Follow TV Tropes


Music / The Small Faces

Go To
The classic line-up of The Small Faces, From left to right: Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan.

The Small Faces was a British mod group that started up in London back in 1965, and went on to become one of the most influential bands of the 60's. They started out as a Mod band playing raunchy music influenced by R&B and Soul. They were the East London counterpart to West London's The Who. Indeed, if any band was ever "number two to the Who" in the Scooter-Riding Mod scene, it would be this one. Yet, frustratingly for them, they failed to crack the US market in the way so many of their contemporaries like The Who and The Kinks had.

With the Concept Album Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake, the band introduced psychedelic elements to their music, resulting in their most memorable song and biggest American hit, "Itchycoo Park". However, their success didn't last, and the band disbanded in 1969 (after Marriott infamously quit on New Years Eve 1968), and Lane, Jones and McLagan joined up with Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart of The Jeff Beck Group to form a new combo called Faces, while Steve Marriott teamed up with future superstar Peter Frampton in Humble Pie. They did partially reunite from 1975 to 1978 (with Rick Wills of Foreigner and Jimmy McCulloch of Wings participating), though that didn't last. Somewhat ironically, considering their rivalry, Jones would become The Who's drummer after Keith Moon's death. Both groups became successful in The '70s and are now counted as important innovators in the Blues Rock genre. McCulloch died of a heroin overdose in 1979, Marriott died in a house fire in 1991, Lane succumbed to complications from Multiple Sclerosis in 1997, and McLagan died from a massive stroke in 2014.

Like The Beatles and The Who, a major influence on the late seventies/early eighties Mod Revival and the Britpop genre in The '90s.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • Kenney Jones - drums, percussion, vocals (1965-1969, 1975-1978)
  • Ronnie Lane - bass, backing and lead vocals, guitar (1965-1969, 1975, died 1997)
  • Steve Marriott - lead vocals, guitar, harmonica (1965-1968, 1975-1978, died 1991)
  • Jimmy McCulloch - guitar (1977, died 1979)
  • Ian McLagan - keyboard, backing and lead vocals, guitar, bass (1966-1969, 1975-1978, died 2014)
  • Rick Wills - bass, vocals (1976-1978)
  • Jimmy Winston - keyboard, vocals (1965)

Studio Discography:

  • 1966 - Small Faces - Not to be confused with the 1967 album of the same name, this was the band's first record for Decca Records, consisting of a combination of covers and originals.
  • 1967 - From the Beginning - A compilation album released without the band's consent by Decca after they moved to Immediate Records, featuring tracks that had not been included on their first album as well as early versions of songs that would be included on their second.
  • 1967 - Small Faces - Not to be confused with the 1966 album of the same name, this was the band's first release after switching record companies to Immediate, and consisted of all original songs.
  • 1968 - There Are But Four Small Faces - Released in the US only as the substitute to their 1967 album Small Faces. It changed the track-listing, omitting several more obscure album tracks in favor of contemporary singles and B-sides.
  • 1968 - Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake - The band's third official album and second for Immediate, and the last album they released in their original incarnation.
  • 1977 - Playmates
  • 1978 - 78 In The Shade

This group has examples of:

  • All Drummers Are Animals: Very much averted with Kenney Jones, who was the most quiet, low-key member of the band.
  • All or Nothing: Literally so—this was the title of a classic Obsession Song which was a hit in 1966 where the narrator stakes everything on one last try at getting the girl.
  • Always Second Best: Thought of as this in relation to the Who, although their number one hit "All Or Nothing" is noteworthy for holding "Substitute" off the top spot in Britain. That said, the bands had a Friendly Rivalry, with Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane in particular being close, and of course Kenney Jones later replaced Keith Moon.
  • Arch-Enemy: After they split with Decca, the band considered Don Arden to be this, and refused to promote any of their own material that Decca released.
  • The Band Minus the Face: When Steve Marriott left, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones replaced him with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood. However, the new-look band had such a different sound that they elected to change their name to simply the Faces, partly because as Stewart and Wood were 5'10", they were no longer all "Small." Ironically, though, the band's first album, First Step, was still credited to the "Small Faces" as it was felt that the name recognition would help sales.
  • Bawdy Song: "Rene" is about a prostitute living in Kuala Lumpur who has relations with "stevedores from Tyneside."
  • B-Side: A few non-album ones, including "I'm Only Dreaming" and "I'll Feel Much Better."
  • Calland Response Song: "Itchycoo Park" has Marriott singing the lead lines with Lane responding or prompting the next line with a question.
  • Concept Album: Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake was one of the first albums to attempt to put a long-form narrative onto an LP of music. The extent to which the band actually accomplished this is up for debate, but the album went on to become a classic of '60s rock nevertheless.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Both of the band's managers, Don Arden and Andrew Loog Oldham, ripped them off.
  • Former Child Star: Averted. Marriott had had success as a child singer, starring in a production of the musical Oliver!, and went on to become one of the most renowned rock vocalists of his generation.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Marriott (choleric), Lane (melancholic), McLagan (sanguine), and Jones (phlegmatic).
  • Genre Shift: Started off as a beat group with mod haircuts and smart suits, then switched to caftans, paisley, and Psychedelic Rock midway through their career.
  • I Am the Band: Averted. Many first-time listeners perceive Steve Marriott to be this; however, all of the other members were essential to the band's sound (particularly Ian McLagan's keyboards) and Ronnie Lane was the driving force behind several of their hits.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Here Come the Nice" ends with a robotic-sounding descending organ figure, followed by what sounds like somebody falling on top of a piano.
  • Love Is a Drug: "Afterglow."
  • New Year Has Come: The band infamously fell apart after Steve Marriott stormed offstage during a show in Paris on New Year's Eve, 1968. He played a few shows with them in the early months of 1969 due to contractual obligation, but after the Paris show, all of the members knew that the Small Faces were finished. Marriott went on to form Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, while Lane, McLagan, and Jones teamed up with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood to form the Faces.
  • Non-Appearing Title: A few, such as "Song of a Baker," "The Hungry Intruder," and "The Journey."
  • One-Man Song: "The Universal" is this for its first minute, which only features Marriott, his acoustic guitar, and some overdubbed horns. Even after that, it's a three man song, since McLagan isn't featured.
  • Old Man Conversation Song: "Happydaystoystown" from the "Happiness Stan" suite is a conversation between the elderly Mad John (played by Lane) and young Stan (played by Marriott).
  • The Rival: The chief rivals to the Who in the British mod scene. This also doubled as an East vs West London rivalry, with the Who representing the more artsy, intellectual pretensions of the west while the Small Faces were the upbeat, cheeky cockneys from the east. After 1966, this largely ended, as both groups had abandoned the mod scene for a more psychedelic sound—not to mention that the two bands got along well, with Ronnie Lane and Pete Townshend in particular establishing a strong friendship based on their mutual interest in the teachings of Meher Baba and even releasing an album together (1977's Rough Mix).
  • Self-Titled Album: Confusingly, there are two. The first, recorded in 1966 for Decca, features mostly electrified R&B, while the second, released by Immediate in 1967, covers a larger array of genres and the predominant guitar sound is acoustic.
  • Sequel Song: The band regarded "Lazy Sunday" as this compared to their previous hit "Itchycoo Park." The song's success chagrined them, as they preferred to be known for their harder-hitting material such as "Tin Soldier" and felt that the Black Sheep Hit "Lazy Sunday" pigeonholed them as a hippy-dippy Anglo-pop group, rather than the rock band they were maturing into.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Steve Marriott was 5'5" and had boyish, almost elflike features, but he is commonly regarded as being one of the most powerful rock singers of all time, so much so that a great deal of hard rock and metal singing can be traced back to him in some way. Robert Plant in particular was a huge fan and the influence of Marriott's style is clearly audible in his vocals on Led Zeppelin's early albums.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Though Marriott is typically regarded as the lead singer of the band, Lane's backing vocals are often prominent and he sang lead on a significant number of songs, often those he wrote (for example, on the band's 1967 self-titled album, he's the featured vocalist on five out of the fourteen tracks). Ian McLagan also sings lead on his compositions "Up the Wooden Hills to Bedfordshire" and "Long Agos and Worlds Apart," although this is more of a case of Step Up to the Microphone.