Friday, February 09, 2018

The Small Faces - 1862 (1969)


The Small Faces released their landmark album, "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake", in May 24th, 1968, to massive critical and commercial acclaim, and the album is to this day considered one of the masterpieces of the so-called summer of love. Together with albums by the kinds of Traffic, the Beatles or the Jefferson Airplane, it defined the psychedelic era, and has a loyal cult following exactly 50 years after its release. It featured regular "pop" songs on the first side, and a fairy tale made up of songs and narration called "Happiness Stan" on the other. It followed Stan, a man who goes on an adventure to find the other half of the moon, and meets several characters and new friends throughout his journey. It helped the band to further distance themselves from their Rn'B and early rock n' roll roots, and establish them as a major act in Britain. However, it also proved to be unperformable by the quartet in a live setting due to its complexity and significant amount of overdubs, and that frustrated them quite a lot, especially frontman and guitarrist Steve Marriott. 

But they had to move on, and so they did, entering the studio soon after the Ogden's sessions had ended to record some newly written tracks. The first result the public saw of that was the single release of "The Universal" with "Donkey Rides, a Penny, a Glass" on the b side. Despite the sucess of their previous single, "Lazy Sunday", it charted much lower than its precedent, only being able to reach #16, which further upset Steve, who considered the tune to be the greatest song he had ever written up to that point. As the group continued recording as the year went by, they started conceptualizing a followup to their masterpiece, tentatively titled 1862, after the year a chapel next to Marriott's house was built. On and off due to their touring commitments, they recorded what amounted to about 8 finished songs, as well as three or four instrumental demos. However, after he and bassist Ronnie Lane produced a single by young band The Herd, he grew impressed of their lead guitarrist's playing habilities, Peter Frampton, and soon formed a friendship with him.

And so, in late '68, Steve suggested to his three bandmates that they make Frampton into a band member, to help with their live performances and help them overcome what he considered to be their "limitations" as a band. But the others, specially keyboardist Ian McLagan and Lane, were against the addition of a fifth Small Face, and nixed the idea. That was the final straw for the singer, and during a disastrous New Year's Eve gig, he announced his departure from the band, and simply left the stage. The band finished the rest of their already booked concerts, and called it quits in March 1969. Steve formed Humble Pie with Frampton soon after the breakup, and they went on to record their first two albums that same year. He tried to convince McLagan into joining, but he instead stayed with his other bandmates, who with ex-Jeff Beck Group's Ron Wood and Rod Stewart formed the Faces, and released their first album in 1970. With the unfinished album nowhere near a release-worthy status, their label released a comp called The Autumn Stone, and released the more finished tunes there.

However, what every SF fan wondered was: what if they had actually finished the album and released it? What we actually know, is that it wouldn't feature a medley or concept, as they considered that formulaic after the success of ONGF. We can also assume that it would base itself on a 12 song, 40 minutes template, as was the norm at the time. We also have a list of songs, written by their guitarrist, of the album contenders up to then. It only features 9 tunes, with three of those being instrumentals, and two being the same under different titles! Due to that, I won't consider it as a tracklist, but will take it into account in other ways, when building my own. We also will allow some of the songs recorded by their "spinoff" bands soon after the breakup, due to them either featuring in his list, or being on complete by the time they were recording 1862. From that, however, we will exclude two songs: "Pig Trotters", being an instrumental version of  "Wrist Job", and "War of the Worlds", listed as "Blues Jam" due to being too incomplete. Without further ado, here it is:

Wide Eyed Girl on the Wall (The Autumn Stone)
Call it Something Nice (The Autumn Stone)
Red Balloon (The Autumn Stone)
Wrist Job (As Safe as Yesterday Is)
Hello the Universal (The Autumn Stone)
Wham Bam, Thank You Ma'am (The Autumn Stone)

Buttermilk Boy (As Safe as Yesterday Is)
The Story of Evolution (First Step)
Growing Closer (As Safe as Yesterday Is)
Donkey Rides, a Penny, a Glass (Ogden's Nut Gone Flake)
Collibosher (The Autumn Stone)
The Autumn Stone (The Autumn Stone)

Bonus track:
Every Little Bit Hurts (Ogden's Nut Gone Flake) 

Marriott, Jones, McLagan and Lane in late 1968.
 
Our reconstruction starts off with "Wide Eyed Girl on the Wall", written by Marriott and Lane. A great horn-driven instrumental, I consider it not to be an unfinished tune without vocals, but yes an attempt at a "scene setting" instrumental, just like the title track of their previous album, causing it to be the first track. Up next is "Call it Something Nice", with vocals by Ronnie and again written by the two. Begun in late 1967 during the Ogden's sessions, but held over for its follow-up, it's a great little ditty, that despite only having a working title, deserves a spot in here. "Red Balloon", a Tim Hardin cover, is the third track of the LP, and most probably the greatest song on the album, sung by Steve, and was recorded soon after the sessions for the aforementioned LP ended, being a fantastic acoustic rendition of it. Afterward is the organ-driven "Wrist Job", the first non-Small Faces track, is included due to being on the contenders list, and fitting in seamlessly with the other tracks, as well as being a vocal version of their "Pig Trotters", sung and written solely by their frontman.

"Hello the Universal" is next, retitled to the band's wishes, as it was titled incorrectly in the single. Recorded by Steve alone in his garden, with studio overdubs by the others, was then again written by Lane and Marriott. Finishing the first side we have "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am", a hard-rocking tune that was released as the b-side to their final single, "Afterglow". This tune serves as a companion to the style HP would later base themselves on, and we can barely tell they're played by different bands! Speaking of the devil, we have the Pie's "Buttermilk Boy" opening side two with a bang. As it featured in the contenders list and fits like a glove with the rest of the material, it deserves to be included in here. If you're wondering what is "The Story of Evolution", its simply "Stone" from the Faces' "First Step", edited to match the state it was in in late-1968, as showcased in the demo Lane recorded of it, released in Who Came First. I chose the more finished 1970 version of his solo tune, editing it down to both fit in and resemble more how it was at the time of recording this album.

"Growing Closer", by Humble Pie, was written by Ian McLagan, who when writing it was in between the two bands, eventually choosing its rival. It was written by one member and performed by another, with vocals by Marriott, so I think its fair to say it has merit to be included here. "Donkey Rides, a Penny, a Glass" comes next, being sung and written by both Steve and Ronnie. We will use a different version of it, featuring a brass overdub, as I feel its more finished than the released one (and a bit of variety sometimes is nice, as well!). As the second-to-last on the LP, "Collibosher" is an instrumental, being pretty similar to the opening track as well and I also consider it to be a finished song rather than a backing track. Written by SM alone, it was begun during the final session for Ogden's but finished sometime later. Wrapping up their farewell is "The Autumn Stone", the title track to their 1969 compilation. Written by Marriot/Lane and sung by the former, with guest Lyn Dobson on the flute, it gives the band the fantastic goodbye it deserved, in their final album and song.
 
As an album, "1862" is a pretty bold statement by them, showing a more folk and blues-oriented side, while abandoning the psychedelia of their previous record. They develop here a more hard rocking style, almost a sampler of their later bands, while also keeping that cheeky British and folksy side to it, as they knew wonderfully how to do. The album is about 41 minutes long, with both sides being more or less even in length. Its lead single would probably be "The Autumn Stone" b/w "Wham Bam", as it was a scrapped 45' that wasn't released due to their breakup. As a b-side to the second single, "Red Balloon", we can use another cover, the great ONGF outtake "Every Little Bit Hurts", also included here as a bonus track, used after being relegated from the original LP. The band most certainly would still split, due to the wounds between them all being too deep to solve that easily. However, by delaying that only by a couple of months, we get a great album, and proper farewell for them. It's a shame we didn't get this final glimpse of their brilliance, before they ceased to be small.

Sources:

- The Autumn Stone
- Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
- Humble Pie - As Safe as Yesterday Is

- The Faces - First Step

10 comments:

  1. Hey there people, sorry for the one month abscence. I'll try to post twice on one month to balance it out, so wish me luck!

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  2. Very nice.No "If I Were A Carpenter" (BBC session)? noah.

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    1. I used to have that one as a b-side, but after I kicked "Every Little Bit Hurts" off the album, it took IIWaC's place. And thanks!

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  3. Wot no ‘Call It Something Nice’?

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    1. What do you mean? Its in the album and text, as far as I know

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  4. I don't know. I seemed to have passed The Small Faces by and never really listened to them. Love the Faces, love Humble Pie but for some reason The Small Faces never clicked for me. Maybe it's time for some revue.

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    1. Indeed! I discovered them through the Pie, as well, and ended up liking them more than HP itself. I strongly reccomend you Ogden's Nut Gone Flake

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