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No list of influential British bands would be complete without mention of The Small Faces. Their musical and visual impact on pop music of the last 50 years cannot be over-stated. Little wonder then that a musical based around their songs has made it to the stage. About bloody time, as Steve might have said!
Hard to believe I know, but I’m too young to remember The Small Faces in their heyday. I first heard their music in 1975 when the 1967 hit Itchycoo Park was re-issued. The band’s classic line-up got back together to mime to a video for the single. Frontman Steve Marriott then re-formed the group but not all in the garden was rosy and in spite of releasing two albums the new look Small Faces called it a day.
Marriott was not a fan of Itchycoo Park or another of their hits, Lazy Sunday, and on the occasions I saw him live in the mid to late eighties he refused to play them live, preferring to perform classic Small Faces fare like All Or Nothing, Tin Soldier and their first single Whatcha Gonna Do About It alongside some Humble Pie favourites.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Marriott on stage. It was in December 1985 at an excellent south London pub called The Cricketers, over the road from The Oval in Kennington. He was backed by bassist Jim Leverton and ex-Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley and as Steve Marriott’s Packet Of Three they certainly packed a punch.
The following year I saw the trio at The Works in Colchester but by the time Marriott returned to the same venue in February 1987 he was backed by The Official Receivers. Before that gig I interviewed Marriott in what could only be described as a broom cupboard. At the end of our chat I asked him if he fancied playing in Ipswich. He was well up for that so I said I’d organise a gig for him at the town’s Corn Exchange.
In fact, I put him on twice in the Grand Hall. By that time he was working with Leicester band The DT’s. All went smoothly on the first visit which saw The Mean Red Spiders open for him. That was such a good night I immediately booked him for the following year with another local group, The Naff Band, as support.
Marriott was nearly backed by The Naff Band that night. The DT’s were very late arriving due to heavy fog on the A45 but finally arrived with only minutes to spare, much to The Naff Band’s relief!
At the end of that gig I headed to Marriott’s dressing room to settle up with him. A well known 1960s Ipswich singer was already deep in conversation with him but once Marriott spotted me clutching a wad of ten pound notes he sent the visitor on his way!
Sadly Marriott died in a fire at his 16th century Essex home 25 years ago. He was one of the great rock singers and was certainly no slouch on guitar. This month his many admirers in Suffolk get the chance to remember the man of mischief as All Of Nothing hits the New Wolsey Theatre stage. The production, which was seen at Norwich’s Theatre Royal earlier in the year, is also showing at Southend’s Palace Theatre on the first three nights of this month before arriving in Ipswich on Monday, September 12 for a week long run.