The Small Faces Story Part 2
Steve Marriott Meets Ronnie Lane
When Ronnie Lane walked into the J60 Music Bar he recognised the young helper, Steve Marriott from when the Outcasts (Ronnie's old group) supported Steve's group the Moments around a year earlier at a boozer in Rainham, Essex. Ronnie, accompanied by his dad Stan, pointed out the bass guitar he was after, a Harmony bass. "Good bass that mate" replied Steve hopefully and the pair hit it off straightaway, so much so, that Ronnie hung around him until Steve shut up shop and went home with him to Steve's home in Strone Road, Manor Park. Steve played his collection of R & B imports which were about as rare as they come, particularly in the land of pie and mash and jellied eels! Ronnie had never seen or heard of anything like it. What really made the pair tick together though was that they were both Mods, pre-occupied with smart clothes, American R & B records and all the paraphernalia and jingo-ism that went with it, which included dancing the night away high as a kite at West End clubs like the Scene and the Flamingo.
Another factor was their height. Both stood at around 5 foot 6 inches. Small Faces indeed!
Ronnie remembering how impressed he was by Steve's singing when the Outcasts supported the Moments, asked Steve to jam with his band the Pioneers at a resident gig they had at the British Prince in Ilford. Steve doing his best Jerry Lee Lewis impersonation ended up smashing the pub piano to bits resembling firewood, while he and Ronnie got blind drunk on whiskies. "The first time I'd ever drunk the stuff," admitted Ronnie years later. The group were then thrown out of the pub by the disgruntled management.
The unruly Mr Marriott, in true Artful Dodger fashion, had lost Ronnie's group their only resident gig. But Ronnie was not too disappointed as he had a great laugh and in Steve, he saw a great singer around whom to build a group. Like all great friendships the two of them had chemistry which made them pretty inseparable.
The drummer in the Pioneers was a young sixteen year old Mod called Kenney Jones. Kenney lived on the tough Locksley Estate in Poplar and had only recently left the equally tough Stepney Green Comprehensive . Kenney came to be in Ronnie's band via Ronnie's older brother Stan who had seen him play before and recommended him. When Kenney met Steve for the first time, it shook him a great deal. the reason being that Kenney had a dream the night before and Steve was in it, singing with the Pioneers on a then very well-known sixties pop show "Thank Your Lucky Stars." Weird stuff, considering that Kenney had only seen Steve once before, a year earlier at the Rainham gig. This was one of several strange quirks of fate that brought the band together. Steve was quoted once as saying, "we were destined to be together. there was and always will be something magical about the Small Faces.
Anyway, Kenney decided to stick with Ronnie, form and group with Steve and play the music they were really into, like Booker T & the MGs, Jimmy Reed, Stax, Atlantic and so on. What was needed now was a keyboard player.
Steve knew a Mod called Jimmy Langwith (or to use his stage name, Winston). He like Steve had been to drama school spending two years at the Theatre Workshop, Stratford East, had tiny parts in two advertising commercials, in the TV film "Silent Evidence" and in the cinema film "Two Left Feet." Even though Jimmy was not too adept at playing the ivories, it was decided that he was in the group. What swung things in his favour was the fact that his parents ran the Ruskin Arms, a pub situated at the top of Steve's road. This meant plenty of free rehearsal time in the rooms at the back of the Ruskin, plus Jimmy's brother Frank owned a van they could use for getting to gigs. The group actually signed a piece of paper stating that if they ever made any money, Jimmy's brother would receive a percentage of their earnings. In 1973, Frank Langwith actually tried to take the Faces to court for allegedly breaking their contract.
The band's set in their formative period included R & B/soul standards like Jump Back, James Brown's Please Please Please, Smokey Robinson's You Really Got a Hold Of Me and Ben E King's Stand By Me, alongside two group originals, a pilled-out rave-up called Come on Children and a stunning portrait of spoilt-brat neurosis E too D, around which Steve would perform his amazing vocal gymnastics in the style of his heroes and role models, Otis Redding and Bobby Bland. Incidentally for those wondering, E too D is named after the chord structure. On US compilations albums the track is known as Running Wild.
Another step towards the group's success came when they managed to play afternoon sessions in the Starlight Room which were situated on Oxford Street. Elkie Brooks (later of Vinegar Joe and the MOR hits like Pearl's a Singer) also worked there singing and she was impressed by Steve's gruff and bluesy vocal style, so much so that she informed the Starlight's owner Maurice King.
King met the group and set out to arrange some gigs. To all intents and purposes, as far as the group was concerned he was their manager.
By now they were getting a following of loyal Mods and they had acquired the name that was to propel them to fame - The Small Faces.
Previously published in Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette Issue 2
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