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Small Faces Live

Written by John Hellier and published in The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette #5

It was during a cold November evening in 1968 that I took the short journey by train from my home in Romford to see the Small Faces at the Bubbles Club in Brentwood, Essex. The Bubbles Club was situated in a large, dingy, dimly lit, disused warehouse with incredibly basic facilities. There was a permanent musty smell to the place and a general feeling of dampness. But, amidst all the gloom, I must say the acoustics were absolutely brilliant! I suppose some comparisons of this unlikely venue could be made with Liverpool's famous Cavern.

Anyway I paid my 5/- (25p to younger readers) and entered the darkness. There was no stage lighting as such, in fact there was almost no stage! The bands were set up in a corner, on a platform no higher than 6" off the ground, with just a wooden barrier separating the fans from the group. But what incredible value for money (5 shillings!) Only a couple of weeks previously, I had been here to see The Who for the same price and, in the short time this venue was open, both Jimi Hendrix and The Move performed there.

As I went in and pushed my way to the front, the support band were already playing and surprise! Surprise! It turned out to be the Kult, a band I had previously played with myself. It was a heavy, progressive type of thing that the majority of the audience appeared bored with, and many of them soon began shouting and chanting for Steve and the lads. After what seemed eternity Kult finished and the Small Faces roadies immediately began setting up. We were kept waiting for 20 minutes or so before our favourites casually strolled out onto the boards, amidst a barrage of cheers.

Steve, with cigarette in mouth, greeted us with the words "fucking cold out there ennitt!". He must have meant it, as he was dressed in an ankle length overcoat which he kept on for the whole gig. Ronnie (or Plonk as he was known then) was attired in a floral waistcoat, green velvet trousers and a silk neck scarf. Kenney was looking very sober in a dark jacket and open neck shirt. They spent a few moments tuning up before crashing into some heavy rock 'n' roll. Unlike previous concert tours that I had seen, they didn't feature any of the hit singles and the only numbers that I recognised at the time were Rollin' Over and Wham Bam Thank You Mam.

It was real 100mph stuff; the fans were lapping it up, mesmerised by it all. Gone was the hysterical girlie audience of 1966. This was late '68, Ogden's had been at the top of the album charts for some time and the fans were now a fairly even mix of male/female. Anyway, back at the gig, the biggest surprise of the album was about to happen.

After having been on stage for about 20 minutes or so, Steve told the audience he wanted to bring on a friend, and to the surprise of most of the fans, on cam The Face of 1968 himself, The Herd's Peter Frampton, dressed in a short, black leather jacket and jeans. I wasn't totally surprised, as there had been much speculation in the music press about Steve and Peter Frampton forming a 'Supergroup'. This only added fuel to the fire. Frampton took a back seat, but played some nice lead guitar and spent most of the evening on stage with The Small Faces.

I was particularly amused to see that he was wearing the same two-tone shoes as myself, newly purchased from Ravel that day. Anyway, enough of that! The band spent 90 minutes or so on stage and encored twice. By the end of the set, the fans were at fever pitch, reluctant to let them go. But finally the band left the stage, as the lights went up.

As I left the building and made my way outside into the cold winter's night, my ears were still ringing (they were still ringing for a couple of days afterwards). It had been quite a night! I sat shivering on the platform waiting for the last train back to Romford, and pondered on what had certainly been the heaviest performance that I had witnessed from the lads. It was really quite similar to what Humble Pie would be doing two or three years later.

Although I didn't realise it at the time, this was the last time that I would see The Small Faces together. Only a couple of months afterwards, following Steve's now infamous New Year's Eve walkout, the band split. All the rumours In the music press regarding Steve and Peter Frampton proved to be true, with the formation of Humble Pie.

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