Guide to British Music of the 1960s

June 2023

Book Review: When the Screaming Stopped The Small Faces Love 1965-1969 by Guy Mowbray

This book is a very interesting read. The live music environment was very different in the 1960s to what it is today. While the industry was healthy with plenty of venues, it was focused on smaller venues such as cinemas, clubs and theatres. It was still too early for festivals and stadium gigs although these did start to appear later in the decade. The Small Faces were a very hot live band as the recently released Live 1966 album and a brief Marquee clip on YouTube illustrate. However, their experience changed as they became more successful. Like many other bands they attracted a young female audience who tended to scream rather than listen to the music. The audience could not have heard the music but neither could the bands! This was in the days when the artists tended to play through the totally inadequate in-house PAs and there were not the monitoring systems like today. The Small Faces could have played almost anything and no-one would be any the wiser. This is evident by comparing the sound on Live 1966 with that from the 1968 Newcastle gig released on The Autumn Stone. Similarly, despite extensive work, the Beatles' Live at the Hollywood Bowl is marred by screaming girls. Partially through disenchantment with live performances the Small Faces (and the Beatles) retreated to the studio where they could expand and experiment. However, this also caused issues with future live performances as it was difficult to reproduce the new sounds on stage. Itchycoo Park, for example, was hardly played live and when they did, they experimented with an aircraft sound played from a cassette recorder to emulate the phasing effect.

The change in the music is one of the reasons why the band split. They were highly successful with a number 1 LP in Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake. They could not achieve the same music on stage due to its complexity but also due to the fact that much of the audience still wanted to hear All or Nothing or Sha La La La Lee, even if they could not hear it anyway. In addition, how could you follow an LP like Ogdens'? Steve Marriott was clearly the most frustrated and, feeling (incorrectly) that he was not a good enough guitarist, wanted Pete Frampton to join on guitar so he could focus on his singing. However, following the split Marriott and Frampton formed Humble Pie while Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan recruited Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart to form the Faces. Consequently two of the hottest live acts of the first half of the 1970s came out of the Small Faces.

While this book is fascinating, what does let it down to some extent is the amount of digression. The book is about the Small Faces live experience but it does go off at tangents such as detailed descriptions of support bands or supporting musicians rather than much about the Small Faces themselves. This is a missed opportunity as there is a lot of information available about where the Small Faces played and this could have been developed more such as by gaining more recollections from those who saw the band live. While there is little new about the Small Faces in a live context, the book does work well in developing an understanding of the 1960s live music scene from the stage perspective rather than from the audience. A very enjoyable book nonetheless.

Published: 20 April 2023

Red Planet Publishing

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