary Oldman phones up and pretends to be Rod Stewart
posted by stuartmm at 5:29 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are a fan of the Faces (& the Stones), you should definitely check out Ronnie Wood's solo album I've Got My Own Album to Do. Mick & Keith shine on it, as does Ronnie's amazing "Mystifies Me" as later covered by Son Volt.

Most honorable mention to Mick Taylor, Willie Weeks (of Donny Hathaway Live fame), Ian McLagan and a cast of others that also appear on it...

Great post!
posted by priested at 5:36 AM on April 12, 2012

Not sure if it is buried n one of the links already, but if not, some mention should be made of Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio.
posted by timsteil at 6:07 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am convinced. My album collection has a damn gaping hole that needs to be filled. Onwards, to acquirement!
posted by jadepearl at 7:33 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fun post! I hadn't noticed that Glyn Johns is being inducted this round, too. For some reason that makes me happy.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2012

I was at the ARMS concert at MSG in NYC, with a really decent seat, and let me tell you - and any guitarist in attendance will likely agree - we all saw Jeff Beck wipe the floor with Clapton and Page. Never been much of a Clapton fan, and Page has lost some of his mojo over the years, but I knew than and there that Jeff Beck was the greatest living electric guitar player I'd probably ever see in my lifetime, and I've seen nothing and no one since to change that opinion.
posted by dbiedny at 9:09 AM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Faces' music is the Platonic Form of what Rock & Roll sounds like as far as I'm concerned. They were the band that could out-Stone The Stones.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:10 AM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Great post. I only know the Faces through Rod Stewart but this post has made me want to learn more about both bands.
posted by immlass at 9:13 AM on April 12, 2012

They were the band that could out-Stone The Stones.

Yeah, they were a great live band and all, but they weren't *that* good. Back in that period between 1970 and 1972 or so, when they went into tax exile and made Exile on Main Street, there really wasn't a better live working band than the Stones.

Video clips just can't give a real indication of how absolutely charged a Stones performance was when they were at their peak. And while they did some great cover versions, the Faces never really had a repertoire that came close to the Stones stuff between Beggars Banquet and Exile.

That's not a criticism though. I don't think anybody had a repertoire as good as that fistful of albums.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:20 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rod Stewart is like the reverse of the crossroads story, he went down to the crossroads and traded in his talent, for something, obviously not his soul.
posted by e1c at 12:41 PM on April 12, 2012

he went down to the crossroads and traded in his talent, for something, obviously not his soul.

Dollar bills.

Rod before he went to the Crossroads
Rod after he went to the Crossroads
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:23 PM on April 12, 2012

Kick-ass post, dude. Thanks a bunch.

Rough Mix is indeed a great record and a chance for Lane to shine; I don't think he got much opportunity to do his material with the Faces.

Another solo Ron Wood record worth checking out is Gimme Some Neck. With most of the Stones helping out, it's almost like his audition tape.

And in case nobody's mentioned it, the Faces box set, Five Guys Walk Into a Bar, is all kinds of awesome. Much better than a greatest hits package, it's collection of alternate mixes, studio outtakes, live cuts and other miscellany, put together by Ian McLagan like the ultimate Faces mix tape.

Finally, Rock On is my favorite bit of Pie, in case anybody's interested in checking them out.
posted by Bron at 6:33 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, great post, scody.

I've been on a bit of a late '60s/early '70s relistening tip of late, and have been ploughing through both the Small Faces and the Faces – and also early solo Rod. (On which note: go back and listen to Never A Dull Moment, because fuck, that's a great album.)

The organ/drum break at 1:26 in Tin Soldier is one of the most perfect ten seconds of music ever recorded, and every time I hear it, it gives me goosebumps. It starts off with four punchy, bluesy chords, but just before the fourth, you get a muffled "ugggnhh" from Marriott (at the exact point in the clip where he thrusts his right arm skywards; it's a mimed performance, but you can bet he did it every time they played it live), and then – just as McLagan is about to loop back round again, and Kenney Jones is about to pound the shit out of his drums – Marriott lets loose with a big, throaty "WOW!", which echoes back to the "COME ON!" he barks earlier in the song, as the drums kick in for the first time. Then those drums crash through the door, the bass starts up, instantly locks into a groove with the organ, and it all goes mental.

A club I went to every week for years had a penchant for dropping that song in the middle of frenzied techno and house sets, and it worked perfectly. There's few things as ecstatic as being in the middle of a dancefloor in a sweaty basement club, extensively chemically altered, when the entire crowd lose their collective mind and start flailing about like Keith Moon when the beat kicks in.
posted by Len at 8:32 PM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, it appears that in 12 years of MeFi nobody has made a post about P.P. Arnold, which I may have to rectify.
posted by Len at 8:44 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

the faces live in 1972 - pretty loose, but fun
posted by pyramid termite at 7:15 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

For differing values of "loose." That's awesome.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:18 AM on April 14, 2012

nice bit of trivia: Small Faces induction is "the first time in its 30-year history the hall of fame has opened its doors to a band that never played live in America."
posted by scody at 11:42 AM on April 15, 2012

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