Guide to British Music of the 1960s

August 2021

CD Review: The Small Faces - Live 1966

Small Faces Live 1966

The Small Faces have been poorly served in terms of live recordings. The only tracks available officially have been Beat Beat Beat recordings from German TV and the Newcastle City Hall tracks that appeared on The Autumn Stone. The latter suffer from poor sound quality and loud screaming from the audience. Therefore, it is a great pleasure to hear the Small Faces at their live best from the recently-surfaced gig in Belgium in January 1966. The band had had a hit with their first single What'Cha Gonna Do About It although the second single, I've Got Mine, "bombed". In January 1966, they were about to re-enter the charts with Sha La La La Lee. Although this is not part of the set, the b-side is though.

The audio has been cleaned up from the original recording and has resulted in a very powerful sound that shows the Small Faces stretching out over classics and their own songs. They may have been very young but they had been playing extensively and the band was incredibly tight. They worked perfectly as a unit with all the members as equals. Furthermore, they were far more than Mods who formed a band; they were already  exceptional musicians. The clarity of this recording allows the quality of the musicianship to be heard.

The Small Faces were making their first foray outside the UK and were already having an impact on European audiences. Their brand of no-nonsense R&B clearly went down very well. As in the UK the band often played two sets each night and not always the same numbers in each set. It is not known whether the tracks played here are the entire set or just a selection. There is no recording of the most recent single I've Got Mine although Kenney Jones confirmed they did used to play it live.

In his interview for the album, drummer Kenney Jones notes that the band always started with Sam Cooke's Shake but here the first track and, much in the same style, is Ooh Poo Pah Doo, a track made famous by Ike & Tina Turner. Ronnie belts out this track and shows his very different vocal style to Steve Marriott. Marriott handles the remainder of the vocals for the non-instrumental tracks. Anyone who has heard the Small Faces on record will already know what an amazing vocalist Steve Marriott was. However, listen to this diminutive, white 19 year old from the East End and you will be stunned by the raw power of his voice. Steve Marriott is in his element here with "improvised" vocals over the Small Faces jamming tracks. You Need Loving, introduced as You Need Love, shows the band giving a whole lotta love to the old Willie Dixon song and making it their own. Like E too D and Come on Children, this track made it on to the first album that was released later in the year. Just listen to these earlier live versions and the studio versions pale in comparison! Quite something.

Ian "Mac" McLagan had been in the band a couple of months by this time and he clearly made a big impact anchoring the band. His exemplary Hammond organ playing underlies many of the tracks adding a Booker T Jones groove to the band's sound. The Booker T and the MGs track Plum Nellie allows the band to stretch out over the Hammond. On this track Ronnie Lane provides a great "Duck" Dunn bass line. The band were playing what they wanted to and the medley runs through old standards that became better known in the 1960s such as Baby Please Don't Go, Parchman Farm and In the Midnight Hour. You can feel the sweat pouring off the band as they run through this. Two instrumental versions of Comin' Home Baby show Mac at his finest. Grow Your Own is the b-side of the third single. It is introduced with its original title Grow Your Own Gear. The Small Faces making a drug reference? Surely not! This is one of the stand-out tracks with Marriott's "improvised" vocals over the MGs-style backing.

The debut single, introduced as "our current hit" is played during both sets. This is the only one of these tracks that had been released at this stage. It borrows heavily from Everybody Wants Somebody to Love and is very popular with the audience. The band delve into their favourites as well as songs that had been popular recently such as Ooh Poo Pah Doo and Comin' Home Baby. The latter was never released by the band but a BBC Session version did make it onto the Decca Years boxed set. However, some of the previously unreleased tracks are of particular interest. Please Please Please is the James Brown standard and will be familiar. However, a particular stand-out track is Strange. This was written by Larry Williams who is well-known for covers of other tracks of his such as Slow Down, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Bonie Moronie and more. Strange is a track that seems to be some years ahead of its time, not so much soul or rock & roll but certainly more laid back. This is a real gem and an amazing find.

The CD/LP has been remastered from the original tracks and the sound quality is amazing. Turn it up to 11 and you will feel like you are in a small club with everyone drenched in sweat. The band had not been playing together that long and Ian McLagan had been a member for less than two months but they had been playing live so much that they are tight. Furthermore, they are playing what they wanted so the performance is full of passion.

It was an honour and privilege to have written the sleeve notes for this album as well as having a fascinating conversation with Kenney Jones. Kenney's tales of four Mods on their first visit to a post-war Europe and a divided Germany are a real eye-opener. As someone who has spent a lot of time in Germany, both pre and post fall of the Berlin Wall, they are particularly insightful.

This will be one of the stand-out live albums of the 1960s. Even the Beatles cannot manage a live LP of this quality. This is the sound of the Small Faces, raw, pure and undiluted.

The album is available as a limited edition CD as well as 2-disc vinyl directly from the official Small Faces Web site.

Nice Records

Original release: 4 June 2021

CD Release: 3 September 2021

LP release: November 2021

Essential Tracks

  • Strange
  • E too D
  • Grow Your Own

Track Listing:

Early Show

  1. Ooh Poo Pah Doo
  2. You Need Loving
  3. Plum Nellie (Baby Please Don't Go / Parchman Farm / In the Midnight Hour)
  4. What'Cha Gonna Do About It
  5. Comin' Home Baby
  6. E too D

Late Show

  1. Come on Children
  2. Grow Your Own
  3. Please, Please, Please
  4. Strange
  5. You Need Loving
  6. Comin' Home Baby
  7. E too D
  8. What'Cha Gonna Do About It

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