Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette

Another one of my all-time favorite bands that I am proud to present here in Wonderland....

The Small Faces began life with a fateful 1963 encounter between the two driving forces of the group--lead guitarist and powerhouse vocalist Steve Marriott, and bassist and vocalist Ronnie "Plonk" Lane. Marriott had been a child actor but had given that up to pursue a career in music. He was working as a sales assistant in the J60 Music Bar in London, an instrument shop where all the budding musicians would gather, when Lane walked in to purchase a bass. Lane had been playing guitar in his band, the Pioneers (which also featured future Face Kenney Jones on drums), but was looking to learn bass to make himself more valuable in the music community. The two young men immediately struck up a friendship. Marriott invited Lane to come back to his place to listen to the latest James Brown and Otis Redding records, and Lane invited Marriott to jam with the Pioneers. Eventually, the band line up was perfected by the dismissal of keyboardist Jimmy Winston (who went on to record a couple of great freakbeat tracks with Winston's Fumbs), and the addition of keyboardist Ian "Mac" McLagan. (I have posted a scan of the CD that Mac signed for me, one of my most treasured autographs.)

A quintessential Mod band , the name Small Faces originated when one of the lads' girlfriends commented on their small stature. The term "Face" was a Mod term given to a guy with a certain type of charisma, so when Annie remarked, "Cor! Ain't you got small faces," the name stuck! The Small Faces evolved musically, progressing from the soulful R&B of their beginnings on through to psychedelia and harder rock until Marriott left to form the heavy Humble Pie with Peter Frampton. With the addition of Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, the Small Faces then became the Faces, one of the best boozy, bluesy rock bands ever. After the Faces' breakup and the untimely death of Keith Moon, Kenney Jones became the drummer for the Who.

Ronnie Lane, ever the humble, spiritual soul, left the Faces when it all became too loud and crazy for him. He pursued his own musical vision and lived his life with great integrity. (For more on Lane, please watch the excellent documentary, The Passing Show.) Unfortunately, Multiple Sclerosis claimed Ronnie's life in 1997, and a house fire took the powerful Steve Marriott from us in 1991.

Some of the best CD collections of the Small Faces' music include the 2 disc Decca Anthology for the first part of their career, and the 2 disc Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette collection of Immediate Records material. My favorite of their albums, Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake, has received the deluxe treatment from Sanctuary records--a 3 disc set with both the mono and stereo mixes, housed in a round metal tobacco tin.

References: Happy Boys Happy! A Rock History of the Small Faces and Humble Pie by Uli Twelker & Roland Schmitt and Small Faces: All Our Yesterdays by Terry Rawlings

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