The Small Faces released their landmark album, "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake", in early 1968, to massive critical and commercial acclaim, and the album is to this day considered one of the masterpieces of the summer of love, together with albums by the kinds of Traffic, the Beatles or Jefferson Airplane. But despite all that acclaim and success, not all was well between the members of the band: Steve Marriott, the lead guitarrist and singer, was very dissatisfied that the band could not play the "Happiness Stan" suite, from Ogden's side b live, and had tried to bring Peter Hampton, his future bandmate at Humble Pie, to "keep things fresh", failing to convince his bandmates the addition would be a good thing. Ronnie Lane was also tired of only singing a couple of tracks on the albums and wanted a larger input in the group. And finally, after a disastrous new-year's eve concert in 1968, Steve called it quits and left, forming Humble Pie with the afomentioned Frampton. The rest of the band, however, joined Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart, ex-Jeff Beck Group and ceased to be Small.
But soon before Steve finally had enough of it all, they recorded a couple of tracks, including a Tim Hardin cover, for a fourth album, provisionally titled "1862". The songs, about nine, were released across a single ("The Universal" & "Donkey Rides..."), a b-side ("Wham Bam..."), and in the compilation The Autumn Stone, titled after one of the unreleased songs, along with some horrid live tracks, from which we'll keep distance! Also available are songs from the Faces' first album written by Lane, and Humble Pie's "As Safe as Yesterday Is" tunes written by Marriott, to fill the other 3/4 necessary tunes for an album. Not included are four songs rumoured to be part of the 1862 project, "Don't Burst My Bubble", "Picaninny", "Take My Time" and "War of the Worlds", the first three because they were recorded in February 1967, a whole two years befoure the album would even start taking shape, and "WOTW" because I consider it some instrumental filler, and there already are two instrumentals in consideration for the album!
Toby Marriott, Steve's son, has claimed that the proposed tracklist was: The Autumn Stone, Red Balloon, Collibosher, Buttermilk Boy, Wrist Job, Wide Eyed Girl on The Wall, Donkey Rides... and War of The Worlds. But to me, that claim sounded pretty absurd, actually. An album with nine songs only, three of them instrumentals, and zero Plonk songs? There's no way that would have been released, from a commercial and artistic point of view. So, I decided to stick with their latest album's arrangement: 12 songs, and about two or three Ronnie songs (more than the one given to him on ONGF), fitting into two even-timed LP sides. Unfortunately, there is no one-side concept this time! Considering all the songs mentioned above, we have about 13 or 14 songs to rearrange into a good 40-minute LP. And here's what I came up with:
- Wide Eyed Girl On The Wall
- Call it Something Nice
- Red Balloon
- Wrist Job (I'll Go Alone)
- Hello the Universal
- Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am
- Buttermilk Boy
- Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass
- Every Little Bit Hurts
- Growing Closer
- The Autumn Stone
We kick things off with the fantastic "Wide Eyed Girl On The Wall", serving the same purpose as "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake", the song, on the album of the same name. It has some incredible horns, and is a great start to an album. Following it is the Lane composition "Call It Something Nice", which only has that title because the engineer asked it's title, to which Lane and Marriott responded "call it something nice!", and he apparently took it literally. It's a great folksy tune, that shows Ronnie was right in asking for more input. The third tune is the Tim Hardin cover "Red Balloon", which doesn't differ a lot from the original, appart from McLagan's great organ playing. After that is the first non-SF tune, "Wrist Job", retitled "I'll Go Alone" for American release. The reason it is included is that it started off as "The Pig Trotters", a 1862-era instrumental, to which Marriott added lyrics and released with HP, giving us a good reason to think that if he hadn't stormed out of the group it would be done the same way. The fifth tune, "Hello the Universal", most of you know simply as "The Universal", which was an error in the single's title, "Hello..." being the original name, so we stick with it. Another folk number, it was recorded mostly in Marriott's backyard, and we can hear his dog, Seamus (that's the dog) barking. Their last authorised single, it would also be a single here, the only thing changing would be it's b-side. Closing off our album side is "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am", a great rocker that was the b-side to their "real" last single, "Afterglow". It has a version with different lyrics and title, but even though I like it best than the single one, we stick with the released version. A crashing rocker, it finishes side A with style, and is a classic Marriott vocal.
Side B starts with the second of three Humble Pie tunes, "Buttermilk Boy", included here because of it's similarrity with other SF material from that era, and because it is a personal favourite of mine. Track No.2 is "Evolution", first released in Pete Townshend's "Who Came First" album/compilation, being an embryonary version of "Stone" from "First Step", and simply put, great. The second reason Plonk shouldn't have been that put aside. Following is "Donkey Rides, A Penny, A Glass", with lyrics that would confuse any American, and also a great tune, which I still don't get. Next up is "Every Little Bit Hurts", a fantastic piano-driven cover that reassures the Small Faces' roots on Rn'B, with Ian McLagan shining. The second-to-last track, we have Humble Pie's Growing Closer, that was actually written by Ian, who was in doubt between joining the Faces or the Pie (now THAT'S a tough decision). The reason in picking the tune is just that, and the fact that it sounds similar to other tunes from the era, and even sharing the flute player with the next track, which is "The Autumn Stone". One of my favourite SF tracks ever, it's fantastic from start to finish, and great enough to finish off their career, in my opinion.
A giant mix of hard-edged rock n' roll and folk, passing by Rn'B and instrumental rock by the way, with the usual English humour in some tracks, 1862 would be a fantastic The Small Faces LP, ending a great, but unfortunately short, career in a magnificent way. The album's singles would be The Universal (since it was in real life), and Wham Bam (because it's damn awesome), with their b-sides being respectivelly Collbosher (the ninth SF track, kept out because there already was an instrumental), and "If I Were A Carpenter", from the BBC sessions, recorded in June '68. With it clocking at about 42 minutes, common in that time's LPs, I consider that the album would have a similar, if not better, acclaim compared to Ogden's, with its afomentioned mixture of hard rock and folk, bringing up the best of both worlds in the Small Faces universe, Plonky and Steve. Only lacking the fantastic singles that were "Afterglow" and "Lazy Sunday", "Universal" and "Wham Bam" are still great songs, and can still live up to themselves as SF singles (After all, even Mad John was a single!). Any opinions? Criticism, requests (This blog will be dedicated exclusively to reconstructing albums such as this), anything at all is welcome. Be sure to make any change you want to the tracklist, and see you next post!
- The Autumn Stone (Small Faces)
- Singles A's & B's (Small Faces)
- As Safe As Yesterday Is (Humble Pie)
- The BBC Sessions (Small Faces)
- Who Came First (Pete Townshend)