The Small Faces were one of the most influential of the 1960’s British Invasion groups. Their contributions are often overshadowed by The Beatles and Rolling Stones. Their influence extended for decades after the band broke up. They formed in 1965 as a Mod band, known for their dedication to fashion and the mopeds popular with the subculture. The lineup consisted of Steve Marriott on lead vocals and lead guitar, Ronnie Lane on the bass, Jimmy Winston on keyboard and Kenney Jones on drums. Ian McLagan soon replaced Winston on keyboard but otherwise their lineup was stable until 1969.
They were one of the first British bands to adopt a psychedelic rock sound. The original Small Faces only recorded between 1965 and 1969 but by the time they broke up they were considered to be one of the greatest psychedelic rock bands of all time. The original lineup split up in 1969 when Marriott quit to form Humble Pie. Rod Stewart was recruited as a replacement vocalist and Ron Wood became their new guitar player but by this time they were referred to as merely The Faces.
Most people consider Marriott’s departure in 1969 to be the end of the original Small Faces as a band. Their music lived on however and became a major influence on the 1970s punk movement. It also played an influential role during the 1990’s britpop wave, inspiring bands as diverse as Blur, Coldplay, Oasis and The Verve.
Our top 10 Small Faces songs list takes into consideration only the material released when the band was known as the Small Faces. No material from the groups later days as The Faces is included in this best of the Small Faces songs list.
Top 10 Small Faces Songs
10. Whatcha Gonna Do About It
It’s fitting that we open our top 10 Small Faces songs list with the band’s first single. The great Small Faces song “Whatcha Gonna Do About It,”immediately hit the UK charts and turned the band into a success overnight. It was written by vocalist Steve Marriott and bass player Ronnie Lane. Additional input on the song came from professional songwriters Ian Samuel and Brian Potter. Ian Samuel and Brian Potter were responsible for writing the the majority of the song’s lyrics.
“Whatcha Gonna Do About It,” peaked at number 14 on the UK singles charts and got the band the exposure they needed to start their music careers in earnest. Marriott’s vocals were cited as a major influence by John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. fame and The Sex Pistols were known to have covered it live. The music of the Small Faces was just as influential in the rise of punk rock as it would be on brit pop decades later.
9. I’ve Got Mine
Their second single, “I’ve Got Mine,” was the first song written by Marriott and Lane without outside help from professional songwriters. It was released in 1965. “I’ve Got Mine,” was less pop oriented than the previous single and featured a slow, dark, blues influenced rhythm and heavy, stark rock and roll guitar.
While it didn’t make the charts at the time,“I’ve Got Mine,” marked the beginning of Marriott and Lane’s fruitful songwriting collaborations. It was the last Small Faces song to feature Jimmy Winston, who played guitar and did backing vocals for the track. After the single failed to chart he was replaced by keyboardist Ian McLagan as the band moved away from their R&B roots to a more experimental, psychedelic pop sound.
8. Here Come the Nice
This mod and psychedelic influenced rhythm and blues song was written by Lane and Marriott in 1967. The lyrics deal explicitly with drug use and the mod subculture. They describe taking speed and waiting for a drug dealer, which were taboo topics at the time. The only contemporary band writing about such bold material was New York’s Velvet Underground.
The song pushed the limits of freedom and censorship in the U.K. and helped usher in an era with less censorship of the arts. The instrumentation was fairly typical, if not somewhat heavier than the other groups at the time. It is the complex tape effects created by the sound engineers using overlapping chaotic piano chords and tape effects for the outro meant to simulate an amphetamine comedown that makes “Here Come the Nice,” stand out as one of the Small Faces most important songs.
7. Afterglow (Of Your Love)
Recorded by the band in 1968 but not released until after Marriott had left the Small Faces. It wasn’t authorized by the band but was released by the record company anyway. It fared poorly compared to their other songs, reaching number 37 of the top 40. “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” is a psychedelic pop power ballad. The album version featured an acoustic guitar intro and instrumental part that were both removed for the single without the consent of the band.
Despite the shady circumstances around its release,”Afterglow (Of Your Love)” is an excellent pop song in its own right and it features the band at the height of their fame and playing ability making it a Small Faces classic. It is one of our all time favorite Small Faces songs “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” has been covered by Quiet Riot and Great White.
The third single by The Small Faces, it was written by Lane and Marriott with input from professional songwriters Mort Shuman and Kenny Lynch and released in 1966. It was issued in the band’s debut album entitled Small Faces. Unlike their previous effort, “I’ve Got Mine,” this song is far more catchy, upbeat and pop oriented, with the title serving as the song’s nonsensical chorus.
It was the first song to feature their new keyboardist, Ian McLagan and his musical contributions on the hammond organ can be heard clearly in the track. The whole group pitches in to harmonize on the choruses. It has been covered in multiple languages including French, Japanese, German and Czech which attests to its worldwide musical appeal.
5. The Universal
This song came out during the summer of 1968. Marriott recorded the majority of his vocals and acoustic guitar parts outside at home so background noises such as dogs and birds are audible. Previously this would have been unthinkable in the record industry. It has a folky, somewhat dylanesque feel to it reminiscent of late 60’s Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett’s solo work. The rest of the band’s parts were recorded later to the sound of Marriott’s original backyard tape, making him the principle songwriter of The Universal.
It was the band’s final official authorized single and could be described as psychedelic folk, with little of the R&B or Mod Rock influences of their early material. It hit number 14 on the UK charts. Marriott himself considered “The Universal” to be the best song he ever wrote.
4. Tin Soldier
Singer Steve Marriott originally wrote this song for his wife in 1967. It’s about getting inside somebody’s mind in order to understand their thought process though it was widely misinterpreted to be sexual in nature at the time. It featured an interesting fusion of R&B and The Small Faces emerging psychedelic sound. “Tin Soldier” reached number nine in the UK charts and it became an instant classic. It has been covered many times by artists like Todd Rundgren, The Guess Who and Uriah Heep. It was particularly influential to the 90’s britpop group Oasis and Noel Gallagher’s subsequent solo career. The great song “Tin Soldier,” was released on the album There Are But Four Small Faces. It was the band’s second album.
3. All or Nothing
Another Marriott and Lane composition, “All or Nothing,” was released in 1966. It features a more guitar heavy mod rock style rather than the psychedelic sound typical of The Small Faces later singles. It went to number one in the UK and cemented their reputation as a solid band capable of producing multiple hit songs. The lyrics were written by Marriott and are about the difficult end of a romantic relationship. It has since been covered by UFO and L.A. punk rock Pioneers X.
2. Itchycoo Park
This song was the Small Faces biggest hit and arguably the one that propelled them to international stardom. It was released in 1967 during the Summer of Love. Due to its catchy mix of rock, pop and psychedelic music “Itchycoo Park,” proved popular with the growing hippie movement and the song reached number three on the UK charts.
It was the first pop single to make use of the phasing effect, making it revolutionary for a pop song at the time. The song was mainly written by Lane with input from Marriott. The reason behind the song’s odd name is controversial and while there are many theories there has never been a definitive answer, with different band members providing conflicting explanations over the years.
“Itchycoo Park,” has been covered by the likes of Quiet Riot, Ben Lee and Alice Cooper. It is also a popular song for movie and television soundtracks and it has appeared in multiple films since its release, most recently in the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.
1. Lazy Sunday
The cheerful tune “Lazy Sunday,” was released in 1968 and appeared on the early concept album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. It was written by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane. It features Marriott on lead vocals singing in a heavy cockney accent. The music is reminiscent of London Music Halls but with a definite psychedelic pop flavor. Contrary to the songs cheerful melody and chorus it is actually written about arguments that Marriott had with his neighbors at the time.
The single reached number two on the UK charts and cemented the band’s reputation as one of the best acts in Britain. It is still popular today and can be heard on classic rock radio stations around the world, particularly on Sundays. Musically it makes heavy use of McKagan’s keyboards and Marriott’s guitar but the focus is on Marriott’s singing and the vocal harmonies.
It has been covered by the indie band Kaiser Chiefs as well as the late 70’s punk band Toy Dolls and early 2000’s indie rock band the Libertines. This attests to the key influence The Small Faces unique sound has had on a number of musical genres for decades after the original lineup dissolved.
Updated Jan 31, 2021
Top 10 Small Faces songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2019
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