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Small Faces

Biography

Best remembered in America for their post-Summer of Love hit "Itchycoo Park," the Steve Marriott-era Small Faces had 11 straight Top 30 singles in Britain between 1965 and 1968. Like contemporaries the Stones, the Who and the Yardbirds, they began as bluesy journeymen; keyboardist Ian McLagan's book All the Rage contains his hilarious and touching recollections of backing the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter on the UK club circuit. Led by Marriott's howling vocals, the Small Faces soon earned a huge following with 45s such as "Whatcha Gonna Do About It?" (later a feature of the Sex Pistols' live set) and "All or Nothing."

After extricating itself from an onerous arrangement with English music biz strongman Don Arden, the band moved to Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate Records, which did little for their poor financial condition. (The Small Faces' royalty situation wouldn't be corrected until the 1990s, after Marriott's death and shortly before that of writer/bassist Ronnie Lane – and then, according to McLagan, only partially.) Their Immediate phase saw them releasing some of the most British rock records of the era, including the concept album Ogden's Nut Gone Flake and the delightful single "The Universal." When Marriott walked offstage on New Year's Eve 1968, headed for Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, the Small Faces might have been done.

But for Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood (who'd recently left the Jeff Beck Group after two albums), who kept the band going. Newly signed to Warner Bros., the group made one more album under their old name before abbreviating it to Faces. As Stewart's star rose, so did the band's; by early 1972, they were an unstoppable live favorite and ruled the airwaves with "Stay With Me," a hit just months after Rod the Mod's own "Maggie May." Lane's peculiarly personal songs were mainstays of Faces albums; "Ooh La La" later achieved a second round of popularity as the closing song of the film Rushmore and in a car advertisement. With Stewart headed for Hollywood and Wood filling Mick Taylor's shoes in the Rolling Stones, the Faces split in late 1975. But both incarnations of the band remain beloved of musicians and fans, with everyone from Paul Weller to Paul Westerberg praising them. Their affection for one another, and for their music, continue to ring through their recordings.
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