The Tracks of My Years #2

smallfaces

“Really” I said to Jill, and the man who’s name I have now forgotten, “The reason I chose The Kinks was because of my mum and dad.  They were both Mods and so, growing up, there was a lot of this sort of stuff being played.”

“You know what” Jill responded “I’d like to hear these songs and not just hear about them.”

“I agree” said the man.

Somehow a tape player was produced or sourced from within the bowels of the Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh and I found myself listening to “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks with two record company executives as I tried to convince them that, despite my lack of experience or relevant qualifications, they should take a chance on me and put me in charge of sales for the whole of Scotland.

The song finishes and I hit the pause button.

“What’s next?” asks Jill.

“It’s a song that comes from my dad” I say “When he was a young Mod growing up in Broomhouse…”

“Where is that?” asks the man with no name.

 

“Ah, well, it’s a fairly tough estate in Edinburgh.” I tell him.  “People used to tell him that he looked like Ronnie Lane from The Small Faces.  He loved that.  I can remember my dad playing me this when I was about 12 years old, about the same time as I bought my first record that he so disapproved of!  It was like he couldn’t bare the thought of his son growing up without knowing, and loving, the bands that had meant so much to him.  He didn’t push it, he never criticised my Rick Astley obsession…”

The two record company execs laugh at this…I think they think I am joking.

I don’t tell them I’m not joking.

“But he was almost evangelical about these records that had meant so much.  He wanted to pass them on.”

“The Mod thing is important then?” asks Jill.

“I think so, I’m not sure it’s possible to understand or appreciate British guitar music and British fashion, especially men’s fashion, without some knowledge of the Mod era.  It’s everywhere.  It had such a massive impact on, well, everything.  People get very excited about that band from Liverpool and the Rolling Stones but there influence on popular culture isn’t anywhere near as great as people like to make out.  It’s the Mod look, the Mod sound, that endures.  Sorry…I’m ranting.”

“Don’t be sorry” she says “What’s the next song?”

“MY LIFE STORY”

SIDE ONE

2. Tin Soldier by The Small Faces

tinsoldier

The Small Faces are the best British band of the sixties.

There.

I’ve said it.

People can drone on until the cows come home about how amazing and influential the mop tops from Liverpool are but it doesn’t change anything for me.

You can blather for hours about Keith and Mick but I won’t change my mind.

The Scousers and the Drones were capable of cracking pop music, occasional flashes of giddy merriment but they were, when all is said and done, boy bands.  Shaking their arses and flipping their fringes to get the tweenagers in the crowd all shook up.

I know.

I know.

You’re very upset with me.

“John Lennon is a genius” blah blah blah.

“Keith is a guitar God” drone drone drone.

Honestly, I’m not interested.

The time has come and I’ve already made my mind up.

Neither Lennon, McCartney or Jagger could sing like Steve Marriott.

Truthfully they couldn’t get anywhere close.

The best singing in the entire Stones back catalogue comes from Sister Merry Clayton, not from Mick.

In Marriott the Small Faces had a genuine blues singer, a proper soul singer…a man who seemed, at times, to be channelling the spirit of his not dead heroes like Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.  His was a rare gift, a voice raw and pure, honest and passionate.

No-one could hold a candle to him.

Not even Eric Burdon or Chris Farlowe.

Lyrically they may have been bested by The Kinks but sometimes it is how you say something and not what you are saying that matters…and the Small Faces always said things with soul.

“Tin Soldier” was the first thing I ever heard by them.

It was my dad again.

He had it on a scratched, knackered, beat up seven inch single.

It’s a cliche but I can still hear the hiss and the crackle as the needle slid, jumped and jigged across the grooves before stabilising as the organ started…

Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum.

Then the click of the drums.

The first hint of the bass.

Marriott strikes the guitar.

“COME ON” like Otis is in the building.

From then on all bets are off for me.

His voice is sweet, then soulful, a delicate harmony, a raw, guttural roar…sometimes all at once.

In the background it is mayhem.

Beautiful chaos.

Wild.

They pick it up.

They drop it down.

They tease their instruments then beat them into a frenzy.

“I just want some reaction” sings Stevie as things draw to a close “Somebody to give me satisfaction” and it is the best example in recorded music history of the word “satisfaction”.

Yes it is Mick.

Just look and listen.

Maybe just look first.

Turn the sound down.

The clothes.

The hair.

The moves.

They just look like a band should look.

Their most obvious influence on popular music is, of course, in every move, every note and every thread that has ever been connected with Paul Weller…he might love the Merseyside boys but it is The Small Faces who really define him.  You can hear faint whispers of their sound on some Britpop records too…”Itchycoo Park” and “Lazy Sunday” were, clearly, never far from Damon Albarn’s turntable during the recording of “Parklife”.

Back in the Sheraton now and I’ve hit pause again.

“Come on, that’s just great isn’t it?” I say, forgetting, for a moment, that I am actually in an interview for a very high level role with a serious player in the music industry and, instead, imagining myself in a room with some mates.

I’ve made a mistake.

I’ve come over all chummy.

“It is great.” says Jill.

She’s grinning.

I haven’t made a mistake after all…in fact, I may be playing this perfectly.

Then I begin to feel a slight sense of panic.

What if this whole thing hinges on every song being perfect?

What if this is only going well because everybody likes “Waterloo Sunset” and The Small Faces are just cool?

What if these people are just waiting for the first whiff of something rotten in the state of my music taste?  Waiting to pounce on me…to mock me…to send me packing with the sound of their laughter ringing, forever, in my ears?

“What’s next?” asks the man.

 

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