Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Small Faces - "All or Nothing"

Small Faces: All or Nothing
27 Complete Performances, 1965-1968
(Voyage Digital Media)

Watch the "All or Nothing" DVD trailer.


At last, the definitive "official" release of one of the greatest, most sartorially spiffy, and explosively energetic British rock bands in history! I saw an ad for this DVD in one of my British music mags and had to order it straight away. It came out March 30, 2010 and - along with Shout! Factory's release earlier this Spring of The T.A.M.I. Show Collector's Edition (March 23, 2010) - is my favorite retro rock release of the 21st Century. Along with The Who, the Small Faces were the face of Mod and leader Steve Marriott was one of the most energetic/charismatic/madcap frontmen of all time (and a precursor of the Diminuative Superstar Rocker Prototype that one-time Mod Marc Bolan was to become in T. Rex). The footage here captures Marriott flitting about like a hummingbird, almost always cracking up at his half-hearted attempts to keep a straight face while lip-synching to pre-recorded music ("leapers" will do that do ya, I 'spose). Furthermore, the Marriott-Ronnie Lane songwriting/friendship dynamic was one of the greatest in the history of British Rockdom; so sad then, that both passed away before their time (Ronnie from M.S. and Steve from smoke inhalation) and that, despite at one time releasing an album entitledThere Are But Four Small Faces, today there are but two: Kenney Jones and Ian McLagen.

All I can say is, "Thank you Katie Katatonic!" for turning me onto them (as well as so many other "British Invasion" bands) back in the late 70s; ah, where but for the grace of Katie Katatonic go I...and speaking of Katatonics, I was struck by how much Ronnie Lane's demeanor and playing reminded me of Thee Katatonix frontman Adolf Kowalski, especially during their mid-80s flower-power psychedelic phase. But anyhoo...

Below is a listing of the performances included on the DVD. Most of the clips seem to be from Beat Beat Beat (in black and white) and a BBC program called Colour Me Pop (in glorious color).

What'Cha Gonna Do About It
I've Got Mine
Sha La La La Lee
Plum Nellie
You Need Loving
Baby Please Don't Go
Hey Girl
All or Nothing
I Can't Make It
Tell Me (Have You Ever Seen Me)
My Way of Giving
Talk To You
Here Come The Nice
Green Circles
Itchycoo Park
I'm Only Dreaming
Tin Soldier
Lazy Sunday
Ogdens Nut Gone Flake
Song of a Baker
Happiness Stan
Rollin' Over
The Fly
The Journey
Mad John
The Universal

In between the performances are interviews with original (and still living) members Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones and Jimmy Winston, as well as archival interviews with Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane.

Highlights for me were:

1. Seeing the clip of the Jimmy Winston-era Small Faces mime "I've Got Mine" in the 1965 film Dateline Diamonds (has anybody seen this movie?):

2. The whole Ogden's Nut Gone Flake song cycle from BBC telly's Colour Me Pop show, with intros by British comic actor Stanley Unwin dressed as a king. (The spirit of Unwin would later be evoked when Blur hired Ken Livingstone to add Cockney cred to "Parklife.")

Stan the Man

Watch "Happiness Stan" Unwin intro "Mad John."

3. Seeing the footage of a flippant Steve Marriott during the Small Faces disastrous 1968 Australian Tour with The Who and Paul Jones (of Manfred Mann and fresh on the heels of his movie-making debut in Peter Watkins' Privilege). What is it about Blimey's former Penal Colony laying into its visiting British rock acts? First the Beatles calamitous tour Down Under, then The Who and The Small Faces causing an Antipodean furor - both on and offstage - during their contentious two-week visit in 1968. The Aussie Prime Minister, John Gorton, even sent a telegram to Pete Townshend requesting that the 'oo never set foot in Australia again - to which Townshend famously retorted "Australia's not getting off that easily!" (The Who - or rather "The Two" of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry - eventually returned to the Land of Oz in 2006 for their "No Hard Feelings" tour).

Viewing this clip inspired me to dig out my copy of (the always awesome) Ugly Things magazine that contained a feature called "The Who & the Small Faces Down Under" by Andrew Neill.

Ugly Things #27

Neill's article was an updated version of his book documenting the Mod rockers tour, A Fortnight of Furore.

My favorite article from the Ozzie tabloids is the one by Jeff Wells entitled "Concert Shock: Filthy Words by Star" (as reproduced below in Ugly Things) that takes Steve Marriott to task for - gasp! - utterring the F word onstage! It even quotes a line from Noel Coward's dance-hall ditty "(Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage) Mrs. Worthington"!

"Don't send your daughter to the stadium, Mrs. Worthington!"

And I quote:
Normally anybody who screams obscene words in front of policemen and teenage girls is arrested.

But it seems that pop stars are excepted. members of the English pop groups The Small Faces and The Who behaved like animals on stage at the Stadium last Tuesday night.

If the law had been enforced, they would have been carted off to the cells.

But the law turned its broad back on a display of dirty language and vandalism served up to the teenyboppers in the guise of entertainment.

The behavior of these pouting princes of popdom had me squirming in my seat with embrassment for the girls of 12 and 13 who had paid $3.50 each to be within earshot of them.

Boy howdy! You can't buy good press like that these days.

Then comes the kicker:
I watched and heard Steve Marriott, the leader of The Small Faces, run across the stage screaming a four-letter word.

Don't send your daughter to the Stadium, Mrs. Worthington, if she's going to be subjected to this.

Had you been there, Mrs. Worthington, you would have felt the same angry desire I did - to take a horsewhip to the offenders' skinny backsides.

The Aussie press obviously didn't get on with the ravers. I can only imagine the heart attacks they would have suffered had rap existed back then!


Bah, but enuff of me highlights - here's a more detailed review of the Small Faces DVD from the UK web site Making Time: Guide to the British Music of the 1960s:
The DVD is a chronological journey through the Small Faces career with clips of most of the singles and some album tracks. Some of these are played live and others mimed. The German Beat Beat Beat live tracks and mimed Beat Club tracks are already easily available but there are some real gems here that were either unavailable or hard to obtain. This is the most complete collection of Small Faces live video or promotional films that has been put together. However, there are some gaps for those who are expecting the definitive collection of all Small Faces visual material. For example, one of the Beat Beat Beat live tracks, All or Nothing, is not included as are some of the Beat Club mimed tracks. There is other Small Faces live material available such as from the French television programme Surprise Partie. Promotional films are also not included for Lazy Sunday, Get Yourself Together, etc. Also missing is Tin Soldier featuring PP Arnold on backing vocals, a real gem.

A longer transcript of Ronnie Lane's final interview is included. Parts of this have been shown before but this is a more complete version of the interview. Ronnie had already been diagnosed with MS and this is clearly evident in the interview. The interviews that have been recorded for this DVD do add to the story and do not simply regurgitate earlier content. The original keyboard player Jimmy Winston is included although he only features playing guitar on the mimed Dateline Diamonds clip of I've Got Mine. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any clips available of Jimmy playing on the debut single What'Cha Gonna Do About It.

The band's dissatisfaction with the commercial direction of Sha La La La Lee and Hey Girl is evident even though they did write the latter. This was quite unrepresentative of what the band was about on stage. A series of clips from the first appearance at London's Marquee is a complete contrast. Albeit truncated, these clips show just what a hot R&B band the Small Faces were. However, the singles tended more towards the commercial side with All or Nothing making number 1 in the UK. Another performance from the Morecambe & Wise Show is I Can't Make It which, played live, is very powerful and shows the combination of a commercial song with the band's live power.

Kenney and Mac talk about the move from Don Arden to Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate Records. Despite the problems that later appeared, the band was allowed much more studio time where they could experiment. Ronnie Lane echoes these sentiments and notes: "We didn't make any money from Immediate Records. I don't know anyone who did." My Way of Giving shows how the sound is starting to change.

At the same time the band became more "daring" with songwriting. Despite its obvious drug references, Here Come the Nice passed the BBC censors. The follow-up Itchycoo Park is arguably the band's best known song and one which also has druggy overtones. Ian McLagan notes his dislike of the song and notes that the song is anti-education. Green Circles is a superb Ronnie Lane song. the clip from Beat Club attempts to add psychedelic effects although the zooming in and out of green circles does lose impact in black and white!

One of the rare pieces of footage is a mimed version of I'm Only Dreaming. At a time when b-sides were often fillers this is a real stand-out moment and a song that is widely viewed as one of the best Small Faces tracks today.

When Tin Soldier was released everything came together. Every band member played to his peak. Mac notes that he is playing three sets of keyboards "and that's just the intro." The importance of engineer Glyn Johns is also noted as he achieved the best sounds. Tin Soldier also demonstrates just how good a songwriter Steve Marriott was. The mimed clip is from Beat Club which is a pity as there are better versions available. However, the undoubted quality of the song and the passion of the Small Faces' playing still comes across in a major way. Even after hundreds of listens, this is a song that still makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on-end.

While on the road, Andrew Loog Oldham released Lazy Sunday as a single. This horrified the band who saw it as a joke and not reflective of their style, after it it was the follow-up to the storming Tin Soldier. There is no doubt that Lazy Sunday is a superb record. However, in terms of musical development it set the band backwards and may ultimately have contributed to the band's split. However, then came Ogdens Nut Gone Flake. Mac tells the story of the unusual sleeve with the references to smoking dope. The title track is a mimed version from French television. This shows the band with Marriott on keyboards but where is Mac?

The final tracks are taken from the BBC show Colour Me Pop. These appear to be live but may in fact be mimed but with a "live" microphone that captures some adlibs. The second side of the album is played in its entirety with narration by Stanley Unwin. The narration was certainly recorded fresh for the programme as it is not the same as on the record.

How do you follow that? With difficulty. The next single was The Universal which was little more than vocals and guitar. After Tin Soldier and Ogdens Nut Gone Flake this was somewhat of an anticlimax. Steve walked out on the band during a gig at Alexandra Palace on 31 December 1968 although the band did fulfil some contractual obligations in Europe during 1969.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"2. The whole Ogden's Nut Gone Flake song cycle from BBC telly's Colour Me Pop show, with intros by British comic actor Stanley Unwin dressed as a king. (The spirit of Unwin would later be evoked when Blur hired Ken Livingstone to add Cockney cred to "Parklife.")"

It was the actor Phil Daniels, he of Quadrophenia movie fame, not Ken Livingstone!

Ken Livingstone is the ex-Mayor of London, famous for his left-wing views, certainly not his "cockney cred".

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant, long over-due DVD. Hopefully, the Small Faces will finally start getting some of the recognition they deserve.

10:20 AM  

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