Small Faces Story Part 1
The Small Faces story starts in the late fifties when the very young Steve Marriott was sent off to audition for the role of the Artful Dodger in the London stage version of "Oliver". Apparently, when Steve did the audition in front of the show's director, Lionel Bart (playing a skiffle rendition of Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy"), Hart remembered him as the little Cockney urchin who used to busk around bus queues down the East End, strumming a ukulele which his dad bought for him when we was just eight years old.
Steve fitted the Artful Dodger person perfectly. It was him down to a tee. In fact the only reason his Mum sent him to the Italia Conti Drama School in Islington, North London was for the simple fact that Steve burnt down his old school. (The Stratford Express carried the headline "Little Chicago Burns" alongside a photo of Steve in his Artful Dodger outfit) and so his Mum sent him to drama School to keep him out of trouble; though while there, Steve and several other aspiring young Cockney actors would set upon the posh kids and nick their sweets and their money!
It was while performing with "Oliver" that Steve made his vinyl debut, appearing on the stage cast, recording alongside such hammy old British actors, Ian Carmichael (who played Fagin) and Joyce Blair. Steve's voice hadn't quite broken and his vocals are pretty much unrecognisable. (Maybe the Small Faces should've done a psychedelic concept version of "Oliver")
After "Oliver" Steve joined his first band, The Moonlights, who were Shadows copyists, right down to performing the Shadows’ steps. After the Moonlights disbanded, Steve was signed to Decca Records for his first single release. Give Her My Regards appeared in the early part of 1963 and Steve hiccups his way through the song like a teenage Buddy Holly!
The single flopped but Steve had plenty of work to get on with. He appeared in two films in 1963, the first being "Heavens Above" (Rank) where he played a small part as Jack, the eldest of a bunch of kids whose family get evicted and are put up by the vicar (played by Peter Sellers) and eventually leave the church where they were staying, nicking the lead of the roof.
The film itself has been dubbed a minor classic (full of moral and satirical implications on modern society). The rest of tile cast included Eric Sykes, Irene Handl and Roy Kinnear.
Steve's second film of 1959 was one of those corny beat music movies, which were so popular during the early sixties. "Live it up" (Rank) features David Hemmings and Heinz Burt (who, as just plain Heinz scored a big hit in 1959 with his tribute to Eddie Cochrane Just Like Eddie, and also played on the Tornadoes chart-topper Telstar in 1962); who along with Steve work as messenger hoys for the Post Office. They decide to form a band and record a demo called Live it up.
The film revolves around the tape being lost and, after a series of madcap adventures, the tape is found again. Steve is featured quite heavily as the band's drummer, Ricky! Maybe this was the film that inspired Paul McCartney's 1984 movie Give my regards to Broad Street, which had a similar storyline plot. Live it up also featured Peter Glaze (later to appear in the kids' programme Crackerjack} and Ed Devereaux (Aussie actor who starred in Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) and the music was provided by rocker Gene Vincent, Kenny Ball's Jazzmen, The Saints, The Outlaws and Sounds Incorporated (later to play on the Beatles Sergeant Pepper Album). The film was produced and directed by Lance Comfort and the script by Lyn Fairhurst. The music was produced by the legendary Joe Meek.
Steve's next film "Be My Guest" (Rank 1964) was the sequel to "Live it up." The plot follows the same lines as the first film. but this time the demo they record, Be my guest is stolen. The band then enters a talent contest, which they find out is to be rigged and David Hemmings confronts the promoter with the evidence, after which the band win. The music was this time produced by Shel Talmy, who went on to produce the Who and the Yardbirds, The bands featured in the film include Jerry Lee Lewis, the Plebs, Nashville Teens, The Zephyrs, The Niteshades and Kenny and the Wranglers.
It was around this time, that Steve began to get fed up with acting. He'd had enough of standing around the sets for hours on end and decided to concentrate on his first love music. Steve got the job as harmonica player in the Andrew Oldham Orchestra. (Oldham at the time managed the Rolling Stones) and then formed his own band the Frantics (or Frantic Ones, as they were sometimes known). It was with the Frantics, that Steve started to sing the songs of his blues/soul idols. The Frantics mutated into the Moments and, towards the end of 1964, the band recorded Ray Davies’ You really got me. The record only got an American release, which was obviously an attempt to beat the Kinks to the States. Again, the single went nowhere fast and the Moments eventually split. Steve had one more stab at recording a solo single, releasing the Andrew Oldham produced Tell Me. After this effort bombed, Steve had pretty much resigned himself to the fact that he wasn't going to make it to being a Pop Star (but we know different!)
What with film work low on the ground, and his recording career grinding to a halt. Steve needed to get a job and this he did early in 1965. Steve began working Saturdays in the J60 Music Bar, an instrument shop at 445 High Street, Manor Park, London E12.
The shop was staffed by musicians, so attracted musicians from all over London looking to find an instrument shop with the staff on the same musical wavelength.
It was while working at the J60 Music Bar that fate, or call it what you will, took a turn for the better and led to the formation of one of the greatest groups of the sixties, the Small Faces.
In part two: Steve and Ronnie meet up
Previously published in Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette Issue 1
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