SMALL FACES-OGDENS’ NUT GONE FLAKE.

SMALL FACES-OGDENS’ NUT GONE FLAKE.

For British music, the sixties were a golden era. This golden era started with The Beatles and Rolling Stones, two of music’s most influential groups. By 1964, the British Invasion began. British groups conquered America, and influenced American music. Suddenly, aspiring American musicians became sworn Anglophiles. As the sixties progressed, the next wave of British groups made their presence stateside. In 1968 this included The Who, The Kinks and the Small Faces, who were founded in London in 1965.

When Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Jimmy Winston founded the Small Faces in 1965, London was still swinging. The Small Faces were origins can be traced to the J60 Music Bar, in Manor Park, London. That’s where Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott first met. Steve was working in the bar, and Ronnie came in one night with his father to buy a bass. Ronnie and Steve both shared a common interest, music.

Later that, night they headed back to Steve’s flat to listen to music. Not long after this, they decided to form a band. They brought onboard Kenney Jones and Jimmy Winston. The nascent band became the Small Faces, who rehearsed in Jimmy Winston’s parents pub. Once they’d honed their sound, the Small Faces began playing live.

Early on in their career, the Small Faces played around the London area. Their sets featured a mixture of soul and R&B songs. Gradually, they began to incorporate Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott compositions into their sets. A turning point in the Small Faces’ career was when singer Elkie Brooks heard them live. She recommended them to promoter Maurice King. This was the next step in the Small Faces’ career.

Maurice King was able to get the Small Faces’ bookings outside of London. Soon, they were playing further afield, including in the North of England. However, the Small Faces got another break when they were signed to Don Arden management agency in 1965. A year later, the Small Faces released their debut album.

Small Faces.

When the Small Faces released Small Faces in 1965, the band’s lineup had changed. Keyboardist Jimmy Winston had been replaced by Ian McLagan. The new lineup featured Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan. They made their debut on Small Faces.

Small Faces featured twelve tracks. They were a mixture of cover versions and tracks penned by members of the Small Faces. The music was a mixture of R&B and British Invasion. This was well received by critics and music lovers. 

On its release, critics were won over by Small Faces. The album was released to critical acclaim. Critics forecasted a bright future for the Small Faces. They were right.

Whatcha Gonna Do About It was the lead single from Small Faces. It was released in August 1965 and reached number fourteen in the UK. By the time Sha-La-La-La-Lee was released as a single in January 1966, Jimmy Winston had been replaced by Ian McLagan. 

Ian played his part the success of Sha-La-La-La-Lee. It reached number three in the UK. Small Faces, the Small Faces debut album, was also a commercial success. It was the eleventh best selling single in Britain during 1966. The critics were right, it looked like the Small Faces were about to enjoy a successful career.

From the Beginning.

In 1967, the Small Faces moved from Decca to Immediate Records. Don Arden, the Small Faces’ manager, decided to release From The Beginning, an unofficial retrospective album.

From The Beginning, just like Small Faces, was a mixture of cover versions and new songs. This included a Small Faces’ classic All Or Nothing. It reached number one in Britain. Other covers Del Shannon’s included Runaway and Smokey Robinson’s You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me. These tracks were part of the Small Faces most successful album.

On its release on 2nd June 1967, From The Beginning reached number seventeen in the UK. Just like its predecessor, From The Beginning was well received by critics. This was perfect way to close another chapter in the Small Faces’ story.

Small Faces.

Having left Decca, the Small Faces signed to Immediate Records. They didn’t waste time releasing their debut album, Small Faces. It was released on the 23rd June 1967, just three weeks after the Decca album From The Beginning.

Small Faces, the Small Faces’ sophomore album, was quite different from their debut album. Gone were the cover versions. Replacing them, were songs penned by the band. The Steve Marriot and Ronnie Lane songwriting partnership were responsible for eleven of the fourteen tracks. They also cowrote two other tracks on Small Faces and produced Small Faces.

When Small Faces was released on 23rd June 1967, it was described as a a mixture of psychedelia and British Invasion. The mod influence also shawn through. That had been the case throughout the Small Faces’ career. They were, after all, one of the top mod groups. However, their music appealed to a far wider audience.

Critics, upon hearing Small Faces, hailed the album the group’s finest hour. This was reflected in record sales. Small Faces reached number twelve on the UK charts. For the Small Faces, this resulted in them rubbing shoulders with rock royalty. However, to keep their place at rock’s top table, depended upon the followup to Small Faces. The Small Faces returned with a career defining album, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake.

Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake.

After the success of Small Faces, the four members of the Small Faces regrouped. They were contemplating what direction their music should head in. Previously, their music veered between the British Invasion and Mod sound, to pop, psychedelia and R&B. Eventually, the Small Faces decided to write a psychedelic concept album, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake which was recently reissued by Sanctuary.

For Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, the Steve Marriot and Ronnie Lane songwriting partnership got to work. They wrote seven songs, including Lazy Sunday and Afterglow Of Your Love. Steve and Ronnie also cowrote The Hungry Intruder and Happydaystoytown with Ian McLagan, who contributed Long Agos and Worlds Apart. The other two tracks Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake and The Journey were written by the four members of the Small Faces. These twelve tracks were record during November and December 1967.

Recording of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake took place at Olympic Studios and Trident Studios, London. Producing Ogdens’ Nut Gone were Steve Marriot and Ronnie Lane, who’d produced the Small Faces’ previous albums. Just like previous albums, the vocals on Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake were shared. Steve added vocals and played guitar and harmonica. Ronnie played bass, guitar, added backing vocals and took charge of the lead vocal on Song Of A Baker, The Journey and Happydaystoytown. Ian played keyboards, guitar, bass guitar. He also sung backing vocals and delivered the vocals on Long Agos and Worlds Apart. Once Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was completed, it was released on 24th May 1968.

On its release on 24th May 1968, the Small Faces’ concept album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics hailed Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake as variously ambitious, innovative and surreal. It was unlike any of the Small Faces previous albums, and much of the music released during 1968.

Even the album cover to Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was different from other albums. When Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was originally released on vinyl, in a metal replica of a giant tobacco tin, which the album cover pastiched. Inside the tin, there was a poster created with five connected paper circles. Each circle featured a member of the Small Faces. Quickly, Immediate realised that manufacturing the poster and the tin was too expensive. So, Immediate replaced the tin with a cardboard replica. As a result, the original versions of  Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake in the tin, are sought after, collector’ items. However, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was also the Small Faces most successful album and featured one of their classic songs.

The lead single from Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, was Lazy Sunday Afternoon. It was released in April 1968, against the Small Faces’ wishes. They didn’t think the song would make a good single. How wrong they were. Lazy Sunday Afternoon became a hit single, and is now regarded as a Small Faces classic. Afterglow Of Your Love was released in March 1969. It’s another of highlights. However, despite its quality, Afterglow of Your Love stalled at just number thirty-eight in Britain. This was the last single released from Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake released in Britain. By then, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake had become the Small Faces biggest selling album.

When Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was released on 24th May 1968,, it reached number one in Britain. It spent six weeks at number one and became the Small Faces most successful album. Over the Atlantic, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake stalled at number 159 in the US Billboard 200. That partly, was down to parts of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake being a uniquely British album.

Throughout side one of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, the Small Faces move their music in a rocky direction. That’s the case from the psychedelic sounding title-track. It’s a rocky instrumental that later, takes an orchestral twist. From there, Afterglow (Of Your Love), pays a brief homage to vaudeville, before heading in the direction of rock. Steve’s vocal is best described as soul-baring and proves truly captivating. It’s one of the highlights of side one of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. Long Agos and Worlds Apart veers between lysergic and rock-tinged as side one continues in a similar rocky vein. Rene, Song of a Baker and Lazy Sunday see the Small Faces pay homage to their East London roots. These three songs are best described as a fusion of rock and a cockney sing-a-long. The best of the three has to be Lazy Sunday, which became a Small Faces classic. After Lazy Sunday, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake moves in a different direction.

Side two of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was based upon a original fairy tale about a boy called Happiness Stan. To narrate side two, the Small Faces drafted in Stanley Unwin. He spent time with the Small Faces, and heard them using modern slang. So he incorporated this into Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake surreal narrative. 

During side two of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, Stan sets out one night to find the  missing half of the moon. He only has one night to do this. This adventure begins on Happiness Stan. It has an understated Eastern influence, before heading in the direction of art-rock, jazz, psychedelia and rock. After this, Rollin’ Over is a dramatic, rocky workout, where the Small Faces sound not unlike The Who. On The Hungry Intruder, Stan saves a fly from starving. To repay Stan, the fly tells him about someone who can answer his question and also tell him the philosophy of life itself. During The Journey, a marriage of R&B, psychedelia and rock, the fly grows, becoming so big that Stan can sit upon its back. They head off on a psychedelic journey. Eventually, they reach Mad John the hermit’s cave. However, Stan has spent so long trying to find Mad John, that the moon is now whole again. To celebrate, the Small Faces close the album with Happy Days Toy Town, a choppy, cockney sing-a-long, that’s reminiscent of much of side one. This closes what critics referred to as the Small Faces finest hour.

Forty-six years have passed since the Small Faces released their third album, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, hich was recently reissued by Sanctuary. Critics hailed  Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, as the Small Faces’ finest hour. That’s despite the album being totally different from their two previous albums.

The big difference was that Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was a concept album. Side one saw the Small Faces pay homage to their London roots. It was a mixture of rock and a cockney knees-up. For the Small Faces, this would be the type of music they grew up hearing. However, incorporating it into Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was risky. After all, many people would be unable to understand the music, with its raucous rhyming slang. This was only half of the story of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake.

Then on side two of Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, the Small Faces’ concept album, the group took the listener on a surreal, lysergic musical adventure, which was narrated by Stanley Unwin. This was very different to anything that the Small Faces had released before. It was also quite different to much of the music released during 1968. No wonder. Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, was an ambitious and  groundbreaking piece of music. So much so, that nowadays, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake is  perceived as one of the finest British albums ever released. Having said that, it’s debatable whether Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake is a classic album.

To some extent, the music on Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake doesn’t translate well overseas. Many people across the Atlantic and in Europe didn’t understand the cockney, singalong sound. Similarly, the heavily accented music didn’t endear itself to them. This was also the case with Stanely Unwin. His surreal gobbledygook confused the listener. As a result, they failed to “get” Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. Since then, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake is an album that provokes debate amongst music lovers.

Personally, whilst I can appreciate that Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was an ambitious, groundbreaking, concept album, I don’t consider it a classic. I would however, describe Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake as the Small Faces’ finest hour, and one of the best British albums of the sixties.

SMALL FACES-OGDENS’ NUT GONE FLAKE.

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